Central to our mission is to help our brothers and sisters having difficulty in transitioning from military to civilian life. In an effort to stop merely talking about veteran suicide in Maine, and start doing something about it, we developed our Cottage Project!
Ultimately our goal is to build 300 cottages on veteran-owned farms to house transitioning vets, mentor and give them jobs, and train them to start their own farm if that is a goal they would like to achieve. We started doing this in 2016 and continue to seek funding to complete the project.
There is a big difference between a Hand Out and a Hand Up!
Too many times a Hand Out never ends. Year after year various sources of funds, often from the government, provide money to some agency or non-profit to administer distribution to a universe of recipients. The agency keeps a percentage of those funds for payroll and other expenses. At the end of the year the agencies expect more funding to sustain the operations. There are no appreciable long-term benefits for the recipients who continue to continue seeking more assistance.
At UFVM we offer a Hand Up through the Cottage Project, where the recipient receives more then food on the table. We provide veteran-to-veteran mentoring, veteran peer support, a home, a job and a place to learn new skills, a paycheck, and according to the vet’s ambitions, a pathway to owning their own farm in Maine.
Statistically every single veteran who has gone into farming since 2014 is off most of the meds they were on when they first started farming. They have rediscovered a purpose they had lost in living since they were on active duty. As a result, in Maine our veteran suicide count is lower among those engaged in farming.
In general, we work with veterans to learn farming as a business, to not get into unnecessary debt and to achieve sustainable prosperity by utilizing effective and innovative techniques we know work here.
There is a correlation in Maine and in other parts of the country that farming for veterans is actually a reducer of suicide and can assist a veteran with PTS/TBI or other service related issues after they return home.
Maine is the only state in America where the average age of farmers is getting younger. Maine also has the 3rd highest rate of veterans per capita of all 50 states. And, the only increase area in farming last year witnessed in Maine was growth among younger farmers growing size of their farms. http://www.farmlandinfo.org/statistics/Maine