“I believe deeply in American agriculture and the rich reward it can give to all who take part in it. Sharing that opportunity with men and women coming home from war has been a wonderful and humbling experience.”
Michael began farming in 1970. After 20 years in 1990 Michael was hired to run the first organic farm in Salinas, California. Over the next five years TKO Farms became the country’s leading grower of packaged salad greens. In 1996 he became the first Farm Manager for Mission Organics, growing for the Earthbound label and newly formed Natural Selection Foods. In 1998 Michael began a ten year stint developing 1600 acres of intensive organic vegetable and herb production in the northern half of Baja California for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, including 30 acres of indoor tomatoes. In 2008 he began the Farmer Veteran Coalition out of the back of his pickup truck.
Chief Operating Officer
“Virtually my entire life has been in agriculture, a rewarding and enjoyable life’s work. I’m a Marine Corps veteran, proud of my service. America’s military veterans have the qualities that fit well with agriculture. Bringing veterans into the ag industry is a positive for both.”
Leonard has a long history of involvement with veterans and farming. He is a Marine Corps veteran and lifelong advocate for agriculture. His career spans 47 years in agricultural banking, 34 of which were spent with Farm Credit West, a farmer-owned cooperative whose mission is to provide financing to agriculture and rural America. Leonard retired in 2014 as Senior Vice President, but continues to work with Farm Credit by supervising a company-wide mentor program that teaches leadership and other business skills to young managers. His role at Farmer Veteran Coalition leverages his experience in the Marine Corps, his experience with agricultural financing, and his passion for agriculture in America.
“I’m very grateful for the personal sacrifices our veterans have endured, and I’m humbled by their desire to continue their service by providing for our nation. It’s an honor to support their new endeavors in agriculture.”
Rachel manages FVC’s Fellowship Program, administering grants that support veteran farmers in their new careers. This program enables veterans to invest in the infrastructure and tools they need to feed their community. After earning a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Community Studies with a focus on food systems, Rachel worked on small-scale farms for six years. During her time in the field, she learned the intricacies of harvesting okra without getting itchy, collecting 600 eggs without cracking any, and bunching kale with one hand. Most importantly, she gained an unparalleled respect for the people who grow our food. Through her work in non-profit organizations, Rachel cultivated relationships between farmers and the community by establishing farm to institution programs. She also provided growers with technical assistance through workshops on topics such as irrigation efficiency, business planning, and marketing.
Ria de Grassi
Director of Events Management
“A vocation has no greater noble purpose than leveraging one’s experience and network to help make good things happen for America’s veterans.”
Ria grew up on a small sheep farm in the Coast Range of California and later lived and worked on a 5,000-head Romney sheep and mixed crop farm in New Zealand. Her late father, who served in The Hump with the US Army Air Forces in WWII, heavily influenced Ria’s passion for agriculture. Like her father, Ria is a graduate of UC Davis, with a BS in Agricultural Science and Management and a MS in Animal Science.
Ria joined FVC in 2018 after a long career as an agricultural issues and policy analyst with the California Farm Bureau Federation where she had the lead responsibility for animal health and welfare, agricultural research, food safety, homeland security, and the dairy, livestock, aquaculture, and honey bee agricultural sectors.
An active volunteer, she is the Food and Agriculture Critical Infrastructure Co-Sector Chief, a member of the board, and the past Chief Financial Officer of the Sacramento Chapter of InfraGard, a public-private partnership with the FBI to safeguard the critical infrastructure within the U.S. In her downtime, Ria loves to toil in her pollinator-friendly, drought-resistant garden.
Director, Training & Education
Manager, Homegrown By Heroes Label
“The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be… because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap!”
Paul was born and raised near Seattle, Washington. Fresh out of high school, he joined the United States Marines as a Motor Transport Operator. After his service, Paul’s love for the outdoors led to a career in landscaping and, eventually, small-scale agriculture. He is a University of California Master Gardener, Master Composter, and Hydroponicist. While employed at hydro-organic Archi’s Acres™, Paul harvested hydroponic basil and maintained greenhouse systems. He also worked on a small, family agribusiness specializing in old west homesteading; he cleared land, established a micro-farm, built agritourism projects, managed and harvested acres of lilacs, and taught archery and tomahawk basics to tourists. Paul’s latest passion project is a hydroponic hop and agritourism farm.