Co-Founder & Executive Director, Veterans Healing Farm
In late summer of 2001, United States Air Force veteran John Mahshie had just returned from his first duty station. He was 3,000 miles from his family and friends and felt as if he had no community. Soon after, the tragic events of September 11 occurred. Mahshie had just turned 19. Then, on September 30, his father died in a motorcycle accident in Western North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“A lot of what I do with the Veterans Healing Farms are activities that have been therapeutic for me dealing with that loss,” says Mahshie. “It comes out of dealing with these personal issues.”
His vision for the Veterans Healing Farm was so strong that he shared it with his future wife, Nicole, on their first date. Located in Hendersonville on land that is part of his mother’s farm, the nonprofit serves veterans by growing and then donating, at the Charles George VA Hospital, high-quality fruits, vegetables, and cut flower bouquets to veterans and their caregivers free of charge. In the last year, over 8,500 pounds of produce were given away at the VA Hospital.
“We’ve grown the highest quality produce we can grow and we don’t care about veterans’ socio-economic status,” says Mahshie. “We give it to them and say this has nothing to do with whether you are in need or not. It has everything to do with the fact that you served our country and we haven’t forgotten you and we love you. And we want to make sure that message is very clear so that individuals receiving the produce feel a sense of dignity instead of a sense of shame.”
Mahshie and his wife work hard to balance the demands of the Farm with their growing family. Being a good husband and father are a priority for him and he enjoys every moment he spends with his family. The most challenging part of his job are the number of hats that he is required to wear.
“People tell me I should delegate more and I love the idea of delegation—it’s just that this is my baby, and I’m not going to leave my baby with somebody who is not qualified to take care of it,” he says. “The idea of delegating responsibility is challenging when you are solely reliant on volunteers.
“There’s a little part of me that is outside the box that likes to stay up late—be creative—creative energy—and then I have the executive director side—having my act together and also needing to be the mechanic and construction worker—all these various kinds of Renaissance man and also be available for my kids and be a good husband. I think the idea of balancing all the responsibilities can be overwhelming. I refuse to be a mediocre parent.”
The most influential person in Mahshie’s life is Jesus Christ. He also notes the influence of Buckminster Fuller, who taught at Black Mountain College in the summers of 1948 and 1949 and re-invented the geodesic dome. Mahshie even has a bunny named “Bucky” in honor of Fuller.
“The idea of delegating responsibility is challenging when you are solely reliant on volunteers.”
“When I first read a little bit of Fuller’s work, I saw someone crazier than me,” says Mahshie. “We are on the same page.”
Mahshie speaks of the difficult transition that many veterans experience coming from their years of service where they were part of something that was bigger than themselves.
“Then they come into a society in which they get a job and they start making money, but it doesn’t seem if there is anything bigger than that—I go to work, I buy stuff. And that’s the end of it.”
At Veterans Healing Farm, Mahshie offers veterans an opportunity to be a part of something that is helping other veterans while providing them with a sense of mission. Veterans can attend workshops on innovative gardening techniques, and with the addition of a 2,100 square foot community center, veterans from all around the country will be able to attend workshops for short periods of time. Workshops will also be live-streamed over the web so that any veteran with internet access will be able to participate. Mahshie believes that to succeed in life, one must have perseverance and hold on during a storm.
“Giving up is the easy option,” he says. “Continue to hope and have faith and to walk and encourage in the midst of pain and suffering. All of the good things in life are rooted in love and all the bad things in life are rooted in fear. In the midst of pain and suffering, continue to hope and to walk courageously in that hope.”
To support veterans and caregivers by providing access to fresh produce, farm activities, and seminars on holistic health and sustainability. We cultivate a close-knit community of farm members who help grow and donate fresh produce and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of farming.
Number served annually
Donated 8,700 pounds of produce (free of charge) to veterans and veteran caregivers at the Charles George VA Hospital. Additionally, grew over 6,000 pounds of produce that was consumed by farm community members.
how do you get funding?
Most funding comes from small individual donations.
Year nonprofit was founded?
List of board members with titles
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