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By Rachel Goff
Starting this summer, veterans can learn a new trade at Hartshorn's Organic Farm in Waitsfield. Amy Todisco has partnered with Pathways for Veterans, a California-based nonprofit that will provide a two-month on-site experiential learning program for past military members at the Route 100 farm.
To start, Todisco's program will be only for female veterans—"the most underserved of our veterans," she said—with the opportunity to have male participants as well as the summer moves on.
In coming to Hartshorn's in June, the women will "get an exposure to pretty much every aspect of farming," Todisco said, including working in the new hydroponic greenhouse and helping out at farmers' markets with the hope that by the time the program is over they'll be inspired "to start some sort of agricultural business," she said.
For Todisco, however, the main goal of the program is to help the veterans "heal and choose healthy practices in their life," she said. She plans to incorporate mindfulness meditation into the program as well as host several on-site workshops in various other disciplines, such as beekeeping, woodworking and cooking.
The Valley is the perfect place for the program, Todisco said, as "there's such a wonderful community here, with a focus on food and health," and she's already heard from several locals eager to lend their time and expertise.
Currently, Todisco is in contact with the veterans' association in White River Junction to identify women within commuting distance of The Valley to participate in the 20-hour-a-week program. Still in the organizational stage, Todisco is also working on finalizing a budget, identifying donors and starting a fundraising campaign for the program.
Todisco has organized events in the past, she said, "but I've never done anything like this before." Luckily, "I have a great support team," she said.
Those looking to get involved with Waitsfield's Pathways for Veterans program can contact Amy Todisco at (802) 496-3081.