Breaking Ground: From Landmines to Grapevines, One Woman's Mission to Heal the World (Hardcover)
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Both a memoir and a call to action, this book is a gripping account of the author’s quest to eradicate landmines from the face of the earth.
Heidi Kühn's commitment to fostering peace and raising awareness has been a driving force in her life—from her early days as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, to her time as a reporter in Juneau, Alaska, covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill and US-Russia relations. After overcoming a potentially terminal cancer diagnosis that threatened everything she held dear, Heidi became determined to rid the world of another form of cancer that has plagued the world for decades—landmines—in regions as far-flung as Croatia Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
Inspired by her work of the late Princess Diana, Heidi began the humanitarian organization Roots of Peace from the basement off her Northern California home. She gained the support of famed Napa Valley vintners Robert Mondavi and Mike Grgich, and soon her mines-to-vines. mission began to take hold.
In this powerful memoir, Heidi tells the Roots of Peace story, guiding the reader from the early days in which she built her vision to her current presence on the global stage, where she has worked with presidents, prime ministers, landmine survivors, and religious leaders from around the world to spread a message of peace and recovery. In the years since the founding of Roots of Peace, its agricultural projects have made tremendous progress to fight against landmines, revitalizing devastated land and uplifting the lives of countless people in the process.
Through recalling her journey, Heidi reveals the remarkable change an ordinary person can inspire. Her story is one of faith, healing, and the compassion needed to grow a more peaceful world. Breaking Ground will encourage you to do the extraordinary and help plant the seeds of change for a brighter future.
About the Author
Heidi Ku¨hn is the founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, which has impacted over 1.1 million farmers and family members, spanning seven countries. Thanks to Roots of Peace, over one hundred thousand landmines and unexploded ordnances have been removed since 2001. Her numerous awards include the 2002 Alumni of the Year Award for Excellence in Achievement from UC Berkeley, the 2005 World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Peace & Security Award, the 2006 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the 2007 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefitting Local Communities, and the 2019 Mahatma Gandhi Seva Medal. Heidi is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and a former CNN reporter and producer. She lives in San Rafael, California, with her husband, Gary, with whom she has four children—Brooks, Tucker, Kyleigh, and Christian.
There are an estimated 60 million landmines in over 60 countries, aftermath of civil wars. They maim or kill farmers and children. They also cause terrible harm to animals, domestic livestock and wildlife alike. As it takes only eight pounds of pressure to detonate a landmine many species fall victim. Thank you Heidi Kuhn for writing Breaking Ground that discusses this mostly forgotten aspect.
— Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE Founder - the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace
Guided by the leadership of Heidi Kühn, Roots of Peace has saved lives, transformed communities, and advanced peace around the globe. Long after the bombs have been silenced and the peace treaties have been signed, the deadly threat of landmines remains. We must maintain our drumbeat of activism and action until every child and parent can live free from the senseless devastation caused by landmines. Thank you, Heidi Kühn . . . for your work healing war-torn communities by turning these fields into productive farmland to grow and sell crops on the global market. Your steadfast dedication to securing peace and ensuring economic empowerment for so many is critical and greatly appreciated.
— Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives
But that became her mission, her passion. Since then, Roots of Peace has helped clear land, fund training for deminers in that dangerous work, and discover what plants -- grapes, pepper, nuts, other fruits -- can thrive in that soil. She has built partnerships here and abroad, made countless trips to the front lines, raised millions to underwrite the cause, helped wounded survivors, and saved countless others. BREAKING GROUND tells this compelling and moving story. Heidi Kuhn is an inspiration to us all.
— Gillian Sorensen, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General
From my first encounter with land mines while on operations in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam during the War in the 1960s, to confronting the widespread tragic human consequences of the Khmer Rouge proliferation of mines throughout Cambodia while serving as American ambassador there in the 1990s, I have learned that the most pernicious aspect of these indiscriminate killers is that they never disappear unless removed through a concerted effort, such as those I supported through my embassy and the inspired From Mines to Vines campaign that Heidi Kuhn is leading and is detailed in her new book Breaking Ground.
As I learned when I first met Heidi when she spoke at my World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue Symposium on the theme of Peace Through Agriculture, she is driven by a compassionate humanitarian impulse to rid the world of these threats to innocent civilians and especially children. Heidi has been living this theme through her Roots of Peace organization in those parts of the world still beset with these long lasting killers.
As I said to her “It is sobering to think that the last casualties of World War II and the Vietnam War, whose battlefields still have thousands of hidden extant land mines, have yet to take place.”
— Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn (ret.)
