The brewery pledged in October to donate 25 cents for every Hoppy Tonk IPA sold, as well as 15 percent of the store’s sales Nov. 11, to Veterans Hill Farm.
Ray Russell, formerly of Mt. Juliet, who now lives in Gainesboro, founded Veterans Hill Farm and presented Rock Bottom Brewery brewmaster Tomas Mercado with a certificate of appreciation for their donation.
Russell started farm work as a way to keep himself occupied. Little did he know how much relief the work would give him.
“I just really busted my rear end and started getting the barn set up,” said Russell. “In that process, you know, every time I went down to feed the chickens they would all line up and come up to me, and I would interact with them. I haven’t been working since I was diagnosed. My late wife passed away four years ago and it really hit me with my PTSD. So, while I was working the farm and everything I saw how much it was helping me. I had been seeing a therapist but I hadn’t really been feeling good, and I noticed what the farm was doing for me, so I thought, I got to make other people feel the way I do.”
What Russell came up with was a project called Veterans Hill Farm, a 30-acre piece of land he’s currently in the process of converting into a refuge for veterans like himself who suffer from PTSD.
What Russell hopes will happen is that those who suffer can come work and live on the farm, where they will learn skills such as yoga, martial arts and cooking and hopefully find the same peace that Russell himself was able to find.
“We have a farm-fresh chef who wants to come over here and teach how to make farm-fresh food, healthy and easy,” said Russell. “That’s a big thing right there, because people don’t realize how much health issues are attributed to PTSD. There’s a ton of heart attacks involved with PTSD, because anything stress related, we get multiplied.”
According to Russell, the project is still in phase one of a three-phase plan. Russell estimates it will cost about $100,000 to finish clearing the land for the farm, which he hopes to raise by the end of 2018.
Once the land is cleared, Russell wants to build tiny houses to house the veterans who live on the farm. He estimates it will cost a total of $500,000 to complete the project, money he is hoping to raise by July 2019.
“The biggest thing right now is exposure,” said Russell. “We just got to get the word out there. I want this to be a national thing.”
According to Mercado, the brewery is currently working on a partnership with Veteran Hill Farms which will allow the brewery to sell beer year-round and dedicate a piece of the profits to the project.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Russell. “We’re very thankful to them for what they’re doing for us. I just want to get the word out there. People don’t realize how much help is needed for PTSD. Right now 22 of us are dying every day from suicide, and we only represent 1.3 percent of the population. We represent a higher percent of the population with suicide than any other group.”
More information about Veterans Hill Farm may be found at veteranshillfarm.com. The GoFundMe page for the project is at gofundme.com/veterans-hill-farm, and Russell may be reached by email at email@example.com.