An Escondido couple who runs an organic farming business that benefits U.S. military veterans was recognized for their good work by the White House on Wednesday.
Combat-decorated U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Colin Archipley and his wife, Karen Archipley, were among 12 veterans and their families honored by the “Champions of Change” program in Washington, D.C.
The program was created by the Obama Administration as a way to recognize individuals and organizations that empower and inspire their communities.
Together, the Archipleys run Archi’s Organic Farming Enterprise, a certified organic greenhouse operation in Escondido that grows basil, kale, herbs and other fresh produce using hydro-organic farming techniques.
In the process, the couple has helped create jobs within their community.
Working with Cal Poly Pomona, the couple created the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training Program (VSAT), a program that helps train U.S. military vets for new careers in agriculture and family farming as they transition out of the military and into civilian life.
The intensive, six-week course includes training in hydroponics, drip and micro irrigation, environmental control, soil biology, composting, greenhouse management and more.
Graduates of the VSAT program have been able to start careers as successful farm owners and workers, restaurateurs and owners of food companies, according the Archi’s Acres website.
Through VSAT, Sgt. Archipley said they have been able to train approximately 250 service members, many of whom have gone on to start their own businesses.
Sgt. Archipley said the process of transitioning out of the military can be difficult, but having his own business has given him a new focus and mission in the private sector, which includes helping others.
“It’s part of something greater. You’re building this business, you’re putting people to work, you’re adding to the community,” he explained from Washington, D.C.
He called the experience of serving his country and then going into business for himself a “unique American story.”
“We’re privileged by the opportunities that this country provides,” he added.
Karen said farming and agriculture was therapeutic for her husband after he returned home from his third tour overseas. As they were thinking of a business they could start and grow together, farming became their answer.
“Agriculture allowed Colin to come back and decompress, and at the same time, earn a great living,” Karen explained.
The couple said their family farm and VSAT program was very much embraced by the San Diego community. Over the years, Karen said they have worked closely with Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar to introduce their agriculture program to transitioning military service members.
“San Diego is just so supportive of veterans,” said Sgt. Archipley.
The couple said being recognized by the White House was an honor, and more than they could’ve ever imagined for their business and agriculture program.
“It’s euphoric. To be recognized is pretty exciting for us,” said Sgt. Archipley. “We’ll continue to do what we do, if we get recognition or not because that’s where our heart is. But to be recognized by the White House – it’s just such an honor.”
“We’re reinvigorating the family farm across America, and doing it organically,” Karen added.
To learn more about the Archipley’s work, visit their website.