Emily Emmons founded Ho’ola Farms after her husband, a military veteran suffering from head trauma and PTSD, returned home full time from active duty.
She said her family had to adapt physically and mentally to help her with the transition.
â€œIt was tough for a while until my husband started growing things in the garden, and it was so therapeutic for him,â€ Emmons said. â€œThe whole family joined him, and it was good for all of us. “
After seeing the positive changes, Emmons wanted to share his experience with other veterans going through the same things.
â€œThere have been so many positive changes in our lives that I thought about sharing this with a community of people who are going through the same things,â€ she said. “I know it has done wonders for my family, and I see it helping so many people who are on our program.”
Through Ho’ola Farms, veterans have the opportunity to apply for scholarships for the GoFarm Hawaii program at any beginner farming site.
â€œGoing through the program and learning how to grow something with your own hands can be very rewarding for veterans,â€ said Emmons. â€œYou can see the excitement in people’s eyes when they start to understand, and I’m blown away at what they can learn in a matter of months. “
Ho’ola Farms program manager and veteran Tara Waller joined the GoFarm Hawaii cohort last year to find out all the program entails. She uses her experience to share the benefits with other veterans she knows and works with.
â€œIt was fun, but I don’t want it to sound super pink, because it was really tough,â€ Waller said. â€œIt can be overwhelming to see how much you learn, but it has been invaluable to me and to anyone who wants to go through it. “
Waller uses his new skills by overseeing the new Ho’ola Farms demonstration farm, which is located on the same acreage as GoFarm Hawaii.
Veterans and their families are welcome to come to the demonstration farm to get their feet wet, ask questions and see if either program is right for them.
While she enjoyed honing her own skills as a commercial farmer, Waller was happy to see her peers learning alongside her throughout the GoFarm process last year.
â€œThe inspiration and pride that I saw was truly restorative,â€ Waller said. â€œI saw so many times when my eyes were opened and I watched people react to seeing what they planted become a beautiful field of food. “
During his time in the cohort, Waller saw how good growing things can be for everyone, but especially for veterans living with PTSD or trauma-related anxiety.
Participants were able to use their hands and enjoy the outdoors while losing weight, gaining muscle, and learning a new skill that they can take anywhere.
â€œIt’s life affirming, because you grow things,â€ Waller said. “The whole process of looking at something you’ve grown from a seed creates positive energy that stays with you.”
Email Kelsey Walling at [email protected]