Bill of the Week: Gardens for Veterans

Bill of the Week, a new feature in The Hill, highlights a recently introduced piece of legislation that might not make front-page news but otherwise catches the eye.

Title: Veterans Gardens Employment and Opportunity Act

Number: H.R. 3905

Sponsor: Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.)

Co-sponsors: None

Date introduced: Feb. 6

Summary: The bill would create a pilot program in the Agriculture Department that would help veterans start gardens throughout the United States. The gardens would produce foods that could be sold to individual consumers, schools or restaurants, or could be sold at farmers markets or to farm-to-school programs.

The legislation would authorize $10 million for the program. Gardens would be located on or near Veterans Affairs facilities.

Bill’s origin: The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that one of Baca’s constituents, Richard Valdez, came to the congressman with the idea. Valdez, the commander of the Disabled American Veterans’s San Bernardino chapter, organized a garden for veterans at a local park. 

In a press release, Baca said the program would serve two main purposes: It would help veterans learn employment skills in a therapeutic setting and it would create “a pipeline of new individuals to fill the growing need for more farmers in America.”

What others say: Buck Adams, a Marine Corps veteran, is the founder and CEO of Veterans to Farmers, a Colorado-based organization whose mission is to teach veterans to farm. He agreed that Baca’s program would provide jobs for veterans and would also be a means of therapy, especially for returned soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Adams, who grew up on a ranch in Texas and served in the Marines from 1989 to 1993, went a step further.

“The garden idea is great,” he said, “but gardens are very seasonal. So with the correct training in place, we could do greenhouses.”

Extras: Baca is a veteran himself. He served in the Army as a paratrooper with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions from 1966 to 1968.