GA farm provides alternative healing for vets with PTSD

GA farm provides alternative healing for vets with PTSD
Published: Jul. 22, 2016 at 3:13 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2016 at 3:46 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Thousands of soldiers struggle to find a way to cope with life during and after the military.

Current Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) drug treatments may not work for all, but some veterans say getting back to nature is the cure for them.

In a News Leader 9 special report, Irisha Jones goes to a farm in middle Georgia where agriculture and farming is providing an alternative way for PTSD relief.

Away from  the daily distractions of a big city, Scott Kennedy finds comfort and peace with everything related to living on a farm. He looks relaxed but what you can't see is the scars of life he's fighting inside.

"It got to a point where I was spiraling so fast I couldn't do anything for myself. I want to separate myself from my wife, my children," said Scott Kennedy, a Marine veteran.

Kennedy is one of the many military veterans seeking an alternative form of treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Comfort Farms is tucked away in Milledgeville, GA and believes they're the answer.

"They come to the farm. It's kinda a sweet and sour moment because they like this so much they don't want to leave it," said Jon Jackson, Founder and Executive Director of Comfort Farms.

Jackson is also a former combat veteran who continues to deal with the effects of war and PTSD.

"When I'm having a bad day, by the time I make my rounds to the time I get back in the house, I'm not having a bad day no more. It's what used to be the medications that would keep me numb and suppressed it's really now just working on the farm," said Jackson.

Jackson opened Comfort Farms in January 2016 through his nonprofit STAG Vets (Strength to Achieve Greatness) to provide a holistic approach for vets suffering with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

"We have a lot of vets who are not homeless but they are feeling displaced. A lot of active duty vets who are going through a lot of things and finding their way through. They come to the farm," said Jackson.

Veterans from all over can come to the farm to help plant fresh fruits and vegetables and raise farm animals like rare American mulefoot hogs, giant Chinchilla rabbits and Angus cattle. It's a way of natural healing and getting their minds off war.

"I can get some guys to help me. I don't have to fight this war alone," said Kennedy.

Comfort Farms uses agriculture as agri-therapy for veterans. Jackson says the farm is growing faster than he expected.

A recent recruiting fair drew several people from the community who came out to learn more before signing up as volunteers.
"Volunteers that are specifically working on admin, outreach for veterans so we can start growing our database on what veterans need," said Jackson.

Jackson says the farm is his outdoor doctor's office not in the four walls of a clinic.

The 25 acres of farm land in middle Georgia will also hold RV campers to give housing to the veterans that are working and getting help here on the farm.

So far, Jackson says more than 150 veterans have received help from being on the farm, including Timothy Anderson. For him, agriculture and farming is a soothing process.

"You're working to grow something knowing that the end product is going to be healthy for other people and yourself," said Timothy Anderson.

Anderson struggles with PTSD, Traumatic brain injury and Depression. He retired from the military after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident 11 years ago.  He's had a hand in  helping Jackson put together the farm.

"We get along. I helped built the hutches over there. I had something to do versus sitting at home not doing nothing and waiting," said Anderson.

The farm is named in tribute to Captain Kyle A. Comfort, an Army Ranger friend of Jackson whom he served with on the battlegrounds.

Comfort was killed in action in 2010 in Afghanistan.

"It's really passing on his legacy of how great of a guy he was through his name and farm. And for guys to come here and have comfort, it's just awesome," said Jackson.

For the marine, Scott Kennedy who didn't think he needed help before he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012, he's ready to make positive changes to his life after hiding away from the world.

"I knew I wanted to live," Kennedy said. 

Kennedy says its the coping skills and techniques he's learning at Comfort Farms that will give him the tools he needs to succeed and stand on his own.

STAG Vets an acronym for Strength to Achieve Greatness was based in Columbus before relocating to Milledgeville earlier this year.

The land Comfort Farms used was donated by Maranatha Outreach, a non-profit to help homeless people who have alcohol and drug addictions. 

Comfort Farms is open seven days a week.

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