Veterans are "Breaking New Ground" through Therapeutic Horticulture

TALMAR offering programs with help from VA
Posted at 6:36 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 18:36:08-04

A longtime therapeutic gardening and farming program in Baltimore County is now looking for Veterans.

TALMAR, or Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland, is located on ten acres of Cromwell Valley Park in Parkville.

The organization’s classes and workshops target depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“We’ve developed a curriculum that we use through USDA that trains these vets for ten months of course work and hands on farm work,” says Executive Director Cate Murphy. “It’s an opportunity for them to reintegrate back into the community and increase their self-esteem level.”

Local Vietnam veteran Charles Alexander just signed up for TALMAR’s “Breaking New Ground” program. He says getting out into the garden helps problems that can crop up when returning to civilian life.

“It helps relieve me of the anxiety, the depression and any of the other nuances that are there to keep me from moving on,” he says.

Farm Manager Todd Troester says it’s not all fun and games. Planting flowers, growing organic crops, working the land and even raising animals is hard work. The vets will start in the classroom, then graduate to spending hours a day in the field.

Troester says “Breaking New Ground” is already getting great feedback from students.

“They say ‘Wow, this is great. I can complete a task from start to finish, not feel pressured, not feel rushed, feeling very comfortable.’”

Starting this month, Veterans can use their VA benefits to take the classes at no out-of-pocket charge.

When they finish, the students will get access to one of several plots of land to farm on their own. TALMAR is putting plots in “food deserts” in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. TALMAR hopes the vets will start their own farmer’s markets there, providing much needed fresh produce to residents.