This Veteran Farmer Continues to Serve His Community

Fort Wayne farmer Rick Ritter is nearing the tip of one other harvest season on his seven-acre farm, positioned simply 20 minutes southwest of town. This 12 months, Ritter and his crew of volunteers have harvested greater than 5,000 kilos of produce destined for native soup kitchens. However rising fruit and veggies for these in want wasn’t all the time part of his plan.

Like his father and grandfather earlier than him, Ritter joined the Marine Corps in 1968, on the age of 20. His Father had served throughout World Battle II and his grandfather throughout World Battle I. Ritter enlisted through the peak of the Vietnam Battle. “I didn’t have the upbringing to query a lot of what was occurring in these days,” says Ritter. “I used to be taught to not query anybody…or something.”

Ritter skilled as a diesel mechanic, andhe  rose by the ranks to grow to be an E-5 sergeant and function an administrative chief. Throughout boot camp in Quantico, Virginia, Ritter sustained a knee damage that will finally lead to a medical discharge two-and-a-half years later. In April 1970, as an inpatient within the orthopedic ward, Ritter met a soldier who would change the course of his life eternally. This soldier had been critically injured in fight and had his arm amputated above the elbow. “He actually modified my fascinated with quite a lot of issues in my life,” Ritter recollects. “I owe him.”

After being discharged, Ritter went on to grow to be a PTSD trauma therapist on the Fort Wayne VA Clinic. He additionally frolicked working at Constitution Beacon, a psychiatric inpatient hospital, in addition to the Heart for Nonviolence, a company devoted to offering assist and advocacy to survivors of home violence. Finally, Ritter would work in non-public observe as a therapist for a few years earlier than deciding to retire. “I received into this work due to my time within the navy hospital. Since I survived, I noticed my work as a tribute to those that didn’t,” he says.

Retirement didn’t imply it was time for Ritter to cool down or to cease placing his power into serving to others. As a therapist, Ritter labored with many individuals who had been homeless or needy. “I by no means thought that the group assets had been sufficient to satisfy their wants,” says Ritter, who felt that “persons are all the time required to leap by too many hoops to get the assistance that they want.” So, he got down to eradicate these obstacles. 

In 2007, Ritter based Dick’s Organics, a company that he describes as a continuation of the work he did as a trauma therapist. “I’ve been blessed to proceed this work of therapeutic and sharing my abundance with others,” he says. What began as a modest three-acre plot has grown right into a seven-acre farm full with a 500-tree orchard, a number of beehives, a greenhouse and a wide range of rescue animals. Dick’s Organics is known as in honor of each Ritter’s father and grandfather who share the identify. His grandfather discovered peace in gardening after returning residence from World Battle I. “Working within the soil was therapeutic for him, even when it wasn’t formalized,” says Ritter, who continues this household custom.

In 2014, Ritter turned a licensed grasp gardener, and 5 years later, in 2019, Dick’s Organics turned a legally acknowledged 501c3 nonprofit. “Till then, we had been simply doing issues out of my pocket,” says Ritter. Now, the group is ready to settle for tax-deductible donations.

Annually, Dick’s donates a majority of its harvest to native organizations, together with St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, which has been feeding folks in want in downtown Fort Wayne since 1975. Ritter prides himself in donating high-quality natural produce. “The folks we serve deserve the most effective,” he says. 

Over time, Ritter has been capable of donate anyplace from 2,000 to five,000 kilos of meals yearly, relying on numerous elements. “One of many greatest variables is volunteer assist,” says Ritter, however issues reminiscent of climate, weeds and bug strain additionally affect the harvest. “We’ve got been blessed to have a gaggle of volunteers keen to place their backs into the work.”

Dick’s Organics is a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition in addition to the Indiana Farmers Union. Ritter believes that “networking is a key ingredient to being profitable in any degree of farming.” The Farmer Veteran Coalition “strives to develop significant careers for veterans by the collaboration of farming and navy communities,” he says, and it sponsors quite a lot of applications to this finish together with the Homegrown by Heroes product label. Often called the official farmer veteran branding program of America, Homegrown by Heroes certifies farmers of all navy eras and branches to label their merchandise as veteran-owned and produced. Though Dick’s Organics doesn’t provide merchandise commercially, it does carry the label. “Even when I don’t promote something, it’s vital to let different veteran farmers know that this branding is offered,” says Ritter.

Regardless of the arduous work that comes together with farming, Ritter is grateful to have the chance to develop and share the bounty of his farm with others. “Since I’ve outlived scores of my comrades, I cherish every day that I’m alive and ready to do that work,” he says. “Some say that on the age of 75 I ought to journey or chill out, however for me, it’s having a goal that drives me ahead.”