Joe Basel is the farm manager of Valor Farm for the National Center for Healthy Veterans. He attended the University of Minnesota, during which he was the Director of Sustainability at one of the largest dairy partnerships in North America. This opportunity opened the door for him to start looking into profitable and sustainable farming systems – something that he is planning on utilizing to benefit Valor Farm and its programs dedicated to veteran health.
Along with his wife, an investigative journalist, Joe was a part of a 500 staff organizational firm that worked with groups, people, and communities nationwide to improve and heal their communities. Through this, he recognized that every mid-to-large city needs the same thing: implementable plans to build affordable housing for vulnerable populations in the community. To fill this need, Joe and the firm began advising on the structure and building of tiny homes, which are 80% more affordable than the “affordable housing” commonly found in America. Not only is it more affordable, but as Joe and his firm found out, the design of tiny homes can actually facilitate healthier relationships amongst a community.
“Every single part of what we are building [here at the farm] is under the idea of healthy relationships promoting a healthy community. Little things add up. Little things like no backdoors on the homes, but front porches that face each other and have space for multiple rocking chairs.”
The current housing situation in the United States has been escalating since World War II when the common design for modern houses began. They no longer face each other or are oriented to where people get to see and know their neighbors. This is an extremely isolating system; however, for decades, it seemed that all was well. Then, at the beginning of this year, when COVID-19 hit and reality became digital and remote commuting, the situation was exacerbated to show just how detrimental it has become for society.
“You don’t need neighbors if you’re okay,” says Joe Basel. “You don’t need neighbors if you’re healthy or you have a great marriage. You don’t need neighbors if your job is great and you have enough money. You need neighbors when you don’t have a job or can’t put groceries on the table. The bottom line is, you need other healthy relationships if you’re going to be healthy in every part of your life.”
Addressing the social dilemma at hand, Joe explains that the housing arrangement and its destructive effects on relationships in communities is an American problem, not just a veteran one. But because of the dignity and respect owed to the men and women who have served our country, the National Center for Healthy Veterans has chosen to focus its efforts at Valor Farm, specifically on veterans.
Through the building of 100 tiny homes in four community groups of 25 each, Joe and those at Valor Farm hope to start readdressing this societal and relational issue. They plan to do this through two avenues: first, by arranging the homes to allow for interaction between neighbors without violating personal space; and second, putting communal activities such as doing laundry or watching TV in the community centers to promote healthy group interchanges.
“We all suffer from less healthy relationships than the age of our grandparents. We may think we have more relationships because of things like social media, but we actually have less healthy, less trust-based relationships. But we also want to make sure each person [at the farm] still has dignity and the assurance of their private spaces in which belongings are safe and can take time for themselves. Both parts, community and dignity, are essential to the process of healing.”
Valor Farm is a prototype for what the National Center for Healthy Veterans wants to see built for other people, other communities, and other vulnerable populations across the nation. All of the individual programs and processes they are implementing have been done before in separation. And all have been based on scientific research and proven successful. However, this is the first time they will be combined.
The biggest difference the National Center for Healthy Veterans hopes to make in veterans’ lives is providing a residential, on-site recovery program that can last as long as each individual needs. A big problem with intensives or counseling is that this is still a concept of isolation, and true healing is never done alone. Joe Basel and those at Valor Farm are promoting the atmosphere in which a veteran can take a break, breathe, and get healthy through their own personalized development plan, all the while surrounded by people who will support and help them get healthy.
“When these veterans are ready and truly want to put in the work [of recovery], we will be here with all of the proven principles, a world class equestrian center, many diversified opportunities for dignified work on-site, and a tiny home for them to live in.”
Valor Farm will be a valuable asset to the community, providing a safe and restoring environment for veterans, and establishing a precedent for helping vulnerable populations across the nation. And with Joe’s vast experience in sustainable farming processes, it will be producing fresh agricultural products that will benefit both those living on the farm and local customers. Personally overseeing the construction of the tiny homes and all farm operations, Joe’s goal and vision for Valor Farm is to see it give all who stay there or visit hope. The National Center for Healthy Veterans and, consequently, Valor Farm is about saving lives. While it might not look the same or function identically, Joe and his team want to inspire and encourage others to commit to helping people directly in a tangible way.
Donate Today to Support the National Center for Healthy Veterans: https://newhorizonsfoundation.com/waystodonate?pid=2280-national-center-for-healthy-vete&Itemid=105