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How a farming non-profit that helps veterans reintegrate into civilian life and recover from PTSD

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Veterans help the life by the agriculture

Veterans to Farmers, farming non-profit is helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life, connect with fellow vets and to recover from PTSD, by training them to work in agriculture.

DENVER – An average of 20 veterans commit suicide each year, a statistic that weighs on the minds of the Rich Murphy.

Murphy, 38, is executive director of Veterans to Farmers, an organization he joined after suffering a devastating damage and a bout with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in December 2007. Murphy, who had escaped injury during a period of five years as a corporal in the U. S. Air Force, was hit in his car at 70 km / h by a driver who was asleep behind the wheel, leaving him with a terrible back pain.

“One of the comments on PTSD is isolation. The people are simply to withdraw, out of fear or because they do not fit in,” Murphy said. “I had a man who did the program last year, his wife came up to me and gave me a hug and said,” thank you, he has not left the house since the winter.’ [Veterans to Farmers] is just opening the door for these men and women.”

After his accident, Murphy quit nursing school and found a job as a social worker. It was during a job working for the City of Denver, where he met veterans that he wished had gotten the care and intervention that they needed much earlier.

A Marine Corps veteran by the name of Buck Adams had formed Veterans to Farmers in 2013, and Murphy met him in the autumn of that year, after his wife became aware of the program. The following year, Murphy began with the development of a curriculum for the VTF training program. He also crossed Colorado, to tell everyone about the budding non-profit earnings, and the forging of partnerships with Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University.

In 2017, after he had spent many hours with an instructor, Murphy took over as director of the organization when Buck has resigned.

Rich Murphy, left, discusses the Veterans to Farmers at the Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado. Right, a plague in honor of AMERICAN military veterans in Chatfield Farms, Denver Botanic Gardens.

(Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

Murphy called for a full-circle moment: During the first two years of the VTF, are veterans, farmers sold fresh produce, they would have grown to its previous customers in the Denver Human Services building—thanks to a grant from the Denver Botanic Garden received a food stand in the building.

VTF wants to fill the void between the veterans, the skills and the more lackluster employment in the economy produces by training them to work in agriculture. As he explains, there are also less tangible benefits.

“If you have ten veterans in a greenhouse or in the field, and they begin to work on the plants, dig in the soil and growing things, you see therapy to happen,” he said, pointing out that traditional therapy is a more taboo word in the army.

Murphy gave Fox News a full tour of Rebel Farm, a hydroponic greenhouse where hundreds of pounds of vegetables and herbs are grown and harvested each month by the former service members. The persistent hum of fans and the sound of rock music filled the temperature-controlled, 15,000 square feet of space. Fellow veterans dutifully checked on the health of the kale, arugula and bok choy that will be harvested and sold, mostly to restaurants.

“Eight weeks later, you have ten veterans who all new friends who would never have spoken to each other had they not been placed in a room together. That is the process,” Murphy, whose father, uncle and grandfather and grandmother also served in the army, it said. “We see a lot of the veterans, retain those friendships afterwards.”

Veterinarians who have participated in the program spoke about the significance of the impact.

Fresh vegetables and herbs maintained and cultivated by the U.S. military vets at the Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado.

(Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

“Students form a bond very quickly,” Tara O’brien, a 12-year veteran of the u.s. Air Force, which took over the hydroponics course last year and is taking the bottom loop of this year, told Fox News.

O’brien, 41, said the type of teamwork and problem-solving skills that come naturally to military veterans are ideal for the country’s food-production system, which is undergoing a transformation as consumers demand healthier options, and the availability of organic products increases.

“This band is what we need in the agricultural community, because it is a unification of the strategy and build something beautiful together, that is far beyond the need for competition and secrecy,” O’brien, who traveled to more than 30 countries during her time in the army, told Fox News. “To the core, these men and women are helpers and wonderful leaders and problem solvers—we have this in our food system.”

Marine Corps veteran Dominic Muranyi came to Veterans to Farmers, not able to sign-up for a fully booked horticulture course at a community college in Fort Collins.

Muranyi took both courses find that they are “very friendly,” and he is working on Murphy’s family farm in Fort Collins, co, to help with the labor, and miscellaneous—including the planned construction of Murphy’s new greenhouse this summer.

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A part of Chatfield Farms, Denver Botanic Gardens, where the Veterans to Farmers, the participants learn the farming skills.

(Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

“I was able to connect with some really amazing people already working in the direction of something similar. You meet so many other veterans who have skills and knowledge that you did not even know that they existed, then come to find out that you need to know!” Muranyi, 27, told Fox News.

