On Learning and Getting Things Done

By Jenna Barufka
 My entire experience at Arcadia will be encapsulated in a sum total of seven days. This seems impossible to me, considering that I feel overwhelmed with new information. I went into my internship with Arcadia completely blind. I had barely even gardened before. In retrospect, I have no idea what I thought farming was going to be like. I suppose I thought it would be simpler. I thought there would be fewer pieces to consider. Having spent the past twelve years of my life in school, I expected a similarly regimented process of learning and getting things done; be told the facts and apply them, be told rules and follow them. But farming is filled with an uncertainty I’ve never really had to deal with before. We have things we know to be true, of course, about the plants and the insects that eat them and the weeds that grow by them. But we also have a million things that we can only guess at, like how much it will rain and when, and whether or not we’ll be able to stop mice from eating our seeds. Farming is predicting, observing, compensating, waiting, hoping.

The more I learn about farming, however, the more it becomes incredibly clear to me that I know nothing about farming. Each time we embark on a new task, Katherine explains to me and the other volunteers what we are doing and why. I feel as though there must be always one millions things flying through her head. The other day, as she explained how to transplant squash seedlings into landscape fabric, she told us that “they don’t like the fabric worrying against their stems.” Perhaps this is common sense to some people, but it is something I would have never, never thought about. In fact, to even consider that there is a certain way the stems of golden glory squash like to be treated is so far from my average train of thought that it, despite seeming so simple, feels revolutionary. I’m not getting my questions answered, I’m being informed that there were questions to have in the first place. It’s not, Oh, I’ve always wondering what the stems of plants felt about rubbing against landscape fabric, it’s, The stems of plants care if they touch landscape fabric? And what’s landscape fabric? I feel as though all my life I have just assumed that certain things are as simple as they seem; seeds fall, plants grow, etc. Now I am unlearning.

In fact, a large part of my experience at Arcadia has been unlearning. There are some things you have to unlearn if you want to be of any use at all. Unlearn a fear of bugs. Unlearn hesitancy to get dirty. Unlearn infrequent water drinking. In the best way possible, seven days at Arcadia has been a process of forgetting; forgetting the simple way I thought about farming, forgetting the limited way I thought about learning, forgetting the structured way I thought about working and getting things done. It’s been a satisfying personal experience, not only because it allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people and doing rewarding work, but also because it gave me a foundational understanding of something I had no concept of before. It’s only a beginning, but I at least now have somewhere to begin. And, if nothing else, I have gained an incredible, incredible amount of respect for good food and good people who work in the heat.


Spring2Action April 5th and Help Arcadia Train and Incubate New Veteran Farmers

The military has an adage: Train as you fight, so you are physically and mentally prepared for whatever comes. At Arcadia, we want to follow the same principle:  Train as you farm.

Arcadia Farm is scrappy and productive, but needs more equipment and better infrastructure so our veteran farmers get the best, most realistic training possible.

Help our veterans train as they will farm, in their next act as veteran-farmers growing healthy food for a healthy nation. Donate to Arcadia on April 5th to help us reach our goal of $30,000 to build the farming infrastructure needed to train and incubate veterans as they begin new careers as farmers. 

Visit https://spring2action.razoo.com/story/Arcadia-Food to make your tax-deductible to donation today. 

Our 2017 Spring2Action Goal is to raise $30,000 to drill and well and make other farming infrastructure improvements, like fences, equipment, and utilities, to Arcadia Farm.  

Meet our Veteran Farmers!

There is a slow-moving crisis in agriculture. The United States needs 700,000 new farmers to take up the plough over the next 20 years to replace the farmers aging out of the profession. In the last two years, America has produced just about 1,200 new farmers.

At the same time, the U.S. military created more than 200,000 new military veterans every year. And if there is one thing that’s true, it’s this: they are about the only Americans tough enough to be farmers. Because let’s face it – a tough day farming can’t be too much worse than a hard day at boot camp.

So last year, on land that George Washington once cultivated, we trained 12 military veterans in the art, science and business of farming. They learned a lot, but they taught us more – about discipline and grit, teamwork and esprit de corps. We emerged smarter, tougher, and better.

