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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’s finding a mission. At the same time, America faces a growing shortage of farmers. Could these two challenges become each other’s solution?


Mission Critical

Men and women returning from military service suffer a high incidence of unemployment, social dislocation and loss of sense of purpose. These stresses, with or without the presence of other disabilities, can lead to profound discouragement and frustration. Although injury and trauma can play a large role in the difficulty of transitioning to civilian life, reintegration is also obstructed by the difficulty of finding fulfilling work worthy of their skills and dedication. For many veterans, the problem is not just finding a job, it’s also finding a mission.

A farming crisis?

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.1 The median age of farmers today is 57 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.

Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a calling, a mission, and veterans are mission-driven.

Heroic Food is an organization located outside of Hudson, New York, dedicated to preparing veterans for a new mission — farming. New York ranks in the top ten states in terms of both its veteran population and veteran unemployment2, and Heroic Food is preparing to serve these veterans by providing training opportunities for careers in sustainable farming, agricultural trades, and food entrepreneurship in a veteran-supportive environment.

  1. 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.
  2. Employment Situation of Veterans Summary. March 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics


In 2014, Ennead and RAFT began collaborations to develop a master plan 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:

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? How might we create a ‘supportive place?’

To answer these questions, we began studying various typologies of communal structures, comparing the ways these typologies supported or choreographed interaction and shared space.

The final concept design developed as a series of site strategies that integrate with the farm’s existing buildings, capitalize on the site’s incredible views, and lay lightly on the land, minimizing the new construction’s impact on the site.

Community Building

The community building will house Heroic Food’s on-site classroom programs and provide shared living and study spaces for trainees staying on the farm. Located adjacent to two existing barns, the community building anchors the new project to the existing farm and forms a new courtyard and outdoor classroom space.


The design also includes eight supportive residential units. Designed for temporary use, these small efficiency apartments, or micro-units, were designed to foster both a sense of individual space and shared community amongst the trainees on site. These small cottage-like buildings are arranged along a continuous teak deck, providing accessible connections and creating a community porch that connects the residential unites to the community building and an old hay barn on the site.

Creating More Farmers

Creating More Farmers 1100X721

As highlighted in Mark Bittman’s recent New York Times op-ed, “just about everyone agrees we need more farmers.” Ennead Lab’s Heroic Food team couldn’t agree more. For more information about Heroic Food and its mission to prepare and train military veterans for careers in sustainable farming, agricultural trades, and food entrepreneurship, check out the organization’s website as well as Ennead Lab’s master plan design for Heroic Food’s farm near Hudson, New York.

Heroic Food Featured on Huffington Post

Check out Jim Luce’s article about Heroic Food on Huffington Post.

Heroic Food

CP+B and Aaron Draplin develop new logo for Heroic Food

Heroic Food Pitch Book

As part of a larger effort and collaboration with CP+B LA to create an strong organizational identity, graphic designer Aaron Draplin has created a new logo for Heroic Food.

Heroic Food featured in foodtank.com and the Daily Meal


Article titled "Veterans Gain New Life with Heroic Food: Interview with founder Leora Barish" featured on foodtank.com and the Daily Meal

Read full foodtank.com article here and Daily Meal article here.

Heroic Food Farm Featured in Civil Eats

Heroic Food featured in Civil Eats article titled "5 Programs Helping Soldiers Become Farmers".

Read full article here.

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Heroic Food Farm Recognized as Finalist in 2018 Architizer A+ Awards

Heroic Food Farm recognized as 2018 Architizer A+ Finalist in the Landscape and Planning-Unbuilt Masterplan category.

Learn more about the 2018 finalists here.


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