Veterans Supporting Community Agriculture

November 11, 2013 Emilee Vanderneut , Horticulturist Lead

Chatfield Veteran Reintegration ProgramTransformation at Chatfield 

Take a moment and ask yourself, when is the last time you visited Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield? Do you and your family go to Chatfield once a year for the Pumpkin Festival, Corn Maze or Trail of Lights? Regardless of your answer, I would like to inform you that Chatfield has undergone a makeover. We have new programs, gardens and volunteer opportunities that are waiting for you! For those who visited Chatfield after the construction of the new Visitor’s Center in late 2011, you probably witnessed some of the changes. We installed 20,000 square feet native flower gardens, created by nationally recognized landscape designers Lauren Springer-Ogden and Scott Ogden. Our Community Supporting Agriculture (CSA) farm grows on 5-acres of land and provides fresh produce for over 600 shareholders and local charities in the Denver Metro area. The change I am most excited about is the launch of another progressive program in spring 2013 called the Chatfield Veteran Reintegration Program. I want to share more about this special program and thank all of you whose patronage and support of the Gardens makes it possible. The Reintegration Program allows veterans to contribute to the community while working in a peaceful, outdoor setting. The volunteers gain sustainable farming skills, community networking opportunities and a likeminded team who work toward a common goal. The Chatfield Veteran Reintegration Program is a therapeutic horticulture program that engages post 9/11 military veterans in our CSA farm. This program was piloted in 2013 and will continue in May 2014. Participants grow vegetables from seeds or seedlings, tend the plants during growth and help with the harvest and community distribution. The mission of the Reintegration Program is to support the veterans vocational, social, physical and therapeutic goals through the application of sustainable farming techniques in a community setting. We strive to:

  • Share the art and science of sustainable farming.
  • Help veterans translate their military experience into civilian careers and hobbies.
  • Enhance the sense of well-being and veteran/community companionship.
  • Provide a secure, natural setting for veterans to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

Every service member has a unique and varied experience. Some enjoy being thanked for their service while others prefer to be simply seen as civilians. The resounding message from 2013 participants is that they are just like you and me. They have dreams, passions, families, and want to be part of their communities just like us. They don’t want to be silent, honored shadows. Rather, they want to share the experiences and perspectives gained during their time of service and reintegrate into civilian life.

I encourage you to engage veterans in your personal life and community. I challenge you to walk hand in hand and work towards mutual success and fulfillment. Building a healthy relationship involves reciprocal exchange of time, energy and experience. The veterans in the Reintegration Program are sharing these attributes as a gesture of humble openness to inner and outer evolution. Engage with these folks, volunteer at the CSA alongside them or listen with open ears and hearts. I am sure that through your engagement, you will find remarkable strength, resiliency, leadership and a level of tenderness and vulnerability that few people are able to so aptly demonstrate.

I enthusiastically invite you to visit Chatfield and give us the opportunity to thank you for helping make a wonderful transformation at Chatfield. Come experience the transformative effect of our 750 acres of natural beauty.


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