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Roots of Peace San Rafael Non-Profit cultivates peace with agriculture – KCBS Ring Central Newsline

Radio KCBS Ring Central Newsline Bret Burkhart Interviews, Heidi Kuhn World Food Prize 2023

Bret Burkhart: Hundreds of millions of people struggle with food insecurity and for people in countries ravaged by war. Supporting local farms and supply chains is crucial in getting communities back on track.

Addressing this challenge is the goal of a non-profit based in San Rafael. It’s called Roots of Peace and it works in countries like Afghanistan, Vietnam and beyond. 

And to tell us more, we are joined live on the KCBS Ring Central Newsline by Heidi Kuhn, founder and CEO of Roots of Peace and the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate and is set to receive a Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice. Wow! 

Congratulations on the award and hats off to your amazing work.

Heidi Kuhn: Well, thank you so much. And it’s just such an honor to speak with you on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Bret Burkhart:  Yeah, very, very timely, as you mentioned. So tell us a little bit about your work and how addressing food insecurity can help. Stabilize a region.

Heidi Kuhn: Well, indeed, Roots of Peace began 26 years ago in September 1997 with a vision of turning mines to vines, replacing minefields with vineyards and orchards worldwide.

Today, we live in a world where there’s an estimated 60 million landmines in 60 countries. And when we look at Ukraine, over 30 percent of the entire country is mined. Now, that prevents farmers from cultivating agriculture. And as the mines are removed and the trees are planted in Afghanistan, we planted 7 million fruit trees. And we are the only organization still working there in agriculture as we speak. Over 5,000 Afghan women have trained since February 2023 and again cultivating peace through agriculture and providing a cornucopia of fruits and spices and vegetables for farmers and families to thrive. Peace is our business. Cultivating peace through agriculture is my goal as a San Francisco Bay Area mom.

Bret Burkhart: I mean, you know, to get biblical on you, I mean, it’s, you know, teaching them how to fish, really. And is that hard to do logistically, given the contamination left behind by some of these minefields?

Heidi Kuhn: Well, it is. It’s very painstaking. For instance, Roots of Peace has worked for over a decade in Vietnam since the Vietnam War ended on April 30th, 1977. And it’s been a long time since the war ended. In 1975, over 100,000 innocent footsteps of farmers and soldiers, farmers and children, quite frankly, have been named or killed. But after the mines are out, Roots of Peace has planted over 10,000 black pepper plants. And we’re exporting those to Morton and Bassett Spice Company. So as people around the Bay Area are preparing their turkey, the Morton and Bassett black pepper is from the former battlefields of the Vietnam War, literally turning mines. And it’s used so eloquently stated, All right.

Bret Burkhart: How does quickly establishing these farms and agricultural development in some of these war-torn regions have an effect on the people there? How quickly does it happen?

Heidi Kuhn: It happens immediately. We’ve seen it with our own eyes. As soon as the land is cleared and quality assured, the farmer is able to go back into the land. They can go back into their fields. And, you know, this has such a tremendous impact on peace through agriculture. We see so many wars around the world. And I’m very, very deeply honored to work also in my backyard, as I’m recently appointed as an ambassador for the Agricultural Institute of Marin, introducing regenerative agriculture, not only for our farmers here in Marin and Sonoma, but also extending that business line. And I think it’s a great model for peace.

As we plant trees, it restores the carbon sequestration to the earth and provides the balance of the climate change. Climate smart agriculture is the way forward. And I believe as humans, we need to go back to the basics to be able to farm our land and immediately create prosperity and a true Thanksgiving for farmers and families around the world who deserve to cultivate their fields, as opposed to stepping on insidious landmines.

Bret Burkhart: I didn’t think about the climate aspect of your organization, but you are leaving for Mumbai today to receive the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice. I mean, just a huge honor and congratulations. But what do you plan on doing with the prize money?

Heidi Kuhn: Oh, well, thank you. I’m a mother of four and grandmother of seven. So to leave my Thanksgiving table so that we may put bread on the table of others is very meaningful and very important, very timely in our lives. And we have a lot of food to eat in our world. These are not awards to be placed on a shelf, but to actually be a platform for peace. And to a portion of the money that I was honored to receive from the World Food Prize, I immediately pledged to the Agricultural Institute of Marin. They’re establishing a new center for food and agriculture. If you’re interested, foodandagriculture.org. But they’re planting a Roots of Peace tree in the heart of Marin right near the Civic Center. That tree will grow and serve as a legacy for my children and great-grandchildren to see the efforts that we can do with humanity to remove a landmine, plant a grapevine, or any seed of life is an act of peace.

Bret Burkhart: Heidi, congratulations on what you’re doing, and have a safe trip. 

Heidi Kuhn is the founder and CEO of Roots of Peace and the 2023 World Prize Laureate.

She is set to receive the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.

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