ASHLAND, Mo. (AP) — A newly established group in Ashland is selling tomato seeds and plants in order to donate funds to programs that rehabilitate veterans through agricultural therapy.
The group of "Victory Gardeners," as they call themselves, have collaborated with the family of Vietnam veteran Jerry Schuerenberg to start the Ivan Tomato Rescue Project, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Schuerenberg returned from Vietnam in 1968 and was traumatized from the experience. Her father was internalizing his memories of Vietnam, said Becky Whitworth, his daughter. She said his doctor recommended a hobby to keep him calm and occupied. As he healed emotionally, he found peace in the humid space of his greenhouses.
He took particular care of a rare heirloom tomato known as Ivan. His hobby turned into a business, the Heartland Family Nursery. It was one of the most popular stands at the Columbia Farmers Market, offering a wide variety of plants, flowers and many heirloom species.
The group's three members hope to sell Ivan tomato seeds and plants, rescue other dying varieties and inspire hope and healing among the veteran community.
"We not only want to be providers of the Ivan tomato," Hess said. "We very much want to find other plants that are locally adapted. to growing in (this) zone that are rare, that are falling away, that are in danger of going extinct."
The project donates 10 percent of its sales to agricultural therapy programs for veterans.