From her days as a producer reporting for CNN in the Soviet Union to surviving cancer and ultimately pioneering a new path to remove landmines and heal the wounds of war, Heidi Kuhn has taken a dangerous path towards peace...quite literally replacing the dangers of landmines with roots for vines. In Her new book BREAKING GROUND, she inspires us to do our part, to get engaged and support innovative solutions that plants the seeds for future prosperity and peace. Heidi clearly demonstrates social entrepreneurship in action. She has taken dangerous footsteps for peace by walking the minefields of the world in Afghanistan, Angola, Croatia, Vietnam and The Holy Land. She has demonstrated the courage and skills needed by women leaders who are on the frontline and taking bold risks to heal the wounds of war. It’s a must read for all of us who want to change the world.
— Pat Mitchell, first woman CEO of PBS; CEO of CNN Productions; Chair, Sundance Author, ‘Becoming a Dangerous Woman—Embracing Risk to Change the World’
Prepare to be amazed & inspired! Heidi Kuhn weaves a tale of motherhood, empathy, and empowerment. Her belief is powerful – belief in God, belief in the goodness of communities everywhere, and absolute belief that she could make a global difference.
This real-life story takes you from a battle with cancer, to inspiration from the “Peoples’ Princess,” to a kids-in-the-car Burger King revelation on connecting with the winery industry, to battlefields across the globe. It was Heidi stepping forward with a deep belief in herself that led from a short-notice anti-landmine activists’ dinner party to a quiet toast, “May the world go—from mines to vines!” And the rest is a fascinating history that still plays out globally every day.
Heidi and I make an unlikely team – she… a peacemaker, me… a general in the Air Force. Yet we are both after the same vision – a world where one nation does not threaten another, where people can enjoy their unalienable rights and freedoms, where militaries ensure their citizens’ security, and destructive wars are a thing of the past. We met each other as members of a global executive women’s group. In 2007, I was deployed to Qatar, overseeing all the air logistics across Afghanistan and Iraq. Heidi was going to be at her newly established Kyleigh Kuhn School in Mir Bacha Kot, Afghanistan, for a dedication. She wanted me to join her. I explained it wouldn’t be possible, as I was going to be in Baghdad and it was a long 2,00 miles to fly around Iran to Afghanistan. But you don’t tell Heidi that things are impossible. Suffice it to say, we did make it happen and my arrival in an armored vehicle with helicopter escorts made quite the impact with the schoolchildren bearing flowers.
And so it goes with Heidi, one miracle and incredible accomplishment after another. You’ll feel this journey between the pages of this book. Her successful efforts to transform blood-soaked lands into productive vineyards are a testament to one mother’s belief in herself and her children, and absolute belief that she can change the world. And she has done just that.
Enjoy the inspirational journey!
— Major General Barbara J. Faulkenberry, US Air Force, Retired
The rare snowfall had covered the WARNING sign of landmine dangers. We heard a loud blast, and it was horrifying to see my husband, Guy, carry my son who was missing a leg, as bloodshed shattered our lives. Almost immediately, Heidi Kuhn connected with us and helped us to rehabilitate as a family. I remember that I saw a beautiful woman dressed in a long black coat radiating endless energy. Heidi led us to Washington, D.C., as we met with Senator John McCain and other dignitaries. If you know Heidi, her eyes are always on the ball, and she never loses site of her target. For us, she is helping my son fill his dream for a ‘World Free of Landmines.” Working with my son, Daniel, they helped to bring forth the historic Humanitarian Mine Action Bill in March 2011. We greatly appreciate your work towards removing deadly landmines in the Middle East, so that no other child will have to suffer. It is a privilege to know you, as you are truly a friend and sister in my heart--and ‘Auntie Heidi’ to my own children, and the children of the world. As a mother, I hope that BREAKING GROUND will be translated into many languages, as landmines know no borders!
— Tali Yuval, Mother of Landmine Survivor, Daniel Yuval, Tel Aviv, Israel
In my 37 years in the Army, with almost five years in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan I was constantly humbled by the men and women who served in the most austere environments to protect our freedoms…but I was also honored to meet others like Heidi Kuhn and her “Roots of Peace” organization that were instrumental in helping the Afghan people build stability for their future, in this case working with our Agricultural Development Teams (ADTs) to provide expertise in replacing landmines with vineyards and rebuilding the farming infrastructure. Heidi’s personal account in “Breaking Ground” is an elegant and insightful look into her story and vision of making a difference in war torn lands. A truly remarkable approach of removing, restoring and rebuilding that has and will continue to make a huge impact on future generations to come not only in Afghanistan but all over the world. Heidi’s passion, and dedication to this mission is truly inspirational, it is a powerful and deeply personal story that the world needs to hear! I am so thankful that I was able to be a small part in her journey, we talk about changing the hearts and minds to win the fight…her actions have changed not only the hearts and minds but the outlook for a better life for so many.
