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Healing Veterans Holistically on the Farm of Dreams: The Road to Ananda

Grow facilities and tiny house living quarters on the upstate New York property of Veteran's Ananda. All photos courtesy of HappyHealing420 LLC.
Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Sarah Stenuf, a United States Army Apache helicopter mechanic turned influential cannabis educator. In addition to her widespread work with the Cannabis Cultural Association (including the notable class-action suit against the Department of Justice), Stenuf is a trusted voice for veterans seeking to heal themselves holistically. Her newest nonprofit, Veteran’s Ananda, brings all components of treatment into harmony on farmland in upstate New York.

By Gary Schwartz

I became friends with Sarah Stenuf several years ago when we were speakers on a panel about coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for the cannabis educational organization A Rebel Minded Society. Together with Leo Bridgewater, a former Army Telecommunications Specialist who is now co-founder of the New Jersey Cannabis Commission and New Jersey Chapter President of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, we shocked the panel’s moderator with detailed glimpses into how PTSD-related struggles have affected our private lives.

I was personally moved by Sarah’s story and how she was dealing with life after the military, brain injury, and so much more than I ever could have imagined in my twenties. Sarah discussed transitioning from harmful medications to treating herself with cannabis and CBDs, and how this change irrevocably improved the quality of her life. That day I saw that this veteran was a force to be reckoned with. She made it her mission to help other vets and PTSD sufferers by giving them the real information about cannabis and hemp. Over the course of the next two years, Sarah spoke about her medical journey at dozens of cannabis conferences and events.

After a time, Sarah was being recognized as an advocate for cannabis legalization and the plant’s use as medicine for veterans. Her Facebook posts and videos showed that she was getting traction on this issue, helping vets throughout the nation wean off prescription medication and move toward CBDs and other cannabis products. Somehow this wasn’t enough for Sarah and she wanted to do more.

Then came Veteran’s Ananda: Sarah dreamed of a place of bliss and divine joy for those veterans in need of a place to reconnect and recharge. (Ananda is a global spiritual movement, derived from a Sanskrit word, where believers are led to achieve conscience bliss and enthrall their minds.) It’s funny how I distinctly remember telling Sarah that gardening helped me manage my PTSD. Just being out in nature, digging in the dirt, planting and caring for vegetables and flowers, was better than any Xanax given to me for stress. Sarah wanted to give all people a chance to find their peaceful place inside, a retreat from the chaos of modern living.

Battling back from depression, PTSD, and the malaise that occurs with lack of purpose, Sarah ultimately created that place of healing. After filling out a mountain of paperwork, applications, and endless emails, Sarah signed an agreement giving her stewardship of 68 acres of land in upstate New York. The 501(C)(3) nonprofit Veteran’s Ananda Homestead and Retreat was born.

Soon after the papers were signed, Sarah and her family moved in. Sarah’s HappyHealing420 LLC purchased the land, but they are still not “open for business.” To set up this Ananda will take hard work and partners. Veteran’s Ananda made a deal with the amazing students of the “Tiny House” Program at Tippecanoe High School in Ohio, where they are designing and constructing micro-homes for the farm. These eco-friendly structures will house veterans and their families when they visit the retreat and participate in various programs.

New York State’s first DEA-licensed hydroponically-grown hemp crop is sprouting at Veteran’s Ananda.

Sarah has also received her first batch of CBD-rich hemp seeds to grow through the end of 2018, all approved by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Her hemp crop will be the first DEA-licensed hydroponic hemp grown in New York State. However, hemp will be far from the nonprofit’s only crop, as Sarah wants it to be a fully functioning farm. The chicken coop is ready, and plans are being made to acquire all the needed livestock and farm equipment to adequately plant and process the various crops.

The progress is quite astonishing, but there is no time to sit around. Already Sarah is back on the road fundraising and heightening public awareness about Veteran’s Ananda. She has done podcasts, spoken at any meeting that would let her talk, and cultivates a large social media presence. This former Apache Gunship Crew Chief is on a mission to better America! With Veteran’s Ananda as an answer to society’s apathy, I see no possible outcome but success.

To learn more about Sarah Stenuf’s advocacy and resources for veterans, visit the Veteran’s Ananda site veteransananda.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Follow Sarah’s HappyHealing420 LLC on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. For more about the Cannabis Cultural Association, visit cannacultural.orgor follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Based on Long Island, Gary Schwartz is the owner and creator of the bestselling cannabis-themed game Roll-a-Bong, as well as owner and chief designer of Quantum RPGs-3D Tabletop Gaming. He has over 25 years of experience in the game design industry. Gary is also a writer, comics artist, and science educator. For more information, visit roll-a-bong.com or follow on Instagram at @roll_abong.

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