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Australian Army Vets Find New Purpose in Farming

A remarkable group of former Australian soldiers has embarked on a mission to help their fellow veterans discover a fresh sense of purpose after their military service. The path to civilian life can often be challenging for those who’ve served, as they need to reinvent themselves and find a new identity. A group of ex-army veterans, however, is finding solace and meaning in farming, offering a nurturing environment for healing and growth.

“When you leave the army, you have to leave your image at the same time and develop a new image,” expressed army veteran Angelo Leonardi. “Some of us joined when we were really young, so you can be a young adult, 25 to 30 years old, and lose that image that you built. You have to reintroduce yourself to the world, which can be really hard.”

For Angelo Leonardi, the transition to civilian life has been made easier by following his true calling in farming. “My family had a deep farming history in south-east Queensland and also in north Queensland, in horticulture,” he shared. “Post-army, there are not a lot of options for us in the career space.”

Angelo Leonardi, along with two others, pooled their resources to purchase their first farm, Cherry Creek Estates near Blackbutt. This farm boasts 300 hectares of meticulously managed avocado orchards, a packing shed, and an oil processing plant. Angelo’s vision and passion have been instrumental in making this venture a reality.

His fellow veterans, Sam Salvatore and Mr. Dennis, bring their unique strengths to the farm. Mr. Dennis is the practical and detail-oriented member, while Sam Salvatore, the workhorse, is known for getting things done. Together, they embarked on their farming journey, starting with approximately 2,000 avocado trees in their first year.

In their early days, the trio managed everything themselves, balancing farming with other commitments. Their military background proved valuable as they could call on their fellow soldiers for assistance when needed.

“We can send the SOS out to all the guys, and they come running just like when we were in the army,” Salvatore said. “So it’s awesome to have the support in those critical times.”

The farm’s tranquil and serene environment serves as a sanctuary for many, benefiting their mental well-being. It offers them a peaceful space to relax and work, providing an ideal balance for their lives. “Everyone likes to come out to the farm – it’s peaceful, it’s quiet, and it helps most people with their mental state as well,” Salvatore said.

The team has big plans for Cherry Creek Estate, with aspirations to have 60,000 avocado trees planted by 2030. Beyond the crop yield, the farm embodies the values of mateship, camaraderie, and teamwork that veterans cherish. According to Angelo Leonardi, “You don’t have to put the uniform on to still display the values.”

For Salvatore Leonardi, the civilian member of the team, the farm represents an opportunity to create something valuable to pass on to future generations. “I would like to have something to give to my kids,” he said. In essence, this endeavor reflects the enduring Australian dream – a legacy built on hard work and shared values.

Living

Pilbara Couple Helps Injured Sea Turtle Travel from Port Hedland to Broome

Shannon Jackson

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A six-hour road trip in northern Western Australia turned into a unique adventure when Emily Pledger saw an unusual post on her community’s Facebook page.

“Is there anyone going to Broome in the next few days and would like a slippery companion?” the post asked.

The “slippery companion” was a small green sea turtle found near Port Hedland, about 1,000 miles north of Perth, needing urgent help.

The male turtle was brought to a local vet with suspected “floater syndrome,” a condition where internal gases prevent turtles from diving and finding food. The turtle also had a hole in its back flipper, which could be infected.

The turtle needed to get to the Broome Native Animal Rescue Centre, which treats wildlife from the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. Normally, turtles are flown from Pilbara to Broome, but no flights were available.

The vet asked the community for help, looking for someone with room in their car for the 370-mile trip. Emily Pledger quickly offered her vehicle, even though she had never done something like this before.

“It wasn’t really a question in my mind,” she said. “I just thought, we may as well help out — I enjoy doing little things like that. Not your everyday travel buddy.”

They named the turtle Squirt after the young turtle in “Finding Nemo.”

“He didn’t talk back to us much, but he was a good travel companion,” she laughed. “I think he knew in a way that we were helping him, so he was happy.”

When they arrived in Broome, Squirt was handed over to the Native Animal Rescue Centre.

“It was really exciting when we got to Broome because you could see him really liven up when we put him in the pool,” Ms. Pledger said.

Chris Mitchell, the coordinator at Broome Native Animal Rescue, said they would aim to rehabilitate and release Squirt once he was fully healed.

“We’ll treat it with antibiotics over a period of time, and hopefully it’ll recover fully,” he said.

Once Squirt recovers, he will be flown back to Port Hedland and released into the ocean.

Mr. Mitchell, who is also the president of Broome Shire, said transporting turtles from the Pilbara to Broome is common.