And now we have the pleasure of introducing you to 2017 training class of veterans.  They are 19-strong, from all four services, half men and half women, with 23 combat deployments between them – 17 in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are helicopter pilots and explosives experts; logisticians and computer experts; mechanics, infantry and intelligence experts. Active duty, Reserve, and retired, and one just returned from Afghanistan this month – they are all seeking a new life cultivating the land they joined the military to protect and served.  (One Navy civilian has joined us for the training too for a total of 20 trainees).

But first we want to thank the generous sponsors who making this training program possible: The Grace Communications Foundation, Boeing, Prince Charitable Trusts, Northrop Grumman, ClearedJobs.net, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and BAE Systems.

It is now my pleasure to introduce you to the 2017 Arcadia Veteran Reserve. We will have the honor of working with them every month during their 12 training weekends in 2017.

Alvin, USMC: “I hope to become an innovator in the farming industry by blending time tested techniques with modern technology. I want to grow a variety of vegetables and hopefully have some type of livestock. If there is anything I've gained while in the Marine Corps it’s (will power), I now know I have the mental and physical perseverance to handle any mission.”
Yash, US Army: “To work in nature, work with hands, save the planet, eat healthy. (Military service serves me with) discipline and working with hands.”

Marcus, US Army: “I want to start several working farms and several community gardens. The community gardens will consist of edible produce, while the working farms will consist of edible produce, egg production, ornamental plants, houseplants, shrubbery, etc. I have already started working with several community organizations in New Orleans to start gardens and have initiated conversation with a co-op in North Carolina with plans to do the same. “

Lindsey, US Army: “Growing food in an environmentally responsible way is something I would love to learn more about. I would like to be able to use farming as a way to give back to the community and to help support my family. My military experience gave me the ability to work well under pressure and to do my job efficiently while paying attention to detail.”

Antoinette, US Army: The Mission Continues Fellow: “I would not only like to be able to provide a healthy, sustainable life for my family but also to help others, especially those living in ‘food deserts,’ to have the ability to provide for their families. My ‘retirement goal’ has been to open a residential treatment farm for at-risk youth (I was able to begin a business plan while in school) where I can provide a safe and productive environment to children to grow and learn a practical vocation.”

Joel, US Navy: “I'd like to have a small farm where I grow my own food (vegetables, berries, fruits, and herbs) and raise some livestock for my wife and I while also producing extra to either give to friends/family/charities or sell at a food stand or farmers market…I've read a large number of articles and news stories, and watched different documentaries that talk about the importance of farmers and I understand how important a healthy food supply is to the country. I want to be able to teach my grandchildren about farming and growing their own food.”

Joe, US Army: “I have always admired farmers since growing up in the Midwest, KC Missouri. I like the independence involved, and the honorable service they provide. I help a friend who grows corn, winter wheat, and soy beans. I'd like to get enough land to grow these crops, but also get into growing hops for resale in Virginia. Hard work, self-drive, mission accomplishment. I love the idea that I could work for myself, driven by my goals.”

Tyree, US Army: “I would like to own a farm, grow organic foods. I would like to provide jobs and give back to the local community. (Military service taught me) dedication and commitment to completing task. No matter how hard they may be.”

Matthew, US Army: “I have a great family history of military members within in my ancestry but a true theme that reoccurs after our service is that my family have become farmers in different sizes from large cattle and tobacco farmers to personal gardens that provide for the family. Many of those farms are self-sustaining homesteads. I am hoping to have a 50-acre farm with horses, bees, and possibly some cattle looking to provide a peace in my heart that makes me a productive member of my community.”

Amanda, US Army: “The last several years I have kept a vegetable garden and started beekeeping this past year. I love having my hands in the soil and seeing the progress of something that started as a seed growing into something I can eat. I really enjoy beekeeping and learning about the bees and from the bees. I have always liked being outside and learning about nature. The last several years I have spent in an office environment and have realized that this type of work is not for me. I like feeling like I am contributing to something larger than myself and keeping honey bees and growing vegetables provides more satisfaction than generating endless reports that someone may or may not read.

