“They helped me a great deal, including providing me with free accommodation when I needed it,” says Matthew McCue, an Iraq veteran who is farming 15 acres in California for the third year with his girlfriend Lily Schneider. Their focus is vegetables and they intend to grow their CSA program from 150 to 220 members this coming season.
Matthew grew up in Albuquerque, NM. Drawn to an unusual lifestyle, he decided to join the Army rather than go to college. Observing Iraqi farmers tend to their crops through the upheaval of Saddham Hussein’s demise and the ensuing chaos inspired him. “While unemployed police were starving, they just kept doing what they had always done, trucking their pomegranates to market as if nothing was happening. Farming gave them something to think about and something to do,” he told me. “I had thought I would work for the government for the rest of my life, but then I started questioning the inherent instability of all these institutions. By contrast, nothing seemed more reliable than the soil beneath our feet,” he added.
Four years of active duty under his belt, Sergeant McCue came back to America and left the Infantry to go farming. He WWOOFed in Hawaii, graduated from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (UC Santa Cruz), spent one year in Niger with the Peace Corps, before coming back to California to put his knowledge to work.
For more about the Farmer-Veteran Coalition and the work they do with veterans, watch this interview with Michael O’Gorman:
Image: Iraq vet Matt McCue on his farm Shooting Star CSA.