STURGEON BAY (NBC 26) — While there are many programs and services out there to help veterans, many vets still struggle to find work and community at home.
"One of the big things that veterans miss once they get out of service is actually that sense of service to something bigger than themselves," said Jacob VandenPlas.
A few months ago, VandenPlas, drawing inspiration from a farm he heard about in Georgia, decided his Door County Farm would become DC Farm for Vets, a place that provides agricultural learning opportunities to veterans.
"Our main goal is by the end of the time that our veterans are here with us, they have a rough education on how to grow produce and sustainably," he said. "And we also want to provide the financial resources to get them lifted off the ground.”
Veterans who want to be a part of the two-year training program will start with business basics like seed orders and planting schedules. After their first year, those vets will help train the next year's veterans starting out. The veterans will go to farmers markets in Door County, and the sales vets make go back to them when they graduate so they have start-up capital for their own farms.
“We want to be able to get the veteran set up for success and not have to go be a farmer and work a full time job somewhere else," said VandenPlas. "It's a struggle. It's a lot of extra work.”
According to a study by Brown University called the Cost of War, the U.S. has lost more than 7,000 veterans to combat, but has also lost more than 30,000 to suicide. Farming can create a support network and community that veterans otherwise wouldn't have, said Kyle VandenPlas.
“There's true therapy with getting your hands in the dirt and getting grounded," he said. “I'm not a farmer. I grew up in the city. So just being out here and helping out has definitely helped me kind of work through some of my issues. There's there's definitely therapy in that dirt, it's magic, you know.”
DC Farm for Vets is partnering with Door County Mushroom Company, Roberton Orchards and Ledgeview Gardens to provide even more farming opportunities. The farm is also looking for donations and sponsors for veterans. If you are, or know, a veteran who might be interested, you can find more information here.