Billy Vaughan is a retired Marine officer with 21 years of service who began his time as an enlisted Infantryman specializing in demolitions and anti-tank operations. Drawn by the opportunity to challenge himself, Vaughan volunteered and trained to become an Airborne Ranger. After finishing the rigorous training, he attended college and earned two bachelor's degrees in English and History with the intent of becoming an Infantry Officer. During his 21 years of service, Vaughan served a total of 10 deployments; four as enlisted and six as an officer.
After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2010, Billy attended a seminary where he studied to become a pastor. His decision to transition to a life of faith was driven by the many hardships he endured during his childhood and his time with the Marine Corps.
After completing the seminary program, Billy began working as a Chaplain and the Director of Guest Services at a rescue mission in Los Angeles, California for five years. There, he served over 700 visitors, many of whom suffered from homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and trauma. His decision to focus on the recovery of others was supported by his military leadership experience. During his time as an officer, Vaughan was responsible of providing his Marines with supplies, logistics, and guidance. He recalls training them on the fundamentals of teamwork and cohesion, presenting them with numerous challenges and assisting them as needed when overcoming these obstacles. As they progressed, he would monitor their performance and make the necessary improvements until they were an effective, mission capable unit.
In 2015, Billy and his wife visited Koinonia Farm- a faith based farm in Americus, Georgia where they were introduced to the idea of community based farming. The idea of unity and recovery through farming drove Billy to turn to organic agriculture to focus on the healing and restoration of people and the land. With his background in recovery and his wife’s experience in horticulture and landscaping design, the two returned to his home state of Arkansas and purchased 66 acres of family owned farmland and established The Sanctuary Farm & Rest House, a non-profit recovery farm for those in need.
The Sanctuary Farm & Rest House’s mission is to provide a haven for people, habitat for creation, and hope for recovery. The programs offered are geared toward people in recovery from addiction, post-traumatic stress, or burnout. Billy is also in the process of making his farm a transition program for women exiting the prison system that want to learn how to be resourceful and use the land in a sustainable way. By growing food, caring for the land and animals in sustainable ways, and working with their hands, participants will be given the opportunity to renew their minds and create a different perspective on the world and our food system.
From starting seeds, weeding and maintaining crops, to harvesting and consumption, Billy’s goal is to bring healing to others with farming. Billy joined the Veteran Farmer Training Program to learn how to manage his farm and establish the foundation that his non-profit organization can thrive off of. He began the VTFP in April 2018 and completed the program at the end of June 2018. The Veterans Farmer Training Program and the Rodale Institute congratulate Billy for the hard work and dedication he has put forth over the past three months. He will touch the lives of others using the lessons and benefits of organic agriculture he learned during his time as a member of the VTFP.
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