Sandoval County farm helps veterans overcome PTSD

New Mexico News

PENA BLANCA, N.M. (KRQE) – A little farm in Sandoval County is making a big difference, helping veterans recover from their service, one green chile at a time.

Ricardo Victorino finds his peace picking green chile at Fresh Possibilities Farm in Pena Blanca.

“I love it,” Victorino said. “It is peaceful and quiet. What is not to love?”

However, that peace was not easy to come by.

“Before I started farming, my PTSD was pretty bad,” Victorino said. “Anger, guilt…I think a lot of us go through the survivor’s guilt, and that has a lot to do with not understanding why we are here.”

The Marine Corps and Army veteran is one of about a dozen veterans who Robert and Monica Pizana have hired on their 1.5 acre farm. Monica started the farm three years ago after seeing her husband, Robert, suffering from PTSD as well.

“She said, we should do this and start it and help veterans,” Robert said. “They are working with their hands. They are giving life instead of taking life.”

Not only does the farm benefit veterans, it benefits all of Sandoval County. They provide the county 3,000 pounds of chile a month, and 5,000 pounds of tomatoes a season through the Sprouting Sandoval initiative.

“This is a way that we can contract locally, source locally and feed locally while really supporting all the best that Pena Blanca has to offer,” Sandoval County community services director Anne Ryan said.

While the work Victorino is doing is helping others, he said this farm is transforming him.

“By the grace of God, I am changed. I am new, better and peaceful,” Victorino said.

Victorino has been at the farm for all three years. He now plans to go to Bible School and help other veterans get into farming.

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