HESPERUS, CO – The owners of Breen Mesa Farms in Hesperus have helped disabled veterans in the Four Corners, with their Veterans Homestead Project, where they teach veterans how to farm. But it’s not your traditional type of farming, they practice a new approach called regenerative farming, where every decision made on the farm is made to improve the soil.
Gregory Hopkins, started the Veteran Homestead Project seven years ago. He says this approach to farming helps improve the mental health of veterans.
“Teach them to build soil and bring positive energy life force, as opposed to the destruction often felt by guys who went into battle,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins, spent 12 years in the Air Force, as a special ops pararescuemen, and when he got out he noticed there was something healing about getting your hands dirty.
“There have been studies showing that organic soil microbes eliminate a very good deal of depression,” Hopkins said.
So he taught other disabled veterans how to farm.
“The special thing about having a farm, an agricultural education for veterans, is that we actually have a skill set that’s not just a week-long hunting trip or rafting trip or whatever. either, it’s a skill set that gives them a reason to want to wake up every day,” Hopkins said.
Whether it’s learning to compost, making goat cheese, or even cooking your first meal.
“We’ve actually taught veterans who’ve never done anything more than make a sandwich, so cut up a roast chicken that chicken and present us with dinner,” Hopkins said.
He says it’s conquering the little things that make the biggest difference.
“It’s really refreshing to see guys coming out of this, who are stuck in kind of a cycle of depression and withdrawing from society and when they end up with these little skills or these little things to do, it really feels bring out a whole different way of seeing the world,” Hopkins said.
Over the years, the Veterans Homestead Project has taught these skills to up to 300 veterans, some from as far away as Oregon and Pennsylvania.