'A sense of community': Program provides unique opportunities for veterans

So far, the VA in Baltimore is seeing a huge improvement in mental and physical health.


The Veterans Affairs department in Baltimore has long provided vocational training for veterans, but a new program is providing a career option in a unique and therapeutic way.

“You see me smiling. I definitely didn't have that not too long ago, the program is giving me that purpose,” Army veteran Dominus Blue said.

When Blue decided to change careers, farming just sounded right.

“I remember the moment it just felt like the right thing,” Blue said.

The Pigtown resident took advantage of a new pilot farming program through the VA. The VA has partnered with Talmar Farms in Parkville to basically teach veterans how to become farmers.

“From soil management to the different types of families, our plants when to plant them, way to plant them,” Blue said.

“We looked forward to the days the veterans were here because they bring so much energy and so much love to the campus,” said Kate Joyce, executive director of Talmar Farms.

The 10-week program is in its second year. It provides 75 hours online and 75 hours hands-on training. And already, the VA is seeing a huge improvement in mental and physical health.

“Just to be able to get them to come out to be able to socialize with other veterans, they've been able to, many of them, have grown their own gardens. They are learning how to eat healthy, they are getting exercise,” said Laverne Harmon, manager of the VA Vocational Rehab Program

Fifty-seven veterans have gone through the program with a 91% graduation rate. Blue said he can't wait to share what's he's learned through the creation of a living classroom in his Baltimore community.

“And teach people how to grow food, how to grow spices and herbs and all the things that they need, and not just grow them but also how to use them, do you know, just have a sense of community,” Blue said.