Men and women returning from military service suffer a high incidence of unemployment, social dislocation and loss of sense of purpose. For many veterans, the problem is not just finding a job, it is finding a mission.
At the same time, America faces a growing shortage of farmers. By 2030 it is expected that 70% of the nation's private farm and ranch lands will change hands, and almost one-quarter of all farmers will retire. The median age of farmers today is fifty-seven and rising. At the same time, growing demand for local, sustainably-grown food has created a new economic opportunity for independent farmers within 300 miles of large urban centers like New York City.
Heroic Food was conceived as a way to help veterans address the challenges of transition, while also helping the nation address its growing need for new farmers and burgeoning demand for locally, sustainably grown food.
Ennead Lab and RAFT developed a masterplan for Heroic Food's 18-acre farm in Columbia County, New York that would create a home for the first comprehensive, residential, farmer training program exclusively for veterans. The project set out to answer a few key questions: Could the farm be designed to help veterans transition back to civilian life? Can supportive, short-term housing provide more than shelter? Could the design create an implied sense of community and encourage both formal and informal interaction between veterans and mentor farmers?
The final concept design developed as a series of site strategies that integrate with the farm's existing buildings, support informal interactions between veterans on the farm, capitalize on the site's incredible views, and lay lightly on the land, minimizing the new construction's impact on the site. Developed as a prototype, this concept is intended to be repeated in rural communities across the country.