— John F. Campbell General, US Army (Retired) Commander, Ist Bde, 82nd Abn Div, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2002-2003 Commander, 101st Abn Div, Bagram, Afghanistan, 2010-2011 Commander, US and NATO Forces Afghanistan, 2014-2016
Heidi’s passion for advancing peace through the elimination of landmines has been evident since I first met her in 1997. As a survivor of war, I know firsthand its awful results, and have supported her vision to turn MINES TO VINES, starting in my homeland of Croatia. Her story will inform and move you.
— Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich. Founder, CEO Grgich Hills Estate, Napa Valley, California
Heidi has been an inspiration to me and my family as she takes on the challenge of eliminating the world of mines and munitions. We are very proud and extremely honored to be able to commercialize spices that are grown on these lands for the good of mankind. It is especially meaningful to me personally as I was in the U.S. Air Force flying troops in and taking wounded out in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Her journey started over twenty years ago and has gained momentum every since.
Heidi is truly a remarkable woman to the world who deserves to receive the Nobel Peace Prize one day. This is all outlined in her book and is a must to read.
— Morton Gothelf, CEO Morton & Bassett Spices
Breaking Ground highlights the potential for women leaders to effect much needed change in the world. Heidi Kuhn’s journey to transform Mines into Vines is a testament to the power of feminine energy to raise consciousness, and bring much needed hope to communities at the brink of despair worldwide. Her success derives from her passion—not to mention her loving and compassionate vision. She gathers the talent and resources needed to get the job done with grace and nobility, confirming that when our goals are clad with the calling of service, we can build armies for peace.
— Jaya Kader, AIA, LEED AP Principal KZ architecture, Inc.
Visionary Heidi Kuhn and Founder of Roots of Peace shares her incredible life with us , as she writes about her amazing life’s journey in Breaking Ground , taking risks to wage peace as she detonates landmines around the world and plants seeds in the soil and hope in children’s hearts as she clears the fields for all to walk free and safely upon this earth . I have been honored to detonate landmines in the DMZ zone in Vietnam with this unstoppable woman twice . Heidi’s words and life are such an inspiration of purpose into action!
— Emma Farr Rawlings PH.D. Author, The Divine Child
Heidi Kuhn is a force. The energy, dedication and purity of mission she expresses in her personal life is matched only by her focus to eradicate landmines across the globe. She inspires people, from simple farmers to world leaders, by sharing her faith, her humanity and her commitment to bringing peace and comfort in areas long known for their danger and volatility. Her book, “Breaking Ground”, documents the challenges she has experienced in her own life, and how she has transformed her own hardships into inspirational teachings that children and adults can understand and use to improve their own lives. How Heidi touches people around the world is spiritual, practical and symbolic as she leads the effort to rid the world of landmines and literally plants seeds for a future that will be safer and more prosperous for generations.
— The Honorable John F. Dunbar, Mayor of Yountville, CA
On behalf of the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, we are honored to partner with Roots of Peace in support of Heidi’s vision to transform MINES TO VINES—replacing the scourge of landmines with bountiful vineyards and orchards worldwide. The Napa Valley is home to the largest Veterans Home in the United States, and many of the residents once served in The Vietnam War. Over 45 years later, we support your efforts to heal the wounds of war in Vietnam and plant sustainable agriculture for future generations to thrive. Your journey began over two decades ago in the Napa Valley with leading vintners such as Robert Mondavi, Miljenko Grgich, and Diane Disney Miller, and it is ‘full circle’ that your true story is now told in BREAKING GROUND. Your book is an inspiration to vintners and food industry leaders, as we cultivate a harvest of hope. On the occasion of Earth Day, April 22, 2020, our chefs will serve fresh black pepper from Vietnam and saffron from Afghanistan in support of Roots of Peace. We hope our historic event is the ‘capstone’ for your efforts to raise $20 million by Earth Day 2020 to heal the wounds of war and plant the Roots of Peace on Earth.
— Thomas Bensel, Managing Director, Culinary Institute of America at Copia
[Heidi Kühn has] turned mines into vines by replacing the seeds of destruction with the seeds of life . . . and [she has] shown the world that, even with modest beginnings, a partnership backed up by persistence can make a real difference.
— His Excellency Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general
It is unconscionable that those responsible for the placement of these life-maiming and life-threatening landmines should continue with this gravely immoral activity. I encourage [Heidi Kühn] to continue [her] arduous efforts in bringing an end to this dreadful and pervasive problem. I further extend my heartfelt thanks to all of [her] colleagues who have devoted their time and energy to the demands of [their] commitments, and [I commend their] unwavering perseverance.
— Fouad Twal, emeritus Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
[Heidi Kühn’s] work of uniting people across the world by eliminating landmines and replacing them with food, spices, and flowers is fantastic—an achievement that deserves to be supported and recognized.
— Claes Nobel, President, United Earth