Hoosier veteran finds community in local food initiative

By Sarah Ramon
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS – After returning from serving as a surgical nurse in the Air Force, veteran Sara Creech’s life didn’t get any easier.

“I had a lot of problems with PTSD and reintegrating,” she said. “It was very isolating at that time.”

Then after about five years at home, her husband died from colon cancer. She was left in a dangerous and vulnerable spot.

But one thing still spoke to her.

“Farming was that one thing that actually sparked an interest, which, at that time, I wasn’t really interested in anything,” Creech said.

Farming would become her process for recovery.

Buying a farm had been a dream Creech had shared with her husband. So about one year after his death, she found a farm for sale on the internet, bought the land and moved from Florida, despite having zero farming experience.

Two years later, The Blue Yonder Organic Farm, located in North Salem, is now thriving. The fields are filled with chickens, vegetables and fruit trees. Her products contain a little logo that states “Homegrown By Heroes.”

With the logo, Hoosier consumers can easily identify products that would support not only local farmers but Hoosier veterans as well.

“It’s still a business. There’s no handouts here. All we’re doing is giving a hand up and so far, so good,” Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said.

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture paired the Indiana Grown initiative, which supports Hoosier products, with the Homegrown By Heroes program almost a year ago.

The Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program currently has 16 members. Both Creech and McKinney continue to encourage Hoosier veterans to consider joining the program and want to see it grow.

Creech first heard about the Homegrown By Heroes program while trying to learn more about farming through the Farmer Veteran Coalition in 2014. The mission of the coalition is to create meaningful careers through the collaboration of farming and military communities.

While the organization assists with the creation of new jobs for veterans, it also helps its members manage a common feeling of psychological isolation by creating a sense of community.

“I think when you get out of the military, originally, you lose that sense of mission,” Creech said.

Now she’s encouraging other veterans to get a Homegrown by Heroes certification to connect with their neighbors and start conversations about fresh food.

Creech has discovered a new sense of duty through caring for the animals on her farm and peace in growing vegetables and fruit and getting her hands dirty.

“It allows you to reconnect and to get excited about things again and realize that your mission’s not over – it’s changed,” Creech said. “You’re still needed out here. Right now it’s to support your community through pride and food.”

Sarah Ramon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

 

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