[Breaking New Ground] From a Trainee’s Perspective: Joe’s Story


TALMAR (Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland), a nonprofit farm whose mission is addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities or others with chronic health issues using horticulture as therapy.  We also provide a yearlong training curriculum for beginning farmers in sustainable agriculture incorporating adaptive tools and techniques to increase production and success.  We exist because of donations from production of what is grown at the farm, events, and individuals who support us through Amazon Smile.  smile.amazon.com/ch/52-2165052

Joe is a veteran who came to TALMAR from a shelter for homeless and struggling veterans where he continues to reside until the he graduates from the curriculum in March, 2018.

At first, Joe came to the course orientation as a favor to a friend he met at the shelter who wanted to get involved. Joe had never heard of TALMAR and he never dreamed that he would ever be able to become a farmer with his various injuries and impairments Since leaving the military, Joe has undergone surgery on both knees, his leg, and his shoulder. To this day, he still has a partial disability due to his shoulder injury.

At the orientation Joe learned that TALMAR’s program incorporated farming techniques for people like himself that had physical disabilities while also addressing issues associated with PTSD.  He himself turned to alcohol after returning stateside which led to his separation from his wife and child. He began to love the farm and felt an immediate connection to the people here.  He knew right away he wanted to get involved. Only days after his visit, he enrolled full-time as a student in TALMAR’s Breaking New Ground Veterans to Farmer Training program.

Every day, nothing stops Joe from discovering and following his new-found passion.   He comes to class with a smile on his face, excited to learn and absorb everything he is taught. Over the course of the semester, he has learned everything he can to be able to operate his own small-scale organic farm. Thus far, Joe has learned to create and a business plan, a field plan, a feasibility and a marketing plan for his future business.  He has learned about sustainability, how to germinate and transplant vegetable plants, composting, crop rotation, cover cropping, how to create an irrigation system, and he learned about all the legalities involved with managing a farm while understanding the significant impact of organic food has on his own health and wants to share the importance of that and nutrition. Mostly Joe has learned to farm in nonconventional way, using raised beds, vertical farming and hydroponics.  He will no longer need to be concerned about his physical shortcomings to make a living.   All the while, Joe looks forward to the day when he can be able to take what he had learned, begin his own agri-business and return to his family.

When we interviewed Joe about his experience of being at TALMAR and enrolled in the course, he had this to say: “When I come here, I’m not worried about anything. It’s a time to open my ears and my eyes and learn. Every day I am excited. I love the people here. Everybody here wants to see me succeed. They give me encouragement, they give me advice. They let you know that they care.”

Today Joe is on track to graduate from Breaking New Ground with a certification in Sustainable Agriculture. He is ready and eager to begin his own small organic farming business. At his daughter’s request, he plans to name his new after her.


hashtag #SeasonOfSmiles