Veterans learn agriculture and landscaping skills with Operation Eco Vets

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For many veterans the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult, especially when it comes to finding a new career. The organization Operation Eco Vets is giving some vets a new opportunity by working on land. 

Operation Eco Vets works out of the all-organic Green Path Veterans Farm in Sarasota. It was originally created by Florida Veterans for Common Sense. 

“When I started seeing the warriors coming back, it really struck a chord with me,” said farm director Camille Van Sant. “Because they’re all affected by what they’ve seen and done. When they come back, it’s difficult for them. Their families don’t really understand what they’re going through.”  

With Operation Eco Vets, the veterans are surrounded by people who understand. And the group gives them training in agriculture, landscaping and entrepreneurial skills to help the transition from military to civilian life. 

“The three or four months I’ve spent here learning, I think there may be a need for edible landscaping in the area,” said Army veteran Billy Pritchett. He already has his own business, mainly working as a handyman. Working on the farm is helping Pritchett see a different path. 

“That’s where I’m trying to grow my business. It may take some time- maybe a year, two years- before I’m really rocking and rolling.” 

Air Force veteran Abbey Skinner now teaches alternative medicine and holistic nutrition. She thinks the shared experience, the camaraderie and the herbs they grow at the garden all help with healing. 

“When you show up here its instant family,” said Skinner. “There’s something about it that feels right. We can work together yet were not doing a military mission. We’re doing a garden mission.” 

Operation Eco Vets offers paid internships in edible landscaping in which vets can become certified by the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association. The group also offers “boot camp” gardening classes that are free to veterans. 

For more information please visit the website.