According to VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP), more than 60,000 Veterans died by suicide in the last decade. For those of us who serve our nation’s Veterans, that number is more than a statistic – it is a reminder that failing to address mental health needs carries real and tragic consequences.

OMHSP highlights that mental health challenges and suicide are affected by many factors, including lower income, unemployment and reduced social connection. Many of these factors are also prominent in rural communities, where Veterans have a 20% higher suicide rate than their urban counterparts.

Pilot pivots to FARMS

To address these and other challenges, in 2018 Congress directed VA to create a pilot program that provides Veterans with agricultural vocational training and mental health care services from licensed providers.

In response, VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH) partnered with several VA program offices to establish the VA Farming and Recovery Mental Health Services (VA FARMS) program at nine designated VA medical centers.

VA FARMS uses agritherapy, an approach that incorporates mental health care and services with agricultural vocational training, to support Veterans’ behavioral and mental health needs. ORH partners with a variety of stakeholders, including non-profit organizations, academic organizations and state governments to offer these services to rural Veterans.

By providing occupational skills, social connection and clinical care, VA FARMS addresses several of the factors that impact rural Veterans’ overall well-being.

You can learn more about the VA FARMS program by watching the video below. We also encourage you to visit our website at to learn more about how ORH programs support the health of rural Veterans nationwide.

Thomas Klobucar, Ph.D., is the Executive Director for VA’s Office of Rural Health

Northern Arizona VA Health Care System staff show their pink in front of the building for breast cancer awarenessVA “Pink Out!” promotes breast cancer awareness
Veterans talk at the Christmas luncheon put on by the Fayetteville Vet Center Dec. 13, 2019.Veterans find assistance, camaraderie at Vet Centers

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  1. John Micheal December 23, 2019 at 7:43 am

    It is so amazing to read this blog post, it is so great to see improvements as regards health and psychological issues related to Agriculture

  2. Marvin Paul Dorgan December 19, 2019 at 10:39 am

    I have an agriculture degree in Organic Farming and Gardening from the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) 1976.
    I also have a BA in Social Work from the University of Montana 1974.
    What employment opportunities are available in the FARM program?

  3. James Kerry December 18, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    It’s great to see that someone, somewhere is putting measures in place to address mental health issues among veterans. Most mental health issues are ignored until it’s too late. Fortunately, Agritherapy sounds like something that would help address that gap. Thanks Dr. Thomas and team for your great work.

    • Will Fox December 18, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      I never thought there could be a possible solution to this illness, am glad I found it. Thanks for sharing.

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