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Veteran garden healing

I’ve recently come across two organizations who are helping veterans from the US military experience the healing that comes from growing food.

The first is the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California based non-profit that aims to help veterans get employment on farms in rural California. Farmers find it hard to get high quality workers for many jobs, including growing and harvesting. Organic farming is by definition more labor-intensive than chemical farming, so organic farms need more workers. Organic farms are also more healing places to work, as they don’t spray poisons, so it’s an ideal match. Veterans are super disciplined workers because of their rigorous training, and benefit immensely from working on the farm. It’s truly rewarding work, and it helps them make ends meet on their post-military pensions.

Another project that links veterans with the healing power of gardening is Strawberry Flag. Founded by artist Lauren Bon, Strawberry Flag is an art project run by veterans at the Veteran’s Association of West Los Angeles. The concept is a stars and stripes American flag made up of strawberries and vets. The strawberries are grown hydroponically in long white tubes that make up the stripes, and the stars are, of course, the vets themselves. All the strawberry plants have been donated by local commercial strawberry farms, who always discard the plants after the first year of use, as they become less productive. However, there are plenty of strawberries left in them, especially if they’re grown hydroponically. The veterans them pick and preserve the strawberries, and sell small batches of strawberry jam to raise money for their own care. It’s a beautiful project.

Celebrate Memorial Day by buying veteran-made strawberry jam from Veteran’s Preserves.

And if you’re in the position to employ veterans in agricultural work, come meet them at the first Southern California Food and Farming Veteran Career Fair in Santa Monica. It’s June 30th at 10 a.m.

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