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Life Arts

From Battlefields to Fields of Dreams: Vets Cultivate Healing on the Farm

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Ground Operations by Dulanie Ellis

GROUND OPERATIONS: Battlefields to Farmfields is a new documentary about the growing network of combat veterans transitioning into sustainable farming, ranching and artisan food production as they create healthy new lives for themselves and contribute to food security for all Americans.

The film won the Audience Favorite award at DocUtah International Film Festival, the Social Justice Award at the Port Townsend Film Festival and Best Solution at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival.

Dulanie Ellis by Dulanie Ellis

Producer-Director, Dulanie Ellis was Associate Producer on the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks. Ground Operations is her fifth film about sustainable agriculture.

Raymond Singer by Dulanie Ellis

Co-Producer and Editor, Raymond Singer, is an award-winning screenwriter of Disney's Mulan, HBO's Iron-Jawed Angels and Dreamworks' Joseph, King of Dreams.

I was lucky to have an opportunity to interview Dulanie.

Meryl Ann Butler: Dulanie, I love this whole solution-oriented, win-win concept that offers so much to our veterans, especially via what I consider to be the healing power of Mother Earth. What first inspired you to take on this subject?

Dulanie Ellis: I live in a beautiful agricultural county just outside of Los Angeles. As a filmmaker I have specialized in what it will take to continue to feed America in a more sustainable manner than the chemical approach we've used for the last 60 years or so. I've produced four short documentaries about the subject. So when I met folks at the Farmer Veteran Coalition and learned about their program to help transition military veterans into farming and ranching, I knew this was the answer to many of the challenges we face as a nation.

Veteran farmer Bridgit Ruiz and sons learn planting skills together by Dulanie Ellis

MAB:  Wow, meeting the FVC was an auspicious event! What was your most meaningful moment of the process?

DE: When the veterans or their families come up after seeing the film and thank us, often with tears in their eyes,  for telling it like it is and offering a positive alternative for meaningful work. These are mission-driven men and women and they want to continue to serve.

Veteran-Farmers, siblings Althea & Matthew Raiford by Dulanie Ellis

MAB: That is really touching, I'm glad to hear that. What do you hope your other viewers will take away from their film experience?

DE: You know, a lot of people were opposed to the wars and don't know members of the military personally, so they may easily have misconceptions about veterans. I did. The veterans I've met who are in the film - and many more - are tremendously capable, focused and visionary can-do people. We are lucky that so many of them want to grow our food. I hope viewers recognize that farming, whether rural or urban, is not merely healing for the vets after their war experience -- it's healing for us, for our communities, as they provide access to healthy, organic food to neighborhoods that are often under-served and suffer from diet-related diseases. In a world full of problems, Ground Operations is a story about solutions.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing for over 25 years. She studied art with Harold Ransom Stevenson in Sea Cliff NY for seven years before opening her own art school. Stevenson had (more...)

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Great article Meryl Ann!  I'll cc this to Mer... by Burl Hall on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 5:19:11 AM
Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!That's a great id... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 7:56:19 AM
Locally, as the 18th sand mine is beginning to be ... by Cynthia Piano on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 8:00:23 AM
Thank you, Cynthia! It is so exciting to come... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 8:24:02 AM
Swords into plowshares.  Can't get better tha... by Lise Stoessel on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 11:45:13 AM
Thanks, Lise, so glad you liked it! I'm totally in... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 3:42:31 PM
This is just about the best news I have read for a... by Amy Schreiner on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 5:26:42 PM
Thanks for your comment, Amy! Yes I love this type... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 7:01:33 PM
Great positive upbeat active story. Good timing, t... by Robert McNary on Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 5:44:53 PM
Thanks Dr Bob, glad you liked it!  It was fun... by Meryl Ann Butler on Thursday, Nov 14, 2013 at 8:47:36 AM