MARYSVILLE — Tucked in among the row of booths at the Marysville Farmer’s Market is one offering both fresh food and help to veterans.
The group, Growing Veterans, encourages vets to volunteer at its three farms, and often in doing the work, help themselves.
Scotty Irwin, of Arlington, has been active in the group for three years, and now is employed by the nonprofit as a market manager.
“Just like the military — a soldier first and then whatever your job is,” said Irwin, who served in the Army for four years as a combat medic.
The organization operates three farms. One is on Starbird Road, just across the Snohomish-Skagit county line, now in its second season. The others are near Lynden and Auburn.
In addition to selling its crops, the group donated 11,000 pounds of food to food banks in 2016.
“We do dirt therapy,” Irwin said. One veteran, struggling with PTSD, said he felt suicidal. A counselor had tried unsuccessfully to get him involved with the farming project.
Skeptical at first, he is now in charge of the organization’s bee and pollination program and provides support to other veterans as the group’s outreach coordinator, she said. All staff have training on suicide prevention and how to support fellow veterans.
Seth McBride, 34, lives on a farm near Granite Falls. He served in the Army from 2002 to 2009, and spent part of that time deployed in Iraq. McBride said he received a settlement from the Veterans Administration for service-connected PTSD.
Following his discharge, he said he was hospitalized 56 times for Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the bowel. Five times he was told he wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital.
Now, he said he’s healthier than he’s ever been.
“I’ve not been a very motivated, physical labor kind of guy,” McBride said. But after getting some plant starts in the ground on his farm, “now we’re picking vegetables out of our garden.”
That, plus volunteering at Growing Veterans, has changed his life.
“Healthy eating, getting out there, the physical part of it, getting my body built up and strong again, it’s just amazing.”
McBride goes to the Starbird Road farm about twice a month. It has a big field of carrots, lettuce and huge tomatoes, he said. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower also are grown there. And the group just started growing all-organic hops.
“Before I started working with them, I was really isolated,” he said. “Going to their farm and seeing what they were doing — it’s really helped to bring me out of my shell. It’s really helped me build relationships with other vets.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Growing Veterans produce is available at the Marysville Farmer’s Market, 1035 State Ave. The market is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sept. 30.
More information on Growing Veterans is available at: growingveterans.org/farm-to-market/