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Mission, Purpose & Therapy from Farming

Researched by C. Orlowski & R. MacDougall. Written by R. MacDougall.

Do you know that Veterans make good farmers? And that farming can be good for Veterans?

Why Veterans make good farmers

Arcadia Farm says “years of service have honed their [Veterans] ability to lead; to work independently or as part of a team; to plan, adapt, and overcome crises; and to accomplish whatever mission is before them.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says Veterans bring a wide range of experiences and a strong work ethic to farming. Veterans have a strict adherence to rules and schedules, and the ability to problem solve quickly and creatively.

Why farming is good for Veterans

Research shows that farms and farming activities have therapeutic benefits. They provide meaningful activity and personal achievement.

Veterans To Farmers says “farming utilizes many of the same skills required in the military—hard work, attention to detail, and service before self.”

Training, business assistance, and other support is available to Veterans through government and nongovernment programs. Career sites like AgCareers.com promote the hiring of Veterans in farming and other agricultural positions.

There are many types of farms. Dairy, flower, chicken, honeybee, Christmas tree, fruit, cattle, and vegetable are a few. There are ranches, orchards, vineyards, piggeries, fish and other farms. Farms can be organic, hydroponic, sustainable, commercial, urban or other types.

Some working farms serve as ‘care farms’. These farms focus on the use of farming to provide therapy for issues such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury).

This article focuses on the use of farming to provide therapy. A future article will discuss farm education and training for Veterans. Another will discuss business resources and support available to Veteran farmers.

 

FARMING AS THERAPY

Using working farms to provide care, therapy, and rehabilitation is referred to as ‘care farming’ or ‘social farming’.  It is a type of ‘green care’.

Natural England

Studies have shown that care farming provides benefits like:

  • sense of peace, calm or relaxation
  • feelings of safety and security
  • increased general mental wellbeing
  • reduction in depression, anxiety and stress related symptoms
  • improved self-esteem, confidence and mood
  • increased attention capacity
  • improved happiness, satisfaction and quality of life
  • increased social contact, inclusion and sense of belonging
  • increase in work skills, meaningful activity and personal achievement

 Listen to a Vet describe benefits of farming therapy

PTSD and CARE FARMING

Studies of farm work as treatment for PTSD show it helps lessen symptoms because farming activities:

  • require being focused on the present
  • involve responsibility toward others, whether animals, individuals, or community
  • provide autonomy to create a safe environment, sometimes including solitude
  • support feeling connected with nature

Some participants in one study also reported benefits from:

  • feeling too tired from farming to be upset
  • engaging in physically productive work
  • feeling grounded
  • participating in natural cycles
  • feeling a sense of purpose, meaning, or accomplishment,
  • the predictability of farming
  • and not feeling judged by others while farming

CARE FARMS FOR VETERANS

 Care farms dedicated to promoting Veteran wellbeing exist around the country. Many are nonprofit organizations established specifically to help Veterans. Some of them are:

NOTE:  Know A Vet does not endorse or guarantee any of the programs mentioned here. 
We include them for information purposes.

At-Ease Veteran Therapy Farming (Alabama) encourages therapeutic relief of service-related disabilities such as PTSD, TBI and more. It is dedicated to increasing participation by Veterans in agriculture.

 Bees 4 Vets (Northwestern Nevada) helps Veterans and first responders living with PTSD or TBI.  The skills of beekeeping teach “mindfulness” or “staying in the moment”. These help to relieve PTSD and TBI symptoms.

Listen to a report of how beekeeping helps with PTSD symptoms

DV FARM (New Hampshire) helps homeless and addicted Veterans back into civilian life. It uses a program of housing, animal assisted therapy, structured work schedule, and camaraderie with fellow Veterans. The DV Farm employs social workers (with firsthand experience). It also offers support groups.

F.A.R.M. – Farmers Assisting Returning Military (Texas) was established to help Veterans with the transition from military service to civilian life. It aims to reestablish meaning in the lives of veterans through agricultural therapeutic rehabilitation and training.

Freedom Farm for Vets (Illinois) is open to all Veterans and active duty personnel. The farm provides:

    • a place for PTSD sufferers and other Veterans to go to get positive support and feedback
    • programs designed to educate and provide a sense of community
    • a variety of programs, like gardening, animal care, farm maintenance, medical referral plan

Glen Hope Care Farm (Pennsylvania) seeks to promote the mental and physical health of Veterans. Activities offered to Veterans and their families include:

    • horticulture therapy
    • animal husbandry
    • agricultural classes and special events

New Freedom Farm (Virginia) helps Veterans and first responders with PTSD, substance use, TBI, and other conditions. Therapeutic activities include interacting with horses, farming, and peer-to-peer support.

The next article in our series on farming will focus on farm education and training for Veterans. Some programs, like AgrAbility , incorporate therapy with agricultural career training.

 

Sources

Walls, M.L. (2015). Farm Work as Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Smith ScholarWorks. https://scholarworks.smith.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2829&context=theses

Cacciatore, J., Gorman, R., Thielman, K. (2020 February). Evaluating Care Farming as a Means to Care for Those in Trauma and Grief. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/339233814_

Bragg, R., Atkins, G.(2016). A Review of Nature-based Interventions for Mental Health Care. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number204. Natural England. http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4513819616346112

Greenleaf, A. T., Roessger, K.M. (2017, July). Effectiveness of Care Farming on Veterans’ Life Satisfaction, Optimism, and Perceived Loneliness. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310952083_

Greenleaf, A.T., Byrant, R., Pollock, J.  (2014, June). Nature-Based Counseling: Integrating the Healing Benefits of Nature Into Practice. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261841708_

National AgrAbility. (2016, December 21). The Next Mission: Breaking Down Barriers for Veterans in Agriculture. [Video]. You Tube. https://youtu.be/vkqdhYMwDb0

Off the Grid News. (n.d.). 12 Different Types of Farms. https://www.offthegridnews.com/misc/12-different-types-of-farms/

Penning, K. (2016, November 11). Military Veterans in Agriculture: Why Ag Employers Want to Hire Veterans. Career Cultivation. https://blog.agcareers.com/career-cultivation/military-veterans-in-agriculture-why-ag-employers-want-to-hire-veterans/

Vantage Point. (2019, July 2). Veterans have opportunity to grow with USDA and farming resources. VA. https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/61200/usda-vets-farming-agriculture/#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20Department%20of%20Agriculture%20knows%20what%20Veterans,to%20keep%20America%E2%80%99s%20food%20supply%20safe%20and%20secure.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). USDA Supports America’s Heroes. USDA. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.usda.gov/our-agency/initiatives/veterans

Schipani, S. (2019, September 12). A Guide to Types of Farms. Hello Homestead. https://hellohomestead.com/a-guide-to-types-of-farms/

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