Veterans often have limited job options. Mike Lewis helps returning vets get back to the land.
Veterans often have limited job options.
Mike Lewis helps returning vets get back to the land.
Fred Lewis served with the Special Forces in Afghanistan until he took a sniper’s bullet to the helmet. Nursing his injury, he returned to Kentucky, where his older brother, Mike, lived in a rural area with a lot of poverty and addiction. Working in agriculture was the one thing that gave Fred peace, but farming paid next to nothing. “It was just impossible to make a living,” says Mike. “It just seemed kind of shitty to see someone, who served his country, come home and find that the only job available was at a call center fielding complaints about Veterans Affairs.”
[pullquote share=”true” hashtag=”Grist50″]“Half the county loves us, and the other half thinks we are a bunch of pot-growing hippies.”[/pullquote]
So Lewis started the organization Growing Warriors, to figure out how to make farming profitable for returning veterans. The Lewis brothers have since started 10 community gardens that employ vets across Kentucky and North Carolina and one 500-acre farm with three to four full-time veteran interns working the land.
Growing Warriors has probably gotten the most attention for growing five acres of industrial hemp. Lewis envisions a network of small hemp-processing mills throughout the region, providing markets for small farmers. With outdoor gear company Patagonia pushing to establish a legal U.S. hemp market, Lewis and company could be sparking a new agricultural movement.
The world feels pretty broken right now. That’s why we need Fixers — bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck. For our annual list of emerging green leaders, Grist brings you 50 innovators with fresh, forward-thinking solutions to some of humanity's biggest challenges. Credits
Photo of Mike Lewis: Anna Carson DeWitt
- Andrew Simon, Amelia Urry
- Mignon Khargie, Amelia Bates
- Nathan Letsinger
- Project Manager
- Matt Grisafi
- Social Media
- Cody Permenter
- Video Producer
- Daniel Penner
- Executive Editor
- Scott Dodd
- Clayton Aldern Ted Alvarez Eve Andrews Vishakha Darbha Sabrina Imbler Nathanael Johnson Samantha Larson Katie Mast Amy McDermott Emma Foehringer Merchant Caroline Saunders Darby Minow Smith Katharine Wroth Kate Yoder
Meet All The Fixers
This Brooklynite retrofits cities.
This politician fights for polluted communities.
Grist Member pick
This clothing expert revives dead threads.
This CEO provides clean energy for any budget.
This innovator is stitching together a clothing movement.
Van Jones' pick
This entrepreneur is diversifying cleantech.
This climate organizer works on the front lines in Miami.
Leilani Münter's pick
This sustainability director drives change in Orlando.
This urban farmer grows in tight spaces.
This politician reps bipartisan climate action.
Tom Colicchio's pick
This farmer uses AI for efficiency.
Al Gore's pick
This civil rights activist takes on the South's sewage problem.
This housing advocate is rebuilding Buffalo.
This comedian spotlights indigenous rights.
This farmer champions efficiency.
This startup founder built a Fitbit for the planet.
This policy wonk shows state leadership on solar.
This lawyer stands with indigenous activists.
Grist Member pick
This developer built an app for food waste.
This young farmer is saving soil.
L.A. Youth Groups
These teens sued for environmental justice.
This farmer gives vets a chance to grow.
This entrepreneur helps the solar industry compete.
This advocate connects green Latinos.
This scientist brings social justice to her field.
This teenager gives the youngest generation a voice.
This organizer fights for safer waste disposal.
This founder empowers people to choose renewables.
This councilwoman keeps Boise booming.
This airline exec is greening travel.
This food advocate coaches up chefs.
This Bronx community organizer is spreading the wealth.
This weather forecaster shames deniers.
This chef takes a kitchen sink approach to food waste.
This civil servant cooks up smart food policy.
This architect designs better neighborhoods.
Avital Shavit and Rubina Ghazarian
These transportation gurus coax Angelenos onto bikes.
This lawyer connects justice and the environment.
Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit
These mothers bring the future into the present.
This physicist is shaping energy policy.
This scientist connects investors to new food tech.
This CEO plants community solar gardens.
This professional trains people for solar jobs.
Cameron Russell's pick
Camila Thorndike and Page Atcheson
These activists want carbon polluters to pay.
This organizer is uniting millennials.
This New Yorker champions affordable housing.
This entrepreneur is making a better burger.
Sean A. Watkins
This storyteller puts people first.
This young climate activist is demanding more.
This strategist trains clean energy leaders.