Last Fall Diana and I attended Cornell Cooperative Extension's 2017 Veterans in Agriculture Conference at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY.
I had the honor of sitting next to Michael O' Gorman, Executive Director of The Farmer Veteran Coalition, and a founding force in contemporary organic agriculture. Mr. O'Gorman is a true pioneer, having previously run TKO Farms, then Mission Organics and eventually overseeing 1,600 acres of Baja California under organic production. Wow.
In hindsight, the questions I coulda/shoulda asked him have kept me awake some nights. Instead, all I could muster was a half-assed insult to the branding he'd created to benefit people like me.
I didn't mean to insult him, you see, and I did apologize as well as thank him for all he's done for veterans in agriculture.
I figure most vets would get that my beef was with the logo, definitely not the Coalition. You see, veterans don't see veterans as heroes just because they served.
I think we all understand that sentiments like "Homegrown by Heroes" are well-meant, but this kind of generality can carry a mild-to-severe punch to the gut. Certainly many of us have served with heroes. We've also lost a lot of heroes. We probably know some heroes who made it home, and yet still too many others who despite coming home couldn't bear the weight of it all.
Just today, in my day-job, I got to spend some time with the widow of a WWII veteran in Utica, NY. Her husband never spoke about what he did over there. She never prodded. But in her nursing home, looking over his honorable discharge, there it was: Normandy, The Ardennes, Central Europe, and a Purple Heart. Can you imagine? As an 18-19 year old kid? I told the widow that without folks like her husband, we'd probably be speaking German.
Meanwhile, back in Syracuse, Mr. O'Gorman took the time to explain how the logo got started, and that it was already well on it's way to becoming the American brand for veteran grown food when the Farmer Veteran Coalition gave it legs. He told me that I was far from the first vet to bring this concern, but, essentially, that the train had left the station. He discussed what the brand had already accomplished for aspiring veteran farmers: the grants, peer-to-peer support and marketing assistance. It was difficult to deny his enthusiasm as he introduced the new New York State chapter of the Coalition and, beaming, interviewed established NYS veteran farmers who he'd personally advised.
All that to say that yesterday we received certification by the Farmer Veteran Coalition to use their branding, the 'Homegrown by Heroes' logo. While I'm still not a big fan of the slogan, I am proud that Diana and I are among the <5% of New Yorkers who solemnly swore to defend our country, and I'm happy to be supporting (and to be supported by) a good cause.
Finally, our thanks go out to Mr. O'Gorman and the Farmer Veteran Coalition for all the good you've done, and the mission you continue to pursue.