Veteran provides agricultural training in Ventura Country to help other veterans succeed

Lawrence Parkhill founded Veteran Farmers of America (VFA) to help other veterans who are struggling to adapt to civilian life.

"After I got out of the Marine Corp, I was kind of struggling to find something that I really enjoyed or fit into," Parkhill said.

His personal experiences helped motivate him to help others. VFA trains veterans through a paid internship program in farms across Ventura County.

The agricultural training helps them find employment and fight depression.

"A big part of that is not having any opportunity, or not having anything meaningful to fill that void after their service," Parkhill said.

Merely creating the opportunity for veterans to thrive in a non-military setting is the goal of VFA.

"The main role is to help our veterans transition better back home," program director Julie Sardona said.

Over a dozen people have completed the program, and Army veteran Paul Rangere succeeded with help from VFA.

Upon completing the internship program, he was hired at Mission Produce and now works with Parkhill at VFA as a support manager at the company.

"To be able to have a job that's going to provide for a future and not just for now, more of a career, that's awesome," Rangere said.

Air Force veteran Robert Barnett is also a graduate of the internship program, and he was able to build a career in manufacturing "value added" products.

"For these folks to do some hand-holding and show you what's possible just makes the biggest difference," Barnett said.

VFA has big plans for growth in the upcoming year. They just received a $20,000 grant and plan on hiring at least 24 more veterans this year.

"When I hear a veteran say 'Thank you VFA for providing me and my family with a future,' and that it helped them feel better about who they are, and it decreased their depression and how they feel about themselves, then I'll do this every day and help every veteran I can," Sardona said.
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