The Farmer Veterans
Anna served in the Army as a Civil Affairs Specialist for 8 years. In 2003 she was sent to Kuwait and then to Baghdad after Shock and Awe. During combat operations her team worked to get civilians out of harm’s way. Post-conflict, she worked on a Public Health team helping to rebuild public health services in Baghdad.
Anna is now farming at Chestnut Ridge Farm in Mt. Airy, North Carolina on 16 acres where she lives with her husband and two children. She raises pastured poultry, Animal Welfare Approved pork and AWA eggs from her heritage breed laying flock. She also keeps bees and grows vegetables, herbs and flowers, which she sells at two local farmers markets. Looking to the future, they have planted several acres of heirloom apples and hybrid chestnuts.
Update 09/2014: After farming for 5 years, Anna and her family have recently relocated to California where she will be getting a Masters Degree in Development, focusing on veterans in sustainable agriculture. They have subleased their farm and will return in a few years.
Sonia served in the Army and the National Guard as a Petroleum Supply Specialist. One month shy of completing her 8 years, she was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. She served at Bagram Air Field where she guarded the gates and worked on Refuel On The Move operations fueling combat aircraft. After Bagram she was sent to Forward Operating Bases near Gardez and Kabul.
In 2011 Sonia founded Feed Iowa First, a non-profit with the mission of feeding the hungry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She began by growing vegetables on donated church property supplying food banks and homeless shelters with fresh produce. In 2013 she expanded the operation to include a network of gardens and volunteers including plots at Rockwell Collins, GE Capital and 3 more churches. All of the food grown on these plots goes to Horizons Meals on Wheels
Althea served in the Navy for 20 years as a Seabee and Master At Arms traveling all over the world. In 2003 she was deployed to Camp Morrell in Kuwait where she maintained security for base camps. She also worked as a Convoy Commander, volunteering for the most dangerous runs bringing supplies, weapons and personnel as close as possible to the frontlines.
Althea comes from a long line of strong farming women and grew up on a farm in Brunswick, Georgia. Now retired from the Navy she is working with her brother Matthew to rebuild that farm. At Gilliard Farms, they are the 6th generation to farm on the property.
One of the driving forces behind our work is the fact that America needs more farmers, so when we started thinking about making a second documentary we knew that we wanted to make another ‘solutions style’ film around agriculture.
We discovered the Farmer Veteran Coalition when we were researching our first film GROW! Their work to connect veterans to viable careers in agriculture provided us with the inspiration to make Terra Firma. We decided to focus on women vets because they are an often overlooked and underappreciated segment of society. We contacted the FVC and they introduced us to Anna, Sonia and Althea.
Terra Firma is not another ‘messed up vets’ movie. It is a sensitive, intimate look at three women who joined the service in the mid 90’s in order to improve their lives, ended up as support soldiers in a battle zone, returned home with PTSD and eventually found healing through farming.
It was our intention to make a film to draw attention to the fact that there are a lot of veterans out there like the women featured in our film, everyday heroes who suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to recognize their response to the daily traumas they experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We hope that the stories of these three women will serve to inspire and empower other veterans and victims of war and other traumas to think about new ways of healing and moving on with their lives.
Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson
Original Music – Simon Beins
“Terra Firma is a film that tells the stories of three incredibly strong women. It exposes sides of life that surround us but that we rarely get to see intimately: life as a veteran, life as a farmer, the process of coming home from war, the process of growing food. As a composer, strong characters with emotional stories are the most inspirational ingredients of a film I can hope to work with. I see my role as translating their pain, struggle and triumph into a musical language. In the end, my sole goal is for the film’s music to help these all too important voices be heard as clearly as they deserve.”
Simon Beins is a Hawaii-based performer and composer whose music has appeared in projects by Focus Features, PBS’s POV and Independent Lens, Canon Cameras and has been released on Warner Music’s Rhino Records.
His score for the Emmy-nominated film “The City Dark” was awarded best score in a documentary at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
With his band the Wowz, he composed the scores for the Peabody Award-winning “King Korn” (2007), “Kansas vs Darwin” (2007), and “Big River” (2009). His music also appears in the Zach Galifianakis feature film “It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), alongside Black Sabbath, Queen & David Bowie and Method Man. In 2011, he collaborated with director Ian Cheney to write the urban agriculture folk opera “Truck Farm.”
Long a resident of Brooklyn, NY, he can now be found on Oahu’s North Shore, dividing his time between the studio and the ocean.