For many military veterans, returning home doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the battlefield behind. Many suffer through an awful, yet near-invisible consequence.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD.
And while countless therapies and treatments exist to battle the condition, a small farm in West Virginia has one you probably never heard before.
Eric Grandon, a United States Army veteran who served five tours in the Middle East, owns Sugar Bottom Farm, which cultivates broccoli, raises free-range chickens, and even makes fresh honey.
When Grandon left the Army, his PTSD was almost too much to bear. At least, it was until he discovered the therapeutic effects of beekeeping.
“Bees can sense anxiety, and PTSD is an anxiety disorder,” Grandon said. “So if I come in here being anxious, they’re going to protect themselves and sting me.”
He soon learned how to control his anxiety when he visited the hives, and now teaches introduction to beekeeping classes from his farm.
Beekeeping has become a growing treatment for veterans with PTSD. In fact, Gordon was introduced to it by the program, Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture, which was developed in 2013.
The program’s founder, Capt. James McCormick, learned for himself how beekeeping can help struggling veterans (via Charleston Gazette):
“Anything to help our veterans, I feel like is part of what I owe,” McCormick said. “No matter how many medals you get, no matter how many accolades you get, there’s nothing like helping your fellow human beings.”
McCormick, owner of Raising Cane Farms, in New Haven, is a retired wounded veteran who served in two combat tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
He experienced firsthand how farming can be therapeutic for a veteran by producing his own garden. Soon he wanted to use his experience to help others.
McCormick first introduced Grandon to farming in 2013 with a crop of sorghum, before Grandon found apiculture — the practice of keeping bees — through other veterans who were also part of the program.
Grandon is now one of eight farmers who credits the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program for saving his life.
For Grandon, beekeeping has done more than help him cope with his PTSD. It’s become a full-fledged business.
Although he teaches lessons for nothing, Grandon sells produce, honey, equipment, and live bees, so that more people can enjoy beekeeping for themselves. Additionally, he is starting an adopt-a-hive program so that others can try it out.
Most importantly, the Army vet just hopes that beekeeping will change the lives of others for the better, just as it did for him.
“It’s just a break,” Grandon said. “Some people use drugs, some people use alcohol. I use bees and broccoli.”