Farm2Vets program helps veterans

Dave Gevry stands with Linda Martin in front of ornaments sold to members of the church in support of the farm. (The Leader-Herald/Opal Jessica Bogdan)

BROADALBIN — Farming is not often viewed as an easy way of life, but it gave Dave Gevry a way to change his.

“It gave me a reason to get up every morning, when I couldn’t anymore,” Gevry of Little Falls said.

As a way to heal himself, Gevry discovered farming after returning from active duty in Afghanistan. He had enlisted in the Navy from 2001-03 and joined the Army as an Infantryman in 2005. He was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Gevry said serving changed his life, and he searched for ways to cope with his past after he returned home.

As a result, Gevry created the Vets2Farm program after finding therapy in farming.

“I started farming on accident and it really changed my life,” Gevry said. “Farming made me the person I am today. It helped me quit drinking and really find a sense of purpose again. That’s what is all about.”

The nonprofit started two years ago with the goal of allowing veterans the ability to learn new skills. Focused around horticulture and farming, the program connects veterans with farming and agriculture as a way to heal.

Veterans who are interested in farming can become a part of the program. Veterans learn the various tasks associated with running a farm and the science behind it all. The organization has the goal of giving veterans a place to heal, farm, grow and give back.

“I wanted to share that with everyone else in the military who are dealing with depression or PTSD, to help them find a new avenue of healing,” Gevry said.

For the next month, the First Presbyterian Church in Broadalbin will be “Waiting With the Veterans,” bringing focus to the Vets2Farm program. As a member of the organization’s board, the Rev. Linda Martin brought the idea to the church after knowing she needed to be a part of it.

As a farmer herself, Martin said that she discovered the nonprofit on Craigslist.

“I’m very into farming as healing, so I started looking into helping veterans this year for our advent season,” Martin said. She explained that she had wanted to start a similar program herself, but when she discovered Gevry and his program, she knew it was her way to get involved.

Martin invited Gevry to speak with the church on Sunday. He presented the nonprofit’s mission to the congregation and brought chicken to sell. In total, $484 was raised for the program during the day, as members of the church purchased chicken, handmade ornaments that were hung on the Christmas tree at the church, or made donations.

“We just want to help give them a start,” Martin said. “I don’t agree with war in any way, shape or form. We are constantly sending people [to war] and we need to bring healing to these folks.”

Gevry said the farm-raised meat and vegetables are sold at close to cost rates. Gevry said that goal of selling the produce at an affordable price allows low- to middle-income families a way to obtain high-quality food.

“I’m from a family of seven and I know how hard it is to afford high prices. This gives low- to middle-income families the ability to get good farm products,” Gevry said.

Martin said that she and another member of the church went to visit the farm. There, they picked out a pig they wanted to purchase and had Vets2Farm harvest the meat in a humane way. She said a video shows the whole process online, and added that all the animals she saw there were very happy.

Gevry added that there are other farms in the area that are similar, but feels that the Vets2Farm has a combination of a veteran piece and community focus with a goal to help everyone. At the farm, 50 percent of what is grown is donated to veterans directly or donated to the veterans food banks. The products are given to an outreach center in Utica, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legions to help anyone in direct need.

“I just want to help with education benefit, documentation preparation and overall well-being,” Gevry said. “Overall it just gives me my peace of mind.”

Martin said the church will continue to raise money throughout Advent. She explained that each Sunday, the church will invite a veteran to state where they served and light the Advent wreath.

“These are just some tangible ways you can be connected and be reminded, in a season that is easy to forget what it is all about,” Martin said.

By Patricia Older

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