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Friday, May 14, 2021

Students team up with nonprofit organization to help veterans

By Madeline Smith

Western students are collaborating with Growing Veterans on writing a grant that will help fund the organization’s operational fees.

Growing Veterans is a nonprofit organization based out of Lynden which practices “dirt therapy” by using their farm as a therapeutic tool for veterans who live with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as offering them skills to add to their post-military careers. 

A group of students in Western assistant professor Jeremy Cushman’s advanced technical writing class helped write the grant, including seniors Kyle Hansen and Simon Nuckles-Flinn.

 “This is an opportunity to actually do something with your hands. You’re not sitting in an office talking to someone that you don’t know and you don’t trust,”

Brian Cary said.

If they receive the $50,000 Newman’s Own grant, Growing Veterans plans to spend it on their dirt therapy program, which includes supplies and costs associated with running the farm and peer support training for veterans, Hansen said.

For the veterans, dirt therapy can be more comfortable than traditional forms of therapy, junior Brian Cary, the grant co-author, said.

 “This is an opportunity to actually do something with your hands. You’re not sitting in an office talking to someone that you don’t know and you don’t trust,” he said.

Growing Veterans is a non-profit farm that helps military veterans transition back to civilian life with “dirt therapy”. // Photo by Mathew Roland

Bill Smith, vice president of Growing Veterans and a grant writer for the organization, provided guidance for the students through the writing process. 

Growing Veterans has done three studies that found the process of farming helps veterans reintegrate back into civilian society when they return home, Smith said.

Being awarded the Newman’s Own grant would mean more resources for the Growing Veterans farm, which would result in providing more food for the community.

“We give about 30 percent of what we produce back to the community, to food banks, to people who need food,” Smith said.

A variety of starter plants are begining to sprout around the farm on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The plants pictured here will be sold at a plant sale on May 6 to help support the non-profit.// Photo by Mathew Roland

Growing Veterans’ peer support program “gives veterans who might feel isolated a place to find people who have shared their experiences, who can talk them through some of the things they’re going through,” Hansen said.

This is the third time Growing Veterans has applied for the Newman’s Own grant, but it’s the first time that they were invited to apply, which increases their chances of being awarded the grant, Cary said.

“It’s like job hunting,” Nuckles-Flinn said. “Basically, you just have to keep on applying until you get something, and you’re going to have a lot of rejection.” 

Hansen said the process of writing the grant was an empowering one.

Joel Swenson, 33, the farm manager at Growing Veterans cuts grass on Tuesday, April 3. He works to help veterans transition from military life to civilian life through farming therapy.// Photo by Mathew Roland

“As an English major, I’ve kind of spent the last four years joking about how I have no future,” Hansen said. “It really shows me that there are things I can do that can actually make a difference.”

Usually, Smith spends about 30 hours on each grant that he writes. With the help of the students from Cushman’s class, he spent roughly four and a half hours in total on the writing process for the Newman’s Own grant, he said.  

The partnership has allowed Smith to meet the deadlines for three other grants for Growing Veterans, he said.

The grant is currently open for edits and due to be submitted to the Newman’s Own Foundation by April 25, Smith said.

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