The Marine veteran, who is known as the “quiet” of the veterinarians who have taken the courses, is the study of mycology (fungi). He compared the Veterans to Farmers experience to see how some citizens might think about the army.

“If you’re in the army, no one back home thinks: ‘Oh, I go to the movie, better thank a veteran.’ We do our work in the pacific professionalism and comfort to know that it makes a difference,” Muranyi, who deployed to Cuba and Japan during his service, to explain.

“It is a bit like a farmer: How often do you go to the supermarket to see what the farm produced your food? But everyone is grateful for something to eat. Instead of defending the life, we offer life sustaining food,” he said.

The Veterans to Farmers’ hydroponics course has been taught for the last three years at the Rebel Farm vast greenhouse in the southwest of Denver, which is owned by Lauren Brettschneider and Jack Russell. During the course, which takes place four times per year and has a duration of eight weeks, veterans learn the ins and outs of controlled cultivation.

“Farming can be very soothing. You grow something, ” said Brettschneider, who worked in the hospitality and telecom sectors for turning her passion for agriculture in a company. “The class really inspires and motivates [the veterans].”

“How often do you go to the supermarket to see what the farm produced your food? But everyone is grateful for something to eat. Instead of defending the life, we offer life in order to eat.’

– Dominik Muranyi, Veterans to Farmers graduate

The seedlings are housed in small sponge-like cubes to the preservation of their structural integrity—but they live in nutrient film technique (NTF) channels, which are long white plastic tubes that kind of look like gutters on a house. There is a small drip with a small hose that the roots of oxygen and they are able to absorb nutrients from the water. The entire system uses very little water, and because it is indoors, the plants are not subjected to the elements and are less prone to major pests.

According to Murphy, the greenhouse is much better for the environment in terms of water use, a real point of concern during the Denver dry, hot summers. It takes about 10 litres of water to produce a head of lettuce in the open air, but inside the greenhouse it is just a liter.

Veterans who were on the course at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Farms operate in a 7.5-acre, picture-perfect space with the Rocky Mountains in the background and the bright, powerful Western sun as their balm, while they learn about the day-to-day functioning of an organic farm to plant, harvest, crop rotation, and a permit, administration, marketing and sales. This class runs for 10 weeks and there are only two per year as a result of Denver’s 22-week growing season.

On a sun-kissed, breezy day in late April, two gardens that were built by the veterans of the program—complete with a paved sections, winding paths, flower beds and a sofa—were easy to find. In the growing area, several raised beds were prepared and covered for strawberries, which is a difficult crop to grow everywhere, because a lot of different animals and pests love them. A red, Norman Rockwell-looking barn on the property is hosted Veterans to Farmers events.

Jamie Management, farm education coordinator at Denver Botanic Gardens, begins its fourth season of teaching the veterans of the’ course in Chatfield. He said that the biggest advantage for the participants is a sense of community.

“This is a group that is very deep in the concerns about the sustainable production of food,” Management said. “Farming is hard work that they love, so with other veterans and farmers, that part that gives them a lot of encouragement and support.”

Military veterans, who are accustomed to the rigors of discipline, hard work and getting their hands dirty, are well suited for agriculture career.

“They can re-connect with their community in a capacity where it feels like they wear, and that’s huge,” Murphy says. “When you give someone food and to watch their eyes light up and you grew that. It is a similar feeling, ” you honor our country, thank you for your service.’

Rich Murphy, on the left, with a range of past and current participants in the Veterans to Farmers program in his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

(Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

Muranyi has recently started to work in Hazel Dell Mushrooms Farm in Fort Collins. He helps at the farmer’s market, and is three days per week to assist with the growing and harvesting shitake, lion’s mane, and other mushrooms.

“I love the work and it’s given me a chance to learn more about fungi,” he said.

O’brien, who was the first military journalist on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that they want to continue with her own agricultural education, finding work in the industry and maybe homestead on her own farm one day.

“Programs such as VTF offer great opportunities for veterans to do what they do best: creating, troubleshooting, project managing and leading people in a direction that is in its entirety, the best for everyone involved,” she said.

The vets in the program to complete a survey on topics including the mental health program at the beginning and end for the measurement of the success, but Murphy said the most powerful feedback that he gets is when vets pull him loose at the end to explain why it matters so much for them.

“If you don’t ever have a farmer, that is okay. But if you get three or four really good veteran friends and you hang out and talk about the plants and maybe grow tomatoes—that’s f—king great. That is a victory,” says Murphy.

Christopher Carbone is a reporter covering global affairs, technology and national news for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at christopher.carbone@foxnews.com or on Twitter @christocarbone.

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