Grant comes to the rescue
BRANDYWINE, Md. — Peter Scott found agriculture while struggling with PTSD following a 12-year career as a counterintelligence agent in the U.S. Army.
Four years ago, the 40-year-old started Fields 4 Valor, a 7-acre produce and livestock operation in Prince George’s County that produces food specifically for struggling veterans and their families, free of charge.
COVID-19 made its philanthropic mission more difficult after the economy cratered in March and potential sponsors backed out, but Scott found assistance last week from a regional grant program created to buttress financially vulnerable farms and improve food access in local communities.
“I just wish there were more grants out there like it,” Scott said.
Fields 4 Valor received $1,250 from Future Harvest, a regional agricultural group that supports and instructs farmers. The farm was a recipient from the group’s Feed the Need Fund, which awarded 22 grants to regional farmers last week from a pool of 102 applicants. The grants ranged from $500 to $3,000.
“We’re so excited to be able to support our farming community with some financial assistance as they adjust to the new normal of doing business during the pandemic,” said Dena Leibman, Future Harvest executive director, in a statement. “Through this effort, we were also able to address food scarcity in our communities while facilitating and strengthening relationships between our local producers and our local food banks and other organizations serving families.”
Scott’s grant covered about three-quarters of the farm’s expenses for a month, allowing him to increase his weekly shares for 30 veteran households already struggling with food insecurity, homelessness, permanent combat injuries and financial instability. Fields 4 Valor ultimately wants to produce and deliver $1,200 of fresh food to each household over a 26-week harvest season.
“If somebody’s gone off to war for our country and comes back, I don’t think they should struggle to find out where the next meal’s going to come from or whether they’re going to be able to feed their family,” Scott said.
Violet King of Cosmic Roots Farm, also located in Brandywine, received less than $2,000 from Future Harvest to help it provide affordable eggs, meat and herbal products to black families in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C., and in Southern Maryland. King has also benefited as a 2018 product of Future Harvest’s farmer training program.
In addition to poultry, Cosmic Roots sells boxes of herbs including nettle, yarrow, motherwort, chamomile and St. John’s wort for their therapeutic qualities. She holds workshops to teach customers how to grow their own herbs and spread knowledge about the herbalism of the African diaspora. Future Harvest’s grant will help her cut the price of those herb boxes from $30 to $15.
“I thought (the grant) was a good opportunity to help and, I guess, kind of expand the work that I’ve been doing,” King said.
Like King, 14 of the grant’s recipients are black, indigenous or other farmers of color — a testament, Future Harvest said, to its commitment to racial equality.
A grant will help Owl’s Nest Farm in Upper Marlboro, Md., donate five CSA shares to a Washington public housing complex each week through October.
“We wanted to focus on getting more of the food we grow to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” said Liz Whitehurst, farm owner and operator. “This is another opportunity for us to make good on that goal.”
Back in Brandywine, Scott said his farm’s mission and the grant’s support provide a professional purpose for his life.
“You can find it a lot of different ways, but when you’re outside tending plants, keeping animals — I think a lot of people really connect with animals. A lot of veterans who are struggling,” he said. “It’s innately good.”
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