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VFW and Home Depot help make improvements at Agricultural Innovation Center

ISSUED: 7 November 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Tabler Farm: Agricultural Innovation Center and the Veterans-to-Agriculture Program are able to make some improvements just in time for Veterans Day thanks to a grant for supplies from Home Depot to the VFW Post 3522 in Charles Town.

Wayne “Bud” Casto, U.S. Army veteran and VFW member, applied for the grant, which is in the form of store credit for products, so improvements could be made to the VFW hall. Casto asked Home Depot to allow the grant to cover some materials that will benefit veterans at Shepherd’s agricultural center, including wood to build raised garden beds, geotextile cloth, hardware, basic hand tools, hoses, pipe to make hoops over the raised beds, and windows for the milk parlor, which is being converted to an aquaponics lab.

“We have a new population of veterans coming back and they are suffering from physical and emotional problems,” Casto, who is a Vietnam veteran, said. “The challenges they face need some form of treatment other than sitting in a group or sitting with a psychologist or social worker. They need something to diversify their mindset and also give them a sense of accomplishment. Therapeutic horticulture allows them to do that. Research has shown that once they start into a growing season, it transfers all their attention away from the other pressures and the other things that are impacting their daily lives, giving them a relief. Therefore this is very important to us.”

Dr. Peter Vila, head of Shepherd’s Veterans-to-Agriculture program, said the grant covered about $3,900 in windows and $6,000 in other supplies to build the raised beds.

“The raised beds provide wheelchair access and allows people to garden and raise nutritious food who may have trouble in the fields or high tunnel greenhouse,” Vila said. “We appreciate the generous donation provided by Home Depot for veterans and their families.”

Shepherd University Facilities Management has been helping with the work by digging out the area for the raised beds. Students from the Harpers Ferry Job Corps built and installed the frames for the beds.

“The students at Job Corps get a free education, so we like to make sure they give back to the community as often as they can,” said Ron Hartle, carpentry instructor at Harpers Ferry Job Corps. “This is a worthwhile project because it entails helping out the with VFW’s VA project and it’s linked with Shepherd. It gives the students a taste of education and community service.”

The VFW also donated a beehive and bee equipment to the farm, including a smoker, hoodie, and veil. Aside from the Home Depot, Casto said there were donations from Sunbelt Rentals and DL Morgan Jr. Inc., which provided gravel and rock dust for the beds.

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