“We’ve been treating marine turtles since July 2018, and since that time we’ve probably rescued about 120-plus adult and sub-adult turtles,” he said.

While the turtles are usually flown north, urgent medical care sometimes requires community help.

“If someone’s driving up, we can get them up quicker than waiting three to five hours if there’s a flight available,” Mr. Mitchell said. “The sooner they get into care, the sooner we can treat them.”

Mr. Mitchell said it was encouraging to see community members giving their time to help an animal in need.

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Manitoba Farmer Donates Surplus Potatoes to Aid Food Insecurity

Kevin Wells

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Isaiah Hofer, a farmer from Manitoba, recently faced the challenge of dealing with an enormous surplus of potatoes. “Last year was an exceptional year for potatoes,” said Hofer, who manages around 560 hectares at Acadia Colony Farms near Carberry, Manitoba. “People who have been in this industry for the last 40 years have never seen something like this.”

The bumper crop resulted in nearly 100,000 surplus bags of potatoes, each weighing 100 pounds (45 kilograms). This excess wasn’t unique to Hofer’s farm but was seen across Canada, making it impossible to sell the surplus to other farms, which were also experiencing high yields. Hofer considered using the potatoes for animal feed or letting them decompose as fertilizer but then found an alternative solution.

An email from the Keystone Potato Producers Association introduced Hofer to the Farmlink Project, a U.S.-based non-profit that rescues surplus food and distributes it to those in need. Founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Farmlink Project aims to address food waste and food insecurity simultaneously. “We saw dramatic lines at food banks and food being wasted due to supply chain issues,” said Kate Nelson, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Farmlink.

Initially, Farmlink started small, renting a U-Haul and contacting farms for donations of excess produce. Over time, they scaled up their operations and have since distributed 90 million kilograms of food across North America.

Hofer wasn’t alone in his efforts. Alongside a donation from Blumengart Colony Farms in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, Farmlink received a total of 5.4 million kilograms (12 million pounds) of potatoes to distribute. Although excited, Nelson noted the logistical challenges, as not every food bank could handle such large quantities.

In Ottawa, Wendy Leung, executive director of Foodsharing Ottawa, was initially overwhelmed by an email offering 100 batches of potatoes, each weighing 18,000 kilograms (40,000 pounds). Foodsharing Ottawa, a small organization that rescues and redistributes surplus food, faced the challenge of finding a forklift, temperature-controlled storage, and extra volunteers to manage the donation.

Despite the complexities, Leung was determined to make it work, recognizing the potential to feed tens of thousands of people. Back on Hofer’s farm, he and Nelson coordinated the logistics, with Hofer providing the labor and securing support from local charities and the McCain food company. Simplot Canada contributed packaging, helping to offset the estimated $30,000 cost. In the end, 115 trucks delivered the potatoes to various locations, including Toronto, B.C., San Diego, and New Mexico.

The donation, one of the largest Farmlink has managed, showcased the power of collaboration. “It’s about being brave and trusting the process,” Nelson said. “It really is collaboration at the end of the day.”

In Ottawa, Foodsharing managed to distribute the potatoes in partnership with local organizations like Care Centre Ottawa, Lion Hearts, and Deep Roots Food Hub. “Together, we actually gave back to over 50 local organizations, benefiting countless individuals and households,” Leung said. Remarkably, all the potatoes were claimed within eight to nine days, highlighting both the popularity of potatoes and the extent of food insecurity in Canada.

During an interview on The Current, Leung thanked Hofer directly, saying, “You have no idea what this means to the community. We call it the Ottawa Great Potato Rescue.” Hofer, in turn, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to help. “When you’re blessed with so much, it’s just good to give back. I’m glad we could do that.”

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Forests to Be Preserved to Enhance Biodiversity

Shannon Jackson

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Over 8,000 hectares will be preserved to enhance wildlife and biodiversity. Forestry England’s new initiative will focus on four areas: Castle Neroche in Somerset, Kielder Forest in Northumberland, Newtondale in North Yorkshire, and Purbeck in Dorset.

The project will encompass various activities, such as reintroducing species like butterflies, rare plants, and beavers, and relocating fungi to restore soil health.

Andrew Stringer, head of environment at Forestry England, stated, “We will reduce our interventions in these four areas, allowing nature to transform the forest landscape.”

Despite welcoming visitors, these areas will still contribute to sustainable timber production through a novel forestry model.

Stringer emphasized that while the exact changes are unpredictable, this uncertainty is integral to the experimental approach, allowing natural processes to shape each area over time.

