Veterans return home from unimaginable circumstances and often struggle to adapt to civilian life. Whether it be searching for a job that brings joy and aligns with military skills, or battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many veterans grapple with finding a place for themselves in society.
Pete Scott knows the loneliness and confusion that reintegrating into civilian life can bring all too well. A former counter-intelligence agent for the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, Scott’s entire 11-year military career took place during the War on Terror. With armed forces actively fighting in two wars and multiple deployments, Scott began to feel the weight of his work.
“I was burnt out,” said Scott. “I was rated for 100 percent disability by the VA for PTSD. I had to go through an intense six-month in-patient therapy. After that, I bounced around awhile but found nothing that stuck.”
At a loss of where to even begin, Scott turned to his interests. He has always had a passion for cooking and food in general, and therefore decided to apply to culinary school. However, the fast-paced and often hectic environment of the kitchen ended up being too intense, sometimes triggering Scott’s extreme case of PTSD. “I didn’t like the high pressure and intensity of the kitchen,” Scott explained.
Scott began growing vegetables as a hobby and soon found that he had both a love of and a knack for growing food. He soon had grown more produce than he could eat, and began donating his surplus. That was when Scott realized his passion and calling, explaining, “There are an estimated 50,000 veterans in the DC area who struggle with food insecurity.” Scott hoped that he could fix that.
He leased a nine-acre farm in Maryland in 2018 and started developing Fields 4 Valor. Though he admits that he had no clue what he was doing when he started, Scott learned along the way and by his third season of farming, he had tripled his produce output. He now has 25 chickens, over a dozen beehives, and is in the process of preparing a second lot to expand his growing zone.
Though he loved what he was doing, farming and donating produce to veterans and their families wasn’t enough for Scott. “We want to create a farm training program for vets to give them the farming knowledge to take with them,” Scott explained. This ambition lead to him being awarded a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project to create and formalize an apprenticeship program for veterans.
With his ever expanding program taking off, Scott needed help and so he turned to a fellow vet. Antoinette LaForce is an ex-Army supply NCO with a degree in Horticulture, and a diagnosis of PTSD. She had recently lost her home and was in the process of renovating a van into a camper when she met Scott. She now lives in a house on the farm and is the Resident Farmer Manager. “I’ve been given a new look on life to share with my kids. I feel like I’m part of a solution,” said LaForce, adding that her work on the farm has been therapeutic for her and has eased her struggles with PTSD.
Fields 4 Valor is a young project, but Scott hopes to continue to grow through the addition of expert arborists, entomologists, and a beekeeper. “We always need volunteers, especially in the spring. We could always use more money for better equipment and even more wood chips to fertilize seedlings,” said Scott.Whizzco