“Comfort Farms” is a powerful feature-length documentary coming soon to a screen near you.
After six tours overseas, a disheartened Combat Army Ranger turns the gun on himself, but when his young son walks in the room, he has a change of heart and starts one of the more progressive, interesting, and frankly ironic, farm-based vet therapy programs in the country.
Home after six tours overseas, losing several buddies along the way, combat veteran and Army Ranger Jon Jackson feels he’s lost his purpose to be a warrior. He sits watching his last sunset, gun in his lap. He’s at peace with his decision, until his son walks in the room. He has a realization.
He realizes that although PTSD is a real thing, it’s only one of many things leading to the post-war death of so many of his brothers and sisters. At war you have a clear and defined mission, you know what you’re doing and find purpose in doing it. A combat soldier experiences extreme ups and downs, returning home to the “grey” of the civilian world is a shock to a lot of these guys. Jon notices some parallels between combat and farming and, in Milledgeville, Georgia (known for being home to the famed late fiction writer Flannery O’Connor), after some trial and error, starts Comfort Farms, a Veteran therapy facility that uses what’s called agro-cognitive behavioral therapy to condition veterans back to the grey of the civilian world, much the same way they were conditioned to be warriors. The farm is named after his fallen brother Captain Kyle Comfort. However, the name, like so much of the story, is a kind of paradox. Comfort Farms is not meant to be a place of comfort, but a place where people move out of their comfort zone and confront the reality of things like death, truth, love, and sacrifice. Comfort Farms is not just a film about PTSD or veterans issues per se, but a film about the human condition—about the nature of sacrifice, love, life, death and triumph.
After serving six tours in the desert as a US Army Ranger and losing a bunch of buddies along the way, Jon Jackson watches his last sunset, sitting in his room, feeling like he’s lost what it means to be a warrior, gun in his lap-ready to end it all. But his young son walks in the room, and he comes to a realization. He realizes that although PTSD is a real thing, it’s only one of many things leading to the post-war death of so many of his brothers and sisters. At war you a have a clear and defined mission, you know what you’re doing and find purpose in doing it. A combat soldier experiences extreme ups and downs, returning home to the “grey” of the civilian world is a shock to a lot of these guys. Jon notices some parallels between combat and farming and through trial and error sets out to build a non-profit from scratch, in Milledgeville, Georgia, a place known for being home to the old state asylum and the home of the late famed fiction writer Flannery O’Connor. Using his resourcefulness as an army ranger, he develops a new kind of therapy program using agriculture, farming, and humane animal harvesting to help transition down and out vets back to the world of grey, a world quite different from the intense black and white world of military life. Comfort Farms, named after his fallen buddy Captain Kyle Comfort, is not a place of comfort at all, but a place meant to pull people out of their comfort zone. This is one of many paradoxes that come up in this multidimensional documentary. Comfort Farms is a place where people can experience love, hard work, failures and successes, the reality of death, the importance of honoring sacrifice, and great food to boot. Jon plans to use his “agro-cognitive behavioral therapy” to condition vets back into society, much the same way the military conditions vets to be soldiers. Jon notices the parallels between combat and farming. Instead of fighting a human enemy, the battle is against the elements, and most directly against ones’ own self. Jon joins up with Bryan Kyzer, a Louisiana chef, and expert in the way of humane, spiritual animal slaughter. According to Bryan, animals should know they’re loved, and their sacrifice should be respected. It’s essential that people know what goes on behind the scenes. That people realize where their food comes from, that an animal is losing its life for our sustenance. According to Bryan and Jon, the nature of the world is that something has to die for something else to live. A plant, an animal, even human beings have to die to make room for others. Instead of avoiding these truths, they should be faced straight on and even celebrated in certain cases. As things progress, Comfort Farms attracts some of the most notable chefs in the nation. Not only vets but all walks of life start to converge on Comfort Farms, country folks, curious neighbors, and big-city hipsters looking for truth and simplicity. Throughout the film, we hear the perspective of a number of vets. We hear from World War II combat vet Forest Giles Jr. who talks of the difficulties of returning home from the war in his day and the importance of taking care of our vets. We hear from several vets who offer surprising reasons for why they and others have had such a tough time transitioning back to society. Although PTSD is a real thing, it’s by far the only thing. Many of these other issues often fall by the wayside. Misdiagnosed with PTSD, it’s often overlooked that perhaps a soldier simply feels a lack of purpose after leaving a life with a clear and defined mission, a hands-on black and white world that has a kind of built-in purpose. A world of extreme ups and downs. According to Jon, Vets, most importantly, want a chance to serve again, to find meaning in what they do. Featuring music by Benji Hughes and Merge recording artists The Love Language and others, the film takes on a kind of poetic tone as we explore this interesting slice of American culture. Comfort Farms is not just a film about PTSD or veterans issues per se, but a film about the human condition, the nature of sacrifice, love, life, and death.