I'd eventually like to own my own small-scale farm, with chickens, honeybees, vegetables, and possibly goats, but before I take that plunge, I need to learn how to farm. My military service has given me a better understanding of what it means to be loyal and dedicated. Knowing how to complete a mission and having people (or plants and animals) depend on you for success gives me the drive to keep going.”

Lori, Army National Guard: “My husband and I are both veterans. We deployed back to back to Afghanistan. He is set for another deployment soon. We are currently looking at a property in Maine that is suitable for maple syrup production, mushroom farming (albeit a short season), and some flock/livestock. If we decide to go with that particular property, we would most likely do small ruminants and/or turkeys. We would also like to have at least one greenhouse for our own food production.”

Patrick, US Army: “My grandfather was a farmer, though I didn’t pursue this path early in my life. While deployed to Afghanistan, a good friend passed away. He was a farmer from Alabama. He loved to farm and all that accompanied farming. He encouraged me to start small. He assured me that I would love it. I believe raising cattle, caring for a farm is therapeutic. Although my military career consisted of many administrative duties, I have always loved field exercises, being in the outdoors and physical activities especially team building exercises. I enjoy the sense of camaraderie and the process of nurturing and completing a goal. I also have a love of animals. My daughter and I started a small garden in backyard. We grow peppers, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. We love cooking together all the food from our garden.”

Nicole, US Navy: “I am …very much into exercise and healthy eating which is fueling my passion to create an accessibility to organically grown foods. I would like to open up an urban farm and start a food co-op for disadvantaged communities.”

Shawn, US Army: “I would like to learn to farm/ranch in order to provide a Haven for other struggling Veterans where they can take refuge and receive therapy. As I am currently studying Therapeutic Recreation I have become very aware of the healing properties attributed to horticulture and other agricultural associated therapies. With the veteran initiatives put forth in the Farm Bill of 2014, I think that a community of farming veterans could be feasible. These communities or co-op could not only provide for themselves but also has the potential to provide for the community on a much larger scale. These visions cannot happen without adequate training in the trade of farming.”

Jon, US Army: “I plan to retire in Summer 2018 and return Central Kentucky. I envision buying small farm and initially working it part time. I have not settled on any particular type of farm yet... I hope to use the Veteran Reserve program to educate myself prior to retirement. I view farming as an entrepreneurial endeavor... which requires hard work, discipline, planning, organization and risk mitigation. I honed all those skills in the military and believe I can successfully apply them to farming.”

Katie, US Navy: “I feel sustainable agriculture is a must in order to pass down a promising future for the next generation. Farming is a form of land stewardship that can work towards that end for our families and our local community. Local food is important to education, I'd like to grow and/or raise as much food for my family and local community as possible. I'm interested in all facets of agriculture but have the most experience with produce.”

Brittany, USMC: “My long-term dream is settle onto a farm or vineyard where I can implement sustainable farming practices. My family on both sides farmed to sustain themselves with food and financial resources. They had a lot of pride in their work and land. I think my military service will give me the leadership skills and discipline it takes to maintain a farm. I think my unique experiences in research will allow me to grow a farm in new ways, and maintain the flexibility need for growth.”

Debra, US Army: “My grandmother came to this county from the Bahama Islands in the 1920's. She taught me the importance of growing our own food in our yard. It is my heart's desire to own a small farm, where I and others can garden and enjoy the Organic fruits, veggies, herbs & spices at the Farm CafĂ©. There would also be an area with natural soaps/creams, space to provide psychoeducational groups and other therapeutic services to women & teenage girls who are struggling with Women's Issues and want to connect with Mother Nature.”

Tanya, US Army: “I would like to live and work on a farm. I would like to learn about planting sustainable foods and plants.”

Faye, USAF: “I am building a home in Suffolk, VA on (7 acres) with plans of growing many of my own vegetables and herbs. I would also like to help other urban farmers who are currently growing on a small scale and having issues. My husband and I have thought about a little truck stand to bring locally grown products to Hampton Roads areas that have minimal access to fresh products.”

Arleya, US Navy civilian: “The community I grew up in had very little access to fresh foods. Unfortunately, years and years later, it's still that way today. And frankly, it's a health crisis. I'd like to be a solution to that. I want to produce and provide fresh foods for that community, and also teach members of the community about nutrition and how to grow their own small gardens. I've been looking at land that comes available, but I need more knowledge and a better plan to execute the idea. I want to do something on a large scale. While my experience is in the typical vegetables and herbs, I'm also interested in growing hops and participating in the growing craft brewing industry.”


