Nonprofit Spolight: Growing Veterans

Nonprofit Spolight: Growing Veterans

Growing Veterans is a local nonprofit with a great mission. They are helping to empower veterans to grow food, our community and each other. They focus on helping fellow veterans reintegrate into society. Growing Veterans attracts not just vets who want to farm, but also vets who were looking to share in the camaraderie and use their skills gained in the military to strengthen their communities.

Early last year, they moved their base of operations to Starbird Farm in Skagit County. They are currently farming 3 acres of their 40-acre lot. They have three houses in the process of being remodeled as classrooms and places for people to stay who come on site for training.

History
Therapists often suggest veterans take up gardening to help deal with stresses new and old. Co-founder Chris Brown studied human services and psychology at WWU and worked at the AmeriCorps position at WWU’s Veterans Office. Many veterans expressed a keen interest in finding sustainable solutions to the issues with our current national food system. Chris received a Fellowship from The Mission Continues to start the Growing Veterans project as well as work as a farm hand at a reputable farming outfit.

After completing his fellowship, Growing Veterans was given the former Bellingham Food Bank farm to use. He advertised his ideas in the paper which led him to Christina Wolf, who assisted in managing the farm. She also had a past career as a counselor and had maintained her licensing. So in a culmination of ideas from fellow veterans and skills, Growing Veterans was officially formed.

What They Do
Growing Veterans teaches veterans sustainable, organic agriculture. In addition to their vegetable farm, they are raising chickens and bees! In 2015, they grew 32,000 pounds of organic produce sold affordably to veterans, caregivers, and local community members to help support their programs. They also donated 6,200 pounds of food to veterans, volunteers, the Fisher House, local food banks, VA hospital, and hungry people in 2015!

If you want to eat delicious some of their locally grown fruits and veggies, you can purchase their produce at their farm stand on Starbird Farm, and at the VA hospital in Seattle.

Volunteering
In 2015, they had 456 volunteers who logged 4,396 volunteer hours. They have 12 staff members, 8 of which are now certified Applied Suicide Intervention Skills. 87% of their volunteers reported a new sense of well-being and purpose in 2015.

One of the volunteers explains why Growing Veterans is so important to him, “When most people get back, they find themselves unprepared to deal with the world. Most of us end up taking a job as a security guard because that is what we know. I thought about that, but I felt like I had already done my duty fighting the bad guys. So now instead of fighting the bad guys, I get to fight weeds. I love it!”

If you want to volunteer, please get in contact with them today. They can accept volunteers of all ages from middle school to on up.

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