Karen's entrepreneurial spirit & organic advocacy+Colin’s laser focus, hydro-crop ingenuity=Archi's Acres & Veterans Sustainable Ag Training
Before Marine Sergeant Colin Archipley left for his third and final tour in Iraq in 2005, he and his wife, Karen, purchased a two-and-a-half-acre avocado ranch in Escondido, California. The farm was a dream come true for the Archipleys—until Karen received an $849.97 water bill, the monthly cost of irrigating 200 avocado trees. Halfway across the world, Colin spent his spare time researching hydroponics, a method of growing plants in nutrient solutions. And when he returned home, they built a greenhouse to grow organic basil without soil. Within months, their small farm was providing the couple with a sustainable living: Not only does this style of farming use up to 90 percent less water than traditional irrigation, but it can also be duplicated in nearly any location. “This got us thinking about training other veterans transitioning out of active duty,” says Colin, 32. So they developed the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program. “Taxpayers spend money to train our military but then don’t capitalize on that investment by helping veterans secure post-military careers,” he says. The couple’s six-week course covers topics like how to build a business model and get funding, in addition to hydroponics and greenhouse production. So far, more than 200 veterans have completed it, including Mike Hanes, a marine who was homeless and suffering from what Karen calls “invisible war wounds” when she and Colin met him. Today, Forager Mike’s Superfoods Dang!!! hot sauce is available at Whole Foods. “That’s the kind of success,” she says, “that keeps us going.”
Do you remember the moment you decided to start your business? What was it like? We purchased our 3-acre farm in 2005, between Colin's 2nd & 3rd tour in Iraq. Our first water bill $849.97, for the month not the year. As a wife of a combat marine, we are advised not to upset our spouses, but Colin saw the bill online. That was the moment we became a sustainable farm.
What advice do you have for others who want to turn their passion into a business? Be willing to dedicate 100% to making sure your dream is realized. Prepare, prepare, prepare....Know your product, who your customer is and know your competitors and be ready to devote your life to making it a success.
Taxpayers spend money to train our military but then don’t capitalize on that investment by helping veterans secure post-military careers Colin Archipley
What advice do you wish you had when you started?We teach the VSAT Training to address what was missing for us, an evolving viable business plan, identify financial infrastructure to support the short term and long term goals. Basic information on how to establish a business. Today we are able to use our experience and network of professionals, from legal to finance and marketing, as well as hands on to fast track our VSAT Alumni so they have the support they need.
What do you think is the key to being a successful startup?The key is willingness to adopt the lifestyle and make it a livelihood. Sustainable Organic Agribusiness is a full time occupation. Requires a commitment to advancing in personal and professional life on a daily basis. Be willing to take a risk and live out of your comfort zone. Everyday is a challenge, so welcome it.
What technology do you depend on to run your business? Do you do anything the “old-fashioned” way? If so, why? Hydroponics is as old as The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Floating Aztec Gardens, which is the ultimate in old fashion, yet in todays growing community it is regarded as high tech. We depend on farm managers who understand how to keep schedules and checklist.
How do you use social media to promote your business? We have an interactive website that keeps our staff, students, and alumni updated as well as the general public. We use it for videos, file sharing and chat. We also use Facebook for posting news stories and VSAT Alumni promotion, then repost to LinkedIn and Twitter. We are fortunate to work with Whole Foods who uses their social networks via Luv Local videos they produce.