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Veterans enrolled at Culinary Institute; working with the earthNORTH BAY – John McGlaughlin grew up on a 1,200-acre family farm in Merced County before entering the Army. He suffered the effects of a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq and received a Purple Heart.

Now, Mr. McGlaughlin is the regional program director for the Farmer Veteran Coalition in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties.

He said the majority of the veterans he sees today through the Farmer-Veteran Coalition are looking to get into the wine industry.

Meanwhile, the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena has seen the phenomenon first hand.

Emily Massimi is the supervisor of Greystone recruitment for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, where she said a number of veterans currently are enrolled in the school.

“I believe that every branch is represented as well,” she said. “The admissions department has increased our efforts in recruiting those with a military background so that they are able to take advantage of the Post 9/11 Bill as well as the Yellow Ribbon Act," which the institute participates in, she said.

The culinary institute has had its roots with veterans since the school opened.

Founded in 1946 by Frances Roth and Katharine Angell, the CIA provided culinary training to veterans returning from service in World War II.

On May 22, 1946, the New Haven Restaurant Institute opened its doors as the first and only school of its kind in the United States. Specifically created to train returning World War II veterans in the culinary arts, the institute enrolled 50 students and employed a faculty consisting of a chef, a baker and a dietitian.

The school's first 50 students were veterans studying under the GI Bill.

The institute was later renamed the Culinary Institute of America. The goal of the institute is to provide “exemplary culinary skills training to veterans,” according to its Web site.

More than 600 veterans have earned their degrees in the past two decades. Today, there are close to 100 veterans enrolled as CIA students or working as faculty or staff.

Mr. McGlaughlin said that while there are a number of veterans looking to get into the wine and food industry in this area, there are some that are working the earth.

Shooting Star CSA in Fairfield is a farm run by a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Matt McCue joined the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and spent a year of combat in Iraq as well as another year abroad in Korea.

After he returned, Mr. McCue attended the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems apprentice program at University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to teach agriculture in the Peace Corps in Niger.

He now runs Shooting Star, a 10-acre, CCOF-certified organic farm in Fairfield.

The farm operates a seasonal weekly vegetable box program, known as Community Supported Agriculture. Its season runs 28 weeks, May through November, with drop sites in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Fairfield, Vacaville and Walnut Creek.

The goal of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is to start with an initial program focused in California and to move into a national organization.

To date there are farms in Northern California, San Diego, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and more that have sprung up with guidance from the coalition.

The national Farmer-Veteran Coalition is a project seeking to help returning veterans find employment and retraining in agriculture, in the hope that some of these young men and women may help address the country’s need for people entering the field of agriculture.

The coalition was started several years ago by Michael O’Gorman, who has a 40-year career in farming.

He has had farms from California to Mexico and has headed up a number of larger organic commercial ventures.

For more information about the Farmer Veteran Coalition, visit www.farmvetco.org.

For more information about the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, visit www.ciachef.edu.