design-inspired urban farming

Ground Operations: From Battlefields to Farm Fields


Ground Operations is a documentary by filmmakers Dulanie Ellis and Raymond Singer.  Their documentary follows the stories and lives of an ensemble of veterans — some of whom have just come home from their tours of duty — some of whom have been home for some time.  All of whom now look to farming as their new way of life.

Ellis, Producer/Director, was a script supervisor for feature films and television for 20 years in Hollywood.  Singer, Co-Producer/Editor, is an award-winning screenwriter of Disney’s MULAN, HBO’s IRON JAWED ANGELS, and Dreamworks’ JOSEPH, KING OF DREAMS.  The two came together to create this film to share with the world how farming is changing the lives and, in many cases, saving the lives of many of our veterans returning home.

The first time we saw Ground Operations was at a screening in Los Angeles back in March, which was coupled with a panel discussion with veterans who spoke about their experiences in battle and how farming has provided a way for many vets to transition back into civilian life and to decompress post-combat.

Two Saturdays ago, we were invited to another screening of Ground Operations in Goleta, California at the Fairview Education Garden and Farm.  The reception prior to the screening overlooked the 12.5 acres of row crops, rolling meadows and chickens free-ranging in the adjacent field.  The farm was an idyllic setting to watch a film under the stars.  Fairview Farm was founded in 1895 and re-established in 1997 by Mark and Sharon Tollefson, as a non-profit for urban farming education and agricultural conservation.

Ground Operations is both touching and eye-opening. It not only features the heart-warming and equally devastating stories of these young heroes returning home, but also highlights staggering statistics that demonstrate the issues that veterans face each and every day upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. There are currently 800,000 American vets who are unemployed and 100,000 vets who are homeless.  And 22% of combat vets sustain traumatic brain injury.  The film comments that the VA infrastructure is unequipped to deal with and to respond to the vast number of vets that need help dealing with re-entry into civilian life.

The film goes on to highlight the stories of the many vets entering the world of farming.  It addresses how the skills vets acquire in the military are well aligned with those needed for farming –skills like leadership, self-discipline, risk management, strategic planning and a desire to serve. It is this desire to serve that is creating community-building opportunities for more vets returning home.  And as these vets see it, food security and energy security are a direct link to national security.

Ellis and Singer plan next to take the documentary on a tour of Washington State.  Upcoming screenings:

  • 9/20-21 Port Townsend Film Festival
  • 9/25 Bellingham, benefit screening for “Growing Veterans” a new sustainable agriculture training program for vets.
  • 9/26 Bremerton Naval Base & Shipyard
  • 9/27 Tacoma: Joint Bases Lewis-McChord (Army & Air Force), and the University of Washington

And in November they head back to Washington D.C. to screen the film for the staff of the USDA and the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA).

To find out more or to donate to support the film, please visit here.

Sow, what do you think?

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This entry was posted on July 23, 2013 by in Urban Farming and tagged , , .
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