Healing Peer-Support On The Farm
by Liz Pleasant

Dirt Therapy on a Farm in Skagit County: Photo By Clay Lomneth/The American Legion

“I’ve known a lot of people who have been to combat and came back quite changed,” explained Kenny Holzemer, a 22-year retried navy air crew- man and the executive direc- tor for of Growing Veterans.

Growing Veterans is a Wash- ington-based organization that aims to help veterans successfully transition into ci- vilian life through sustainable organic farming. Launched in 2012, co-founders Marine Corps veteran, Chris Brown, and mental health counselor, Christina Wolf, recognized that farming can be both a therapeutic activity for return- ing veterans and a way to ex- plore a potential new career path.

“It’s a really great opportunity to bring the healing powers of nature to people,” explained Wolf. “And the healing pow- ers of having a community of people who you can rely on.”

The Program

Holzemer met Brown when they were both studying on the GI bill at Western Washington University. And after getting his MBA, Holzemer reached out to become a Growing Veterans volunteer.

Except for growing up on a farm as a child, agriculture wasn’t a big part of Holzemer’s life. But he was interested in helping veterans and recognized the benefits of “dirt therapy.” So when Brown stepped down from his job at Growing Veterans to become a mental health counselor at the VA hospital, Holzemer came on as the executive director.

Today, most of Holzemer’s job is writing grants and fundraising. He also works on building awareness of the program through speeches and interviews. But every once in a while, he gets to sneak outside and work in the dirt with the other veterans.

“My favorite part is hearing from someone about how good the experience has been for them,” he said. “Three people have said that this has saved their lives, not figuratively, but literally saved their lives.”

Recent studies have looked at the mental health benefits of gardening. But Wolf says she doesn’t need any scientific research to know farming can be therapeutic. “Those of us who do it just know instinctively that it helps us feel better. Researchers are like, ‘How can we study it and prove it?’ But it’s just something so innate to people. We just get it.”

The organization has also developed its own three-day peer-support training for staff members, volunteers, and anyone else interested in taking the course.

“As we were working with a lot of veterans on our farms, we found that a lot of people wanted to be kind of a support system for others, but they didn’t feel like they had the skills to do that,” explained Wolf. In addition to the veterans who enter the program as farmers and volunteers, veterans make up eighty percent of the organization’s staff.

“Our training is really on both sides. How to be a helper to someone else, and how to get help for yourself when you need it,” Wolf explained. “We just see that as a normal human experience. It’s not a bad thing for me to support you—it’s just a human thing. We all need that sometimes.”

The Impact

Beyond helping veterans, the organization helps address another national issue: disappearing farmland. Today, the average age of the American farmer is 58 years old. Couple that with the fact that fewer and fewer young people are entering the profession, many are worried that small-scale family farming could soon die out.

“If food were to become one of the most important parts of our life as a culture again, we’d see a lot more people prioritizing their lives to become farmers,” Brown said. “Our culture needs to put farmers in the spotlight as heroes.”

Interested in buying Growing Veterans produce? Find them at the Marysville farmers market. You can also purchase their produce and products through pugetsoundfoodhub.com and barn2door.com.

Butler Green Farms: Farmer Brian MacWhorter’s ProtÉgÉs for 2017 (Left to Right) Mathew Burton & Kaelin McNell (Interns) Sebastian Edgerton (Manager in Training), Rachael Bubb, Steward Miller & Zachary Fulton (interns), Sonya Parker & Cory Chin (Apprentices)

Sure, a lot of us want to be the person who always remembers their reusable grocery bags and shops at their local farmers market every week. But sometimes life gets in the way, and for whatever reason, you just can’t make it.

“When I started to try to source really high quality meats and produce direct from the farmer—and I didn’t necessarily have time to go to the farmers market—I discovered it wasn’t easy to find farmers,” explained Janelle Maiocco, CEO of Barn2Door, an online platform that helps consumers buy fresh, locally grown food. “And yet farmers have all this glorious food they want to sell.”

Here’s how it works: You enter your zip code to find farms in your area that deliver, ship direct, or offer local pickup. Don’t see what you want? You can submit a request for a specific food, and Barn2Door will let you know when they find a source in your area. Farmers pay a
monthly subscription to be on the site, but the prices on Barn2Door have no markups. That means 100 percent of the money you pay goes directly to the farmers.

