You know how it is when you’re planning to start a sexy barbecue joint and you end up founding a sustainable, non-profit farm that gives refuge and new life to military vets with PTSD? Happens all the time－am I right?
Well, maybe not, but it happened to former U.S. Army Ranger Jon Jackson. Kathryn and I got the story directly from Jon, who is a helluva guy on one helluva life mission. That’s why we think you ought to know about Jon and his creation Comfort Farms, just outside of Milledgeville, GA.
From Barbecue Joint to Therapeutic Farm
When Jackson retired in 2015 from an 11-year military career, including combat duty in the Middle East, he did so with a disabling traumatic brain injury and a bad case of his own PTSD. In civilian terms, he’s seen some sh*t. He’d lost many friends in combat zones, but the loss that hit him the hardest was Captain Kyle A. Comfort, who’s body Jon received after Kyle stepped on an IED that set off a Complex Ambush which led to an extensive firefight.
Once home, Jon got the idea of starting a barbecue restaurant. But just like in his previous career, Jackson knew he needed to train on all aspects of the mission to achieve his desired outcome. That meant going straight to the source. He bought a hog farm and taught himself the tenets of sustainable small-farm agriculture. In addition to hogs, he came to raise chickens, turkeys and ducks, and added heirloom fruits and vegetables to the mix.
He named the 35 rich acres after his old friend: Comfort Farms.
A Different Kind of Comfort
What’s in a name? Comfort Farms was named after his buddy, but then Jon found himself making a strong emotional connection with the farm. Fully disabled from his combat experiences, he discovered that the place gave his racing brain something positive to latch onto. When focusing on the endless chores and responsibilities of running an income-producing parcel of land, he had less time for the darker places his mind could go when left unattended.
Was this something he could bring to the benefit of his equally troubled brothers and sisters in arms?
He invited the seemingly struggling vets, and they came. Some for a day, others for weeks or months. One or two have never left. But it wasn’t actually comfort that they found here. Not the easy-peasy kind. It was a chance to fight their way back out of the darkness through hard work, purpose, and camaraderie with others who understand and care and fight similar demons.
As Jon told us, “We grow through discomfort.”
So there’s “discomfort” out here, but also love, respect, acceptance, humor, peace, serenity and structure. Jackson is a big believer in the restorative power of nature. Since 2016, he’s given hundreds of veterans who are at the end of their ropes a sense of hope, of value, in a structured environment where they’re rubbing elbows with other vets facing similar obstacles and challenges.
Comfort Farms grows and butchers livestock, filling the orders of chefs from many of the finest restaurants in the state. They host a farmer’s market every Saturday so thousands of consumers can experience the fruits, vegetables and meat cuts that have earned the farm’s reputation.
In addition, he started a sweat lodge for ceremonies related to the act of humanely and respectfully butchering livestock.
How can you not wanna have this guy’s back?
Jon also hosts special dinners and events, the likes of which have caught the attention of the Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food, and even an award-winning documentary.
Veterans are still coming. More than before. Some live close enough that they go home in the evenings. Others, Jon has put up in a local motel for a night or two. Many more sleep in tents or drop their bedrolls right under the stars over Comfort Farms.
That didn’t seem quite right to Jon, or to Jennifer Lassen at the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (GMHA). Kathryn and I are grateful that Jennifer enlisted the support of The Mobile Home Park Broker, among other organizations, to help fund the establishment of two double-wide mobile homes on the property. They will be used for the short-term housing of veterans who are looking for comfort.
Jon’s mind is constantly coming up with new ideas. One of the next goings-on will be a certification course in sustainable farming conducted by a consortium of universities. They’ll teach the course right on the property, and Jon hopes some of his newfound vet friends will take part.
As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I couldn’t be prouder of the tiny part MHP now gets to play in helping bring new possibilities to vets who feel that there are obstacles everywhere, no roads left to go down.
Hopefully, Jon Jackson gets around to starting that sexy BBQ joint. Just like everything else he puts his mind to, it’s sure to be a labor of love.
To learn more about Jon Jackson and his labor of love in Milledgeville, GA, check out the Comfort Farms Facebook Group.
Want to get involved? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-932-0200.