“We believe these areas will become richer in nature, benefiting surrounding landscapes,” he added.

Forestry will continue to play a crucial role, but the long-term advantages of reduced intervention will be significant for climate resilience, reversing biodiversity loss, and providing societal benefits such as natural flood mitigation, soil health, air quality, and carbon storage.

Funded by the Government and Forest Holidays, the project will be supported by experts in nature restoration and scientific data collection to monitor its progress.

Forestry England, overseeing more than 250,000 hectares nationwide, aims for this initiative to set a precedent in sustainable forest management.

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Teen Overcomes Rare Disease with Innovative Treatment at Royal Stoke

Shannon Jackson

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A 13-year-old girl named Kai Xue has become the first person to recover from a rare and challenging medical condition known as Wild syndrome, thanks to groundbreaking treatment at Royal Stoke University Hospital. This condition, which affects only 21 people globally, leads to severe swelling due to lymphatic fluid accumulating in the abdomen, along with the growth of warts.

Kai’s journey to recovery was long and involved many hospital visits. Her condition puzzled many doctors until she was referred to Royal Stoke, where a revolutionary procedure was performed. The doctors at the hospital managed to block and fix a leak in her liver, which was crucial for treating her symptoms. After five intense weeks of care, Kai was able to go home.

Her mother, Ning Chen, shared their relief and happiness about finally finding a cure after years of searching. “After visiting numerous hospitals and trying various treatments, including trips to China, it’s almost unbelievable that we are finally heading home cured,” she said.

Dr. Mona Mossad, a leading expert in lymphatic interventions, played a key role in this medical breakthrough. Initially, the team tried to enhance lymphatic drainage by dilating Kai’s thoracic duct, a method previously attempted with limited success in adults in the UK. When this did not yield the desired results, further tests pointed them towards a leak in Kai’s liver.

This discovery led to a complex procedure involving the use of specially ordered tiny needles to work on Kai’s smaller, delicate vessels. The successful repair involved sealing off the leak with a special surgical adhesive and draining an extensive 28 liters of fluid from Kai’s abdomen.

Dr. Yvonne Slater, a consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, expressed joy over Kai’s recovery. “It’s a monumental achievement for Kai, being the first child globally to undergo and recover from this procedure,” she stated.

Ning Chen couldn’t be more grateful to the medical team and staff at the hospital. “Kai means the world to me, and I am so thankful to everyone who has supported us through this journey,” she said, praising the exceptional care and effort provided by the hospital staff.

Kai’s successful treatment marks a significant milestone in medical history, offering hope and a potential new treatment path for others suffering from similar rare conditions.

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A Century of Achievement: 100-Year-Old WWII Veteran Receives College Diploma After 60 Years

Kevin Wells

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Jack Milton, a remarkable 100-year-old World War II veteran, experienced a momentous occasion that many only dream of: receiving his college diploma, a milestone that was 60 years in the making. At a special ceremony held at the University of Maryland Global Campus, Milton was not only there to celebrate his centennial birthday and his contributions to the school but also received an unexpected graduation ceremony.

Milton’s journey in education has been long and storied. He enrolled at the University of Maryland in the 1960s, back when it was known as the University of Maryland, University College. While working at the Pentagon, he pursued his studies diligently and earned enough credits to qualify for a Bachelor of Arts degree by 1966.

However, life had other plans for Milton. Before he could walk across the graduation stage, he was deployed to Vietnam, a turn of events that deeply affected him. “On my way to Southeast Asia, I had many thoughts about not being there to see my fellow graduates,” Milton shared with Fox 5 DC. This unfulfilled aspect of his life lingered with him over the decades.

The university recognized the importance of honoring Milton’s academic achievements and his extraordinary life. At the ceremony, President Gregory Fowler, PhD, expressed the honor he felt in presenting Milton with his long-overdue diploma and graduation cap. “I hereby confer upon John L. Milton the degree of bachelor of arts with all the rights and privileges thereto and pertaining. Congratulations,” Fowler declared.

Reflecting on the moment, Milton expressed a profound sense of gratitude and closure. “I’ve had many ceremonies throughout my life, fortunately, to celebrate many occasions, but this has to be the tops,” he remarked. “I feel like this is the finale of a long journey in education — and again, I keep using the word appreciative, but I can’t think of any other word.”

This special graduation marks not just the culmination of a long-awaited academic achievement for Milton but also symbolizes his resilience and dedication across a century of life’s challenges and triumphs. His story is an inspiring reminder of the enduring value of education and the importance of recognizing and celebrating every milestone, no matter how delayed.

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