Local country star to build veteran’s retreat

Published 1:55 pm Friday, December 18, 2015

The proceeds from Colton James’ new album, “The Time is Now,” will fund the construction of the veterans retreat Harvest 4 Heroes. -- Courtesy

The proceeds from Colton James’ new album, “The Time is Now,” will fund the construction of the veterans retreat Harvest 4 Heroes. — Courtesy

From Toby Keith to the Dixie Chicks and Lone Star to Jason Aldean, Courtland-native Colton James has opened concerts for some of the biggest names in country music. None of those relationships compare to the one he formed with employees of Deltapine Monsanto Company when he sang at their annual New Product Evaluation Summit in December 2014.

The Time is Now album

Time is Now album

One year later, he and the global leader in agriculture-related products are set to announce the development of Land 4 Heroes Plantation, a retreat for veterans that will be built in Southampton County in 2016. The erection of the camp will be funded by the sale of his new album, “Time is Now,” to Monsanto’s 25,000-plus cotton, soybean and corn dealers, who will in turn give it away for free to those who purchase seed from the company. The record will also be available to the general public for download on iTunes on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

James said that he lost a dear friend and mentor, Bill Brock of Nashville Songwriter’s Association International, moments before he went on stage that night in Nashville, Tennessee, and that a vision he had the next day is what led to the creation of Harvest 4 Heroes.

“I dedicated the show to him,” James said. “I was only supposed to play like seven songs, but I ended up playing like 14. And then that night when I went to bed, I had a vision of Harvest 4 Heroes and how it would work. When Bill passed away, it was kind of a sign to meet these people. It was a crossroad in life that I was meant to go through.”

When he returned to Western Tidewater for the holiday, James sat down with his consultants from ROI Media and Jim Hart, his public relations manager, to share his vision for the camp and how it could succeed.

“Rather than going to a large corporation and asking for millions of dollars to build this facility, I thought a new CD with songs that these people are going to appreciate and the dealers coming together to buy these cases of CDs … it doesn’t take long to add up,” James said.

When they just three months later pitched the idea to Monsanto, the company’s brand marketing manager, Bradley Roberts, was instantly on board.

“I, personally, was very excited with the chance to impact the lives of those who have sacrificed their lives for our country,” Roberts said. “Not only that, but many of our growers are veterans and a lot of the farm community supports the United States and the military, so we just saw it as a natural fit.”

While James noted that a lot of his family was in the armed services, including his grandfathers, uncle and brother, it was his visits to and with families at various military bases that gave him inspiration to write some of his songs, as well as for Harvest 4 Heroes.

“I was doing a show with Jason Aldean and there was about 16,000 people on this military base, and afterwards, this family came back [stage] and one of the little kids — I’ll never forget; he must have been six years old — just grabbed my leg and said, ‘My daddy would have loved that song.’ You talk about impactful.”

Plans for the 290-acres of land on Mary Hunt Road near Newsoms include a log cabin-style facility with a lobby, reception area, kitchen, dining hall and motel-style bedrooms with private bathrooms. Construction will be completed by Brian Gurry of the National Geographic’s American Builder, and it will be filmed for a future episode.

“They’re going to highlight every step of the build,” Roberts said.

Some of the rooms at the facility will be modified for handicapped veterans, but plans will not be finalized until James and Hart visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to find out what amenities will best suit paraplegic and quadriplegic guests.

The site will also feature fire pits, indoor and outdoor archery, an outdoor shooting range and a pool for veterans and their families to enjoy during their stay — all of which comes as no cost to the guests.

“If they want to bring their wife and kids and have a good time, it’s encouraged,” James said.

Harvest 4 Heroes will initially hire 10 full-time employees, in addition to a medical staff provided by a hospital or care facility, to assist veterans throughout their stay, but will mainly rely upon the help of volunteers to run the facility.

“While the initial money for funding comes from the sale of Colton’s album, we also have to sustain the project,” Hart added.

Those looking to volunteer or donate to Harvest 4 Heroes are asked to contact Jim Hart at 757-641-8919 or ROI Media’s Adam Bartolotta at 941-257-4352. For more information about Colton James or to watch a brief video about the Harvest 4 Heroes project, visit ColtonJames.com.