At Boulder Crest, Wounded Veterans Heal Through Gardening

Veterans staying at Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness are finding solace and growth in growing vegetables and fruits at the Bluemont center.

Retreat co-founder Julia Falke notes that anyone who has tried their hand at gardening knows the physical and mental benefits the peaceful activity brings. That’s especially true for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or combat-related stress.

“We believe in getting veterans into gardening and it is why we built the Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden,” she said of the nation’s second handicapped-accessible garden, built in 2014. Not only is the activity calming, but it focuses veterans on the subject of healthy eating and nutrition.

“It’s one small part of what we do, but it makes a significant difference,” Falke said.

It’s not a new practice, as during the 1940s and 1950s, gardening was used to help heal hospitalized war veterans. Today, its therapeutic benefits are widely recognized.

The retreat’s garden is a handsome walled space, with stone-lined raised beds filled with vegetables, surrounded by walls enclosing a riot of colorful flowers, and fruit trees rising from circular flower beds. Plenty of comfortable looking benches are dotted around with picnic tables and chairs. Decorative touches include a dovecote and a central gazebo.

The retreat is focusing on strengthening its horticulture and culinary activities to benefit the veterans and their families staying there. On the horizon is a comprehensive veteran farm-to-table program, adapted to the seasons. Ongoing support from organizations including The Burpee Foundation, The Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club and The Middleburg Garden Club, as well as many community volunteer hours are helping make that vision a reality.

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