Entering the greenhouse means leaving everything behind. Towers of salad greens precede rows of even more, and a steady hum of fans can be heard over the sound of water flowing through the roots of …
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Entering the greenhouse means leaving everything behind. Towers of salad greens precede rows of even more, and a steady hum of fans can be heard over the sound of water flowing through the roots of these hydroponically grown vegetables.
“The environment is a huge thing,” Richard Murphy said. “I think sometimes people don’t even know they’ll find solace in that environment. Once they get into it they start to realize the benefits it has.” Murphy is the program manager at Veterans to Farmers (VTF), a non-profit that aims to help returning veterans by offering courses in the field of agriculture.
The idea came about when Buck Adams, the CEO of VTF, was working at Circle Fresh Farms. During that time, they were training a number of veterans, and he saw it as a great opportunity to start a program focused on veterans. “Mostly because they’re two very big conversations,” Murphy said. “When you’re talking about food or veterans, both of them warrant quite a bit of respect.”
After eight years in social work in the area of food assistance, and as a veteran himself, Murphy knew this was a worthwhile venture. With an increase in food deserts (urban neighborhoods without access to fresh, healthy and affordable food), and a rise in veteran suicide rates, this program could be a healthy way to combat both.
The Veterans to Farmers training program has seen promising advancements within its first year. Already teamed with Dirtless Farms, co-founded by one of VTF’s first graduates, Evan Premer, the program found a new ally in Denver Botanic Gardens at the end of 2014. They also work with Colorado State University, creating courses to help develop the business side: ensuring entrepreneurial success after leaving the program. Additionally, all trainees receive compensation thanks to a grant from Kaiser Permanente.
Sean Beagle, the organization’s first intern, was in the Marines for four years and appreciates the atmosphere. “Working with other veterans is nice because we have a common work ethic. Everyone takes initiative if they see something that needs to be done.”
This structure is just another reason why Murphy sees the program as a success. “Getting guys together to talk is its own form of therapy,” he said.
With community support, grants and donations, VTF hopes to expand their operations, offering additional programs to veterans and promoting awareness in the community.
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