Arcadia Veteran Farmer Reserve Program 2017: We are accepting applications for our new class!

Are you a veteran looking for your next act? 
Not so sure cubicle life is for you? 
Want a new way of life that is meaningful, challenging, and rewarding? 
Ever thought about farming? 

The nation needs you. We are facing a slow-moving crisis in agriculture. The USDA estimates that over the next 20 years we are going to need 700,000 new farmers to replace those aging out of the profession. 

Farming is one of the hardest, most important jobs in the civilian economy. 

It requires mental and physical toughness. Grit. Discipline. Mental agility. The ability to plan, adapt, and overcome obstacles.

It's not just a career – it's a calling. 

Sound familiar? 

No experience, no land, and not much time? No problem. 

Apply to join Arcadia's 2017 Veteran Farmer Reserve! 


We meet one weekend a month at Arcadia Farm, 14 miles south of Washington, D.C., just outside the gates of Fort Belvoir, for intensive cultivation and business training to prepare you for a new career in agriculture. You'll get expert instruction from working farmers, piles of interesting, vetted farming books, hands-on training on our sustainable vegetable farm just outside of Washington, D.C. Heck, we'll even teach you to drive a tractor (and give you plenty of opportunities to run it)!  

You will work alongside other veteran farm trainees who speak your language and share your experiences, drive, and discipline, on land that George Washington himself cultivated. And you'll visit, work on, and tour successful farms in the region to learn from people who are actually making a living in agriculture. Big farms, small, veggie and livestock; hydroponic greenhouses and tiny urban farms – we do it all. Plus accounting, legal, and marketing training to make sure that you not only know how to grow food but how to have a successful business operation as well.

You will get real-life experience in farming, and you will be able to know whether this field is right for you – before you buy land. 

planting potatoes at Hilltop Farm at Arcadia

Woodlawn Mansion, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site, is home to our farm and training classroom.

Zeek and Erica, both Army vets, learn how to transplant seedlings.

Most weekends include a one-day field trip visiting 2 or more successful local farms. Here we are at Mountview and Moutoux, helping to seed the 2016 crop, and learning how a whole-diet CSA works. 

We visited Cibola Farms for a great discussion about raising bison (and how military surplus CHUs can really help a farm out). We later visited Bright Farms, a massive hydroponic greenhouse run by an Afghan war vet.

Mission Continues is one of our partners, and gifted us with a greenhouse kit and 60 volunteers to get it built in one day (more or less).

A winter visit to a year-round farm in Fairfax, Whitehall – also run by a veteran. 

Our trainees get hands on experience on our farm. Here, Marine vet Tor, preps drip tape for irrigation. 

Veteran Farm Fellow Laron and Reservist Ally (also a Mission Continues Fellow) enjoy a dinner thrown in their honor at Arcadia farm. 

Our tractor! And Virginia's Secretary of Veteran Affairs John Harvey – a great friend to the program who helped us raise funds for it! 

 You will work alongside other veteran farm trainees who speak your language and share your experiences, drive, and discipline, on land that George Washington himself cultivated. And you'll visit, work on, and tour successful farms in the region to learn from people who are actually making a living in agriculture. Big farms, small, veggie and livestock; hydroponic greenhouses and tiny urban farms – we do it all. Plus accounting, legal, and marketing training to make sure that you not only know how to grow food but how to have a successful business operation as well.

You will get real-life experience in farming, and you will be able to know whether this field is right for you – before you buy land. 

Fill out an application, and find out if farming is for you! 

Anticipated 2017 Dates (please be available for both days, every weekend):
Jan. 28/29
Feb. 25/26
March 25/26
April 29/30
May 20/21
June 24/25
July 29/30
Aug 26/27
Sept 23/24
Oct 28/29
Nov 18/19
December 16/17

With gratitude to our sponsors who make the 2017 Veteran Farmer Program possible:
Grace Communications Foundation
Prince Charitable Trusts
Neighborhood Restaurant Group


Oct. 16 – the Annual FALL FUNTACULAR!

