Ducks, fruit trees, fish, goats and several veterans and military families were part of Saturday afternoon's scene at 414 Wire Road, in the midst of a military-appreciation event with emphasis on agriculture.

Relaxation and education were major parts of the package, with Matthew and Kara Rutter opening their 20-acre tract and offering fellowship and free food and refreshments for veterans and their active-duty compatriots to learn more about agricultural therapy and animal therapy. They speak from experience, as Matthew is preparing to retire from the Army, as a command sergeant major; and Kara is similarly wrapping up her Army career, as a sergeant major. 

Realtor Stephanie Slade, with Meybohm Real Estate, helped organize the event and gave it a thumbs-up review, estimating the crowd at 100. "It is really nice to bring people together," she commented, noting a wide variety of visitors. She described the gathering as a military celebration. 

The Rutters are the minds and muscle behind Project Victory Gardens, which was described in an August 2019 Aiken Standard story as focusing on "agricultural therapy and animal therapy opportunities for military veterans, active-duty military personnel and others."

They spent part of Saturday afternoon in show-and-tell mode, focusing on the animals, plants and facilities at the Wire Road facility, which has a freshly stocked pond as a major feature and and is described on its website as a "veteran-owned farm focused on cultivating resiliency." 

During Saturday's gathering, Kara Rutter said the main idea is to "provide a venue for veterans, specifically, but really the community at large, to come out and learn about farming, learn really where their food comes from, and take it all the way from farm to table."

Plans are for building a teaching kitchen, for use in classes, to further the process. "We officially stood up our business last year, and we've kind of been plugging away ... using this as a facility for a lot of our own soldiers and people we know to come out."

She added that "just by being around the farm animals and digging in the dirt, you gain a certain resiliency, and it's really important to our veterans and our military families that we offer that to them, because it's so stress-relieving to be back on the land and doing that manual labor, and getting your hands in the dirt ... and we've had pretty troubled kids come out here and sit and hold a chicken for an hour with a smile on their faces, and there's nothing more rewarding than that."

The concept of "victory gardens" is largely linked to World War I and World War II, when governments encouraged people on the home front to grow their own food, both as a morale booster and to aid the war effort by strengthening the food supply.  

More recently, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a March article in Southern Living noted that such gardens "can improve your family’s diet and/or mental health by getting outside and taking positive action, no matter how ambitious or modest it is." It added, "Sunshine, fresh air, and rediscovering your creative side beats watching 24-hours news any day of the week."

The Rutters' business was announced this month by the S.C. Dept. of Agriculture as a grant-winner, as were six others, all earning a share of  $125,000 "based on their business plans, presentations and demonstrated history of business success." The announcement noted that the Rutters "will expand their agritherapy and agricultural education program for military veterans, including building a teaching kitchen."