Honey Bees Bring Therapy for Veterans

Apr 25, 2016

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito stopped in Hedgesville to spotlight a unique program that uses bee-keeping to help veterans with post-traumatic stress.

Capito visited Geezer Ridge Farm in Hedgesville Monday. The farm is home to thousands of honey producing bees, and gives community members and veterans a chance to learn about bee-keeping. For many of those veterans the practice is also a form of therapy. 

Geezer Ridge is one of six apiaries in West Virginia working with the West Virginia Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture program, which serves more than 250 veterans in the state. The program gives veterans the opportunity to take on a new career in agriculture while experiencing what Geezer Ridge owner Ed Forney says is lifesaving therapy.

“Knowing that you were part of making that life change for them, I mean is huge," Forney said, "I mean it’s hard to stand here and describe, you know. How do you feel when somebody walks up and tells you that hey I was gonna kill myself, but now because of you we’re not.”

Nicholas Priet is one of those veterans who say Ed’s farm saved his life.

“Before I got in this program, I didn’t have any ideas for the future, and I really, I really honestly wasn’t looking forward to the future, and now I have goals," Priet said, "I have a three year plan, a five year plan, and not just for business, but for my own personal goals.”

The Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture program was created by state lawmakers during the 2014 legislative session.

Senator Capito says she’s been working at the federal level to get more backing for the program, including more dollars.

“We want to help and do what we can for those people who put their lives on the line for us," Capito explained, "and there’s a lot of great volunteer spirit that has really sort of gotten this off the ground, and if we can just capitalize on that, I think it’d be pretty neat. And it’s perfect for West Virginia.”

Capito is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which recently passed its Military Construction Veterans budget. Part of that bill includes funding for a national study into agrotherapy and its benefits. The study will take place over the next year.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.