“Direct sales can be so nice for them because it builds up their customer base. It means they get to keep the most in their pocket,” said Maiocoo. “There’s really not another solution out there that’s as inexpensive for a farmer to use. We want them to succeed.”

As more and more people turn to online shopping, finding an affordable and accessible option for farmers to sell direct to customers could revolutionize the local food movement. Online shopping gives small famers an easy way to advertise and sell their food, and community members have better access to the freshest and healthiest food grown near them.

And Barn2Door continues to evolve.
In the near future, the site will

Horse Project Update

The Harbour Public House kitchen crew has been operating the HORSE digester on their own from about mid-January. Butler Green Farms has been transferring the probiotic plant food (digested food waste) to their farm for field testing and evaluation. The digester has been operating reasonably well, according to Jan Allen, project engineer and principal of Impact Bioenergy. “We regularly check on the chemistry (pH and bicarbonate alkalinity) to make sure the digester stays within the desired biochemical state for gas generation (pH 6.75 - 7.75). We also check on the water content to make sure the macerated food waste is pumpable.” States Allen “We can report that the microbiology is well cared for and is healthy.”

To date, the digester has generated 7,450 cubic feet of biogas). The rate has risen slightly to 2,022 BTU per lb. of food waste.
In addition, here are several metrics that are being evaluated by Allen and his crew as they determine how this technology can change restaurant operations for the better:

The food waste from the Harbour Public House is denser and drier than anticipated so some corrections have been made for increasing the amount of water added. The system is able to operate at higher solids than anticipated although this requires additional mixing of the receiving tank
The estimated energy yields for commercial kitchens benchmarks are 6,400 and 5,500 cubic feet of gas per wet ton of input. The Harbour Public House is exceeding these industry biogas generation benchmarks with a current rate of 6,700 cubic feet per wet ton (105% – 123% vs. benchmarks).

The energy generated in comparison to crude oil can be compared as 2,900 lbs. of Harbour Public House Food Scraps are generating the energy equivalent to 1 barrel of crude oil.

From mid January to April the HORSE has generated 2,519,400 BTU. By comparison this is the equivalent of 22 gallons of gasoline, or the equivalent of 738 kWh of electricity.

Over the entire 187-day project term, at the time of printing, the HORSE has generated 4,470,000 BTU. By Comparison this is the equivalent of 39 gallons of gasoline, or the equivalent of 1,309 kWh of electricity
So far, at the time of this printing, the digester is operated at only 13% of its design input capacity and 50% of its BTU maximum energy output potential on a per lb. of input basis.

[Major funding for the pub’s HORSE is generously provided by Puget Sound Energy.]

Barn2Door Cont . .

offer flash sale alerts, allowing farmers to put food on sale when they have an overstock of product. The site will also soon offer farmers the opportunity to create their own personal app, making it even easier for customers to quickly browse and buy from their favorite local growers, farmers, fishers, or foragers.

With easy one-click shopping, Maiocoo believes more people will begin buying directly from their local farms.

“A lot of people are really passionate about changing the food system and being able to genuinely help local farms,” Maiocoo said. “They want to know where the food is coming from and they want to support these farmers that are working so hard.”

Visit barn2door.com to find local farms in your area.


"While we do not take reservations, you may check our wait list status and get in line from your smartphone." 

Get the Nowait App!

Introducing Kitsap Fresh
An online marketplace connecting farm to table in a whole new way. An online farmers market dedicated to Kitsap grown goods. Access at least 20 local farms all from one storefront. Your order is sorted, organized and waiting for you. You can even pay online if you wish. 

est. 1991

est. 1982

Flickr Photos

Ambrose F. Grow

Ambrose Grow and his wife, Amanda, and their family came to Eagle Harbor in 1881. He was a Civil War veteran and came be- cause of the descriptive letters he had read in the New York and Kan- sas papers telling of the virtues of Bainbridge Island. Selling his large farm in Manhattan, Kansas, he homesteaded 160 acres here along the waterfront. In addition to be- ing a charter member of the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church and the Madrone Schools, he was a pro- lific correspondent to the happen- ings in Eagle Harbor and environs.

Grow Family Homestead
Still stands today as home to Harbour Public House

Parfitt Way Management • 231 Parfitt Way S.W. • Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 • Phone: 206- 842- 0969 • Email: click here