Veteran Farm Project: Healing through nature and nurture

Jessica Miller, pictured, and her husband Steve Murgatroyd operate the Veteran Farm Project in Hants County, Nova Scotia.

Jessica Miller, pictured, and her husband Steve Murgatroyd operate the Veteran Farm Project in Hants County, Nova Scotia.

Joanie Veitch
Trident Newspaper

T he property Jessica Miller and her husband Steve Murgatroyd bought in 2018 and now operate as the Veteran Farm Project in Hants County, Nova Scotia, had been abandoned for several years. The farmhouse was dilapidated and the seven acres it resided on was overgrown. 

They cleared the debris to make space for vegetable boxes and garden beds, and Murgatroyd built a small potting shed for Miller to plant seeds. 

She laughs now at the memory of the ramshackle property they saw that spring day at Sweet’s Corner, not knowing at the time what it would become.

“I knew it would be a lot of work, but I fell in love with it pretty much at first sight.”

Released from a 21-year career in the military, Miller was struggling with injuries, both physical and mental, and was hoping to find a place to heal and recover.

She had worked as a medic with Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Atlantic), served on Royal Canadian Navy ships, and completed a tour in Afghanistan.

Murgatroyd had also served in Afghanistan, and Bosnia before that, but it was in 2015 at home in Nova Scotia, on a highway near Truro, where he lost the lower half of his left leg after a car sideswiped him on his motorcycle.

They began to experience the healing and recovery that comes from being outdoors working on their farm. It was the early seeds of the Veteran Farm Project.

The idea took root after hearing about veterans and their families struggling financially and not being able to buy nutritious food. So, they harvested from her garden and created food packages of vegetables for delivery to veterans.

She reached out to Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command, for further support. Now, four years later, the Veteran Farm Project works with the Legion to identify veteran families and individuals in need, and then, with help from a dozen female volunteers, harvests, packages, and delivers fresh farm produce to 40 families and 150 individuals in mainland Nova Scotia, and another 30 families in Cape Breton.

Miller has created a healing farm and garden as well. She researched horticulture therapy programs and read books on mindful garden layout and purposeful planting. She thought carefully about how to build the structure of the farm while keeping the needs of the women volunteers in mind, many of whom are retired military dealing with trauma related to PTSD and other life events.

“In a typical farm you try to get as much out of the land as possible and use all the space, but we’re not about that. We’re about healing and coming together as a tribe of women. We support each other, that’s our purpose. The food we grow is the by-product of that.”

For more information about the Veteran Farm Project, visit

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