Nature has an immense power to heal, and an interesting trend is building among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: some are turning to the land to heal the emotional damage wrought by war.
The concept of farming as therapy for vets was featured at the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans conference earlier this summer. Adam Burke spoke about the healing nature of developing a blueberry farm in Webster, Florida called Veterans Farm. An Iraq vet, Burke worked with his wife to develop a two-and-a-half-acre plot, which now employs five vets, and he's opening a second eight-acre location in Jacksonville, Florida.
Initially, Burke sought the advice of Michael O'Gorman, a lifelong organic farmer, and founder of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, an organization that "seeks to help our returning veterans find employment, training and places to heal on America's farms." Founded in 2007, the Coalition is currently focused on building partnerships in California, but the goal is to expand to U.S.-wide programming.
The Coalition's mission is to to mobilize our food and farming community to create healthy and viable futures for America's veterans by enlisting their help to build our green communities, rebuild our rural communities, (and) secure a safe and healthy food supply."
What's particularly interesting about their program is their focus on the green economy. Part of their plan is to tap into the growing trend of family farms, sustainable farming, and local and regional agriculture, suggesting that these farms would be "well served by people already accustomed to hard work, discipline and dedication."
Both Burke's personal efforts to help himself and other vets, and O'Gorman's coalition provide a key service for veterans who need time to heal their souls, as well as jobs that have a sense of purpose.