Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS (Aug. 11, 2015)
Ennead Architects/Ennead Lab, in collaboration with RAFT Landscape Architecture, has completed a Master Plan for Heroic Food’s transformation of a farm near Hudson, New York, into a residential farm training program for returning veterans. Heroic Food Farm will include eight supportive housing units, a community facility and plans for long-term use of the farm. The first component of its master plan has been implemented with the recent raising of a greenhouse structure. The Claverack town planning board unanimously supported the Heroic Food Farm Site Plan following Ennead’s presentation at a public hearing on August 3rd. Based on this approval, Heroic Food is now moving forward with plans to fundraise and implement the next stage of Ennead’s design.
“We know that supportive housing is one of the keys to sustaining programs for returning veterans.” says Leora Barish, Founder of Heroic Food.
A project of Ennead Lab, Ennead Architects’ research and design initiative, Heroic Food Farm is designed to support the mission of Heroic Food, a non-profit organization focused on training military veterans for careers in sustainable farming, agricultural trades and food entrepreneurship. Supporting veterans from barracks to barns, this is the first comprehensive residential farm training program designed exclusively for veterans.
The site comprises nineteen acres of an existing farm; the project design is a direct response to the character and beauty of the surrounding working landscape, the character of the farm’s purpose-built structures and the more distant views of rolling agricultural fields and mountains of the Hudson River Valley.
“Incorporating the bucolic character of the surrounding fields and structures, the design for the new Heroic Food Farm creates an inspiring backdrop for the veteran-supportive programs of Heroic Food,” says Andrew Burdick, Director of Ennead Lab.
Shaped by the organizational mission and goals of Heroic Food, the project is designed to rest lightly on the land for minimal environmental impact. New structures will incorporate construction details, materials and textures of the existing farm while also meeting the highest sustainable design standards for current construction, including passive house standards for the project’s eight residences.
The design team has worked closely with Heroic Food and advisors from the veterans and farming communities to identify target needs and goals for a facility that fosters both a strong sense of community and individuality amongst its residents. An important question is at the heart of Heroic Food’s mission: how might a supportive residential community encourage veterans in their transition back to civilian life while simultaneously taking on farming as their next mission?
Men and women returning from military service suffer from a high rate of unemployment and social dislocation and a lost sense of purpose. Reintegration is also obstructed by the difficulty of finding fulfilling work worthy of their skills and dedication. For many veterans, the challenge is not just finding a job, it’s finding a mission. New York ranks in the top ten states in terms of both its veteran population and veteran unemployment. Heroic Food is dedicated to preparing veterans for a new mission: tackling our nation’s farming crisis.
America faces a growing shortage of farmers. The median age of farmers today is 58 and rising. Currently, nearly 30% are 65 or older, and fewer than 10% are under 351. 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 retire2. 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 and sustainably grown food – a demand that has created economic opportunity for independent farmers, particularly for those in proximity to large urban centers like New York City.
“Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a calling, a mission, and veterans are mission-driven,” says Ms. Barish. “Thanks to their unique training and experience, veterans have the tenacity and fortitude that make them uniquely suited to help solve a dire national crisis. In turn, veterans returning from combat zones have also found this work to be a powerful means to heal from the invisible wounds of war. Veterans-turned-farmers have found that interacting with the natural world on a daily basis and using their skills to grow, nurture and provide for others has helped them regain their sense of purpose and self, while providing for themselves and their families.”
 Let’s Help Create More Farmers. June, 10, 2015. Bittman, Mark. The New York Times
 Building a Future with Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help them Succeed. November 2011. Shute, L.L., National Young Farmers’ Coalition, NY.