It's a whole lot of FUN with a Little Bit of 'Tacular! And entrance is freeeeeeeeeeeee! 

Register here so we know how many homemade apple cider donuts to fry! 

October 16, 2016 1 - 5 pm at Arcadia Farm at Woodlawn Pope-Leighey
9000 Richmond Highway
Alexandria VA 22309

Join us for the last hurrah of the growing season, the family friendly fall fest FUNTACULAR! Apple bobbing, sack-racing, chicken-cheering, cake walking good times! Cider! Donuts! Bring a picnic, lounge about on the lawn of Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House and make yourself and your kids some fall memories! Admission is free; food, drink and pumpkins are extra!

Live music will be provided by Drive TFC (www.drivetfc.com), and other acts to be announced as we get closer to the date. Wear your dancing shoes, or just kick off your shoes and go barefoot.

This is the anti-bouncy house, pro-farm and good clean fun autumn festival you've been longing for, with rosy-cheeked kids, a real working farm, and no admission fee (or long, snaking line of cars to get in). 

Come on down to the farm! 


You won't believe the menu we have in store for you.

We have a handful of tickets available for the Arcadia Fall Harvest Dinner on Oct. 9. 

One of the truly wonderful parts of the dinner is watching these chefs -- all of whom are profoundly talented -- collaborate to prepare a five-course meal for our guests and supporters. So come on out to the farm on Sunday! (but buy a ticket here first!). You'll feast on an unbelievable spread, your wine glass will never be empty if we can help it, you'll be waited on hand and foot by cheerful plaid-clad volunteers, and best of all you'll be helping 13 military veterans become farmers!  

But first, to whet your appetite... some photos from last year. 

How can you possibly pass this up? 

all photos (donated!) by the talented Molly M. Peterson

Oct. 9, 2016 
Arcadia Fall Harvest Dinner 
to benefit the
Veteran Farmer Program


Cocktails by Duane Sylvestre & Jamie MacBain
Canapes by Vermilion 

Smoked Salmon with Caviar cream

Roasted butternut squash with crispy dal

courtesy of Rappahannock River Oysters

Chef Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar
Yuzu and Mescal-cured Salmon.
Salmon Chips, Ginger-Lime emulsion, Black Rice, Fermented Chilis, Nori, Rice Crisps, Candied Ginger, Cilantro 

Chef Haidar Karoum, formerly of Proof, Estadio & Doi Moi
Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Maitake Mushrooms
Autumn Vegetables

Chef Hamilton Johnson of Honeysuckle
Heritage Quail stuffed with Fall Squash
Brussels Sprouts with Rabbit Bacon

Chef Harper McClure of Brabo
Grilled Spanish OctopusYuzu Kosho, Kohlrabi Slaw, Shiro Dashi Emulsion

Chef Keith Cabot of Evening Star Cafe
Grilled Brassica
Cured Spanish Mackerel, Pine Nuts, Black Garlic
Smoked Goat
Red Kuri Squash, Pepitos, Yogurt, Mint

Chef Zachary Mills of Wit & Wisdom
 Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder, Gochujang BBQ, Pickled Cabbage
Brown Butter Miso Grits

Chef John Critchley of Brine
"Lamb & Clams"
House-Made Merguez, Harissa, Clams, Country Bread

Chef William Morris of Vermilion 
Grilled Sobrebarriga with chimichurri
Confit Fingerlings, Roasted Peppers, and Onions

Chef Rebecca Clerget of Dog Tag Bakery 
Assorted Pies and Sweet Treats


Fall Harvest Dinner at Arcadia Farm!

What do these 9 chefs have in common? 

Big talent. Big hearts. And a commitment to veterans and to farmers. 
Come see what they get up to on Oct. 9, 2016 
at Arcadia Farm. 

9 chefs
9 dishes

One of them is pie. 
So much pie.

buy tickets here -- and while you're at it, throw in one for a veteran.

Will Morris

Keith Cabot

Rebecca Clerget

John Critchley

Hamilton Johnson

Haidar Karoum

Harper McClure

Jesse Miller 


Zack Mills

with cocktails by 
Duane Sylvestre