Coming Home: Healing Through Harvest

ATHOL, Mass. — Some local soldiers are heading from the battlefield to the fields of a farm in central Massachusetts.

The program in Athol is helping veterans coming home regain their sense of purpose through a healing harvest.

The acres of farmland will serve as a new beginning for a unique group of farmers, like Chip Pinder.  Before he came to the farm, he did two tours in Afghanistan with the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

"The highs were really high the lows were pretty traumatic,’ Pinder told Boston 25’s Kerry Kavanaugh. ‘I basically spent years getting shot at that was kind of my job.’

Despite the obvious danger, Pinder says life at war was simple, straightforward.

“You don't even worry about the dangerous aspect of the job that you're doing. You just want to keep the guy to your left and your right safe and coming home," Pinder said.

But coming home is complicated.

"I see guys, myself included, that have been lost for years just trying to find a way to cope with everything that's happened to us overseas and trying to find a good way forward."

The way forward is what Jake Alexander wants to provide.

"I really just wanted to give back."

Alexander purchased an eight bedroom house with an 18 stall horse barn and two story barn in Athol to provide veterans with a space to call their own and teach them how to farm.
He calls it Vets and Veggies. (please hyperlink here-

"The guys can have something to look forward to that they know that they know they can come up here on a weekend and maybe talk to guys that are going through the same thing or have those thing and what helped them," Alexander said

Pinder is the farm manager.

“This is how we rebuild our veteran generation. This is where it starts. It starts at a place like this,” Pinder said.

It’s a far cry from the battlefield. But working in the land and with animals has more in common with military life than you might think. It's giving veterans a sense of purpose, giving them a new mission.

"It's a pathway to a second chance,” Pinder said. "It's the way they can start repairing their minds and their souls."

They are healing the land while healing themselves of the invisible wounds.

"I'm kind of like a lot of these guys too, said Alexander, ‘…kind of searching for what their mission is in life.’

For now, it's helping veterans get back to theirs.

“I see people that have been lost and are starting to come up with a new purpose of self and new sense of community again,’ Pinder said. ‘Here I see healing is what I'm seeing a lot of."

The veterans at the farm now are paying some of their way to stay there. Ultimately, when they start growing crops and raising more animals, the goal of Vets and Veggies is to also provide these veterans with a paycheck.

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