Hilo’s innovative agriculture program helps military veterans build a new future
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – John and Emily Emmons started Hoola Farms in 2015 after leaving the military. Working with his hands to grow things has helped mend the wounds of war.
âIt got us to understand that being outside in nature and growing the food we were growing actually helped bond and grow our families again,â said Emily Emmons.
The Hilo-based farm training program gives veterans a taste of working in farming, from getting started on farming to more in-depth advice on how to turn a farm into a small business.
âWe have reached over 300 veterans and their families during the seven years of operation,â said Emmons.
Joshua Black is one of them. He served in combat during his career in the United States Navy, then fought to find his place as a civilian. Now he has his own farm.
âYou have a mission. You watch these products or whatever you grow flourish. Along the way there are all these tasks and goals that you need to achieve. It is not something instantaneous. It’s not instant gratification, âBlack said.
Many of the men and women who took Hoola’s programs suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some were homeless. Emmons knew that farming could help.
âI believed and saw in others that they were thriving and learning to survive and navigate a new normal, learning to survive,â she said.
Through agricultural training, Black found his calling. Now he sells much of what he grows and donates the rest to a veterans center.
âIn the military, you learn a lot of habits and work orders and how to develop a mission and develop a plan, develop something. It correlates with agriculture, âBlack said.
Hoola has received a lot of help from the US Department of Agriculture, GoFarm Hawaii, and other organizations. Emmons won a national award for his work.
âWe’ve probably had 20 veterans who went into production farming or worked with other farming businesses since we started. One of the things that we think is important in our programs is the ability to know what you want to do and what you don’t want, âshe said.
The non-profit organization is also helping civilian settlers get into farming and launching new programs to reach more veterans.
To learn more about Hoola Farms, click here.
Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.