Project Victory Gardens is a unique veteran-led non-profit farm that was founded by Kara and Matthew Rutter in 2019. It is dedicated to animal therapy, farm education for military members, veterans, and their families, and agri-therapy, located on 20 lovely acres of land in Aiken, South Carolina.

Between them, Kara and Matthew have a combined 45 years of military service under their belts. When they retired from the Army, they wanted to continued serving their country by helping veterans.

Kara told WSAV that many veterans getting out of the military want to get back to the land, put down roots in one place, after traveling around the world. Nature provides a lot of healing in and of itself.

The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, recently asked the Rutters to help with a beekeeping program they wanted to start with their spinal cord injury patients.

This unrelated 1:10-minute video by 60 Second Docs shows us how bees help veterans heal:



Along with Allen Johnson, VA recreational therapist and master beekeeper, they started hosting veterans this month at Project Victory Gardens in their bee yard, for “up close and personal” bee experiences.

Project Victory Gardens uses horizontal Langstroth hives, which are disability- and wheelchair-friendly. There is also no heavy lifting needed, unlike traditional hives, and this is a big plus since it can be an impediment to beekeeping.

In a recent interview with Southern Living, Kara explained that beekeeping is a wonderful hobby for veterans, especially those who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The Rutters and Johnson are teaching veterans about beekeeping so they can manage their mental health challenges.

Mindfulness is an essential practice for both working with bees and for those struggling with PTSD and TBI symptoms. Kara said that bees react to the energy they receive and provide immediate biofeedback when they feel threatened. When approached in a calm and reflective way, the interaction will be positive for all concerned.

Johnson told WSAV that helping people to be present produces stress relief. It keeps us from making stressful mistakes and provides a lot of healing that we can miss when we are not connected to nature.