Turning Swords into Plowshares.
Marin Independent Journal
Like many young recruits, Jennifer Fusaro joined the Navy because she wanted to see the world.
“It was a fluke,” said Fusaro, a former San Rafael resident now living in Humboldt County. “My younger brother had considered joining, and I happened to be in the kitchen when a recruiter came to our house.”
After spending a four-year tour in Florida, Virginia and the Persian Gulf, however, Fusaro decided she wanted a different kind of life.
“My love for gardening, which had started when I was a young adult, grew when I was in the service,” Fusaro said. “Connections to the land and to a place became important to me.”
Fusaro learned about the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization that seeks to help returning veterans find jobs in agriculture. The group will host a “Tanks to Tractors” Veterans Day event in Point Reyes Station on Sunday.
“Once in a while, you come across a program that combines the economic with the spiritual,” said Helge Hellberg, executive director of Marin Organic, which will co-host the event. “This is a program where people can learn the skills to find an occupation they love, that is rapidly growing and is increasingly appreciated by their communities and by society.”
The coalition is the brainchild of Michael O’Gorman, an organic vegetable grower who has managed farms in Willow Creek, Livermore and the Salinas Valley. In 2006, O’Gorman and several other farmers decided to take action after reading a report
by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute that suggested that a disproportionate number of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan came from rural areas.
“It says in the Bible to turn your swords into plowshares,” O’Gorman said. “That’s not just an anti-war statement. It’s about young people coming back to their homes and villages and needing something to do, and it’s about their community needing them.”
The decision to work with returning soldiers marked a departure for O’Gorman, a peace activist who had opposed the first Gulf War as a member of the organization Farms Not Arms. His involvement with the military began when his son signed up for a tour of duty with the Coast Guard after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The young men and women we work with have a full range of opinions about the war, just like the general public,” O’Gorman said. “What we value in them is the idealism with which they went to war – that willingness to be self-sacrificing, and not to just pass things on to the next guy down the line. They stood up for what they believed in and put themselves on the line, and that’s what we’ve all learned to respect and honor.”
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AUTHOR CREDIT: ROB RODGERS