Weeds and seeds air force

Weeds and seeds air force

DENVER — For Zephrine Hanson, farming is healing. She believes a garden reflects your mental and physical health.

“Maybe I’m not giving myself enough water. Maybe I’m not being patient with the seeds I’ve planted. Maybe I need to spend some more time getting the weeds out of my garden,” she illustrated.

Zephrine Hanson is the founder of and a farmer at Hampden Farms . She is also the Development and Strategic Partnership Coordinator at FrontLine Farming and the Lavender Farmer for Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms .

Colorado Voices

Veteran finds healing through farming, and lavender

Veteran Zephrine Hanson started farming to heal and now hopes to be a community weaver

While Hanson was very interested in farming at a young age, it took her a few decades to find her way to it. Hanson joined the Air Force after high school and became a photojournalist. When she left the Air Force, her passion for health, healing, and wellness—for herself and her family—became a large priority.

Hanson, her husband, and three children moved to Colorado, and she began talking with other veterans about her passions. A fellow veteran shared the Chatfield Farms Veterans Program that helps veterans develop valuable skills for a career in farming. Hanson applied.

The program consists of what Hanson calls “university work” or “bookwork” as well as hands-on work with the plants. The time spent with plants was very healing for her, “even when it’s a bit noisy,” she said, laughing as a small plane hummed overhead.

During the program, the veterans worked with lavender, which Hanson already had a personal connection with: Her children had eczema when they were younger, and she frequently made them a natural body butter with the plant. While in the program, Hanson made it again as a gift—a gift of physical healing.

Hanson cutting lavender with her son at Chatfield Farms.

She asked her instructors what was going to happen to all the lavender, which is primarily used for display. “They said, ‘Go ahead, Zephrine, have at it,’” she recalled. And so she became in charge of maintaining the lavandins—yes, lavandins.

Lavandin is a naturally occurring hybrid between English lavender (the most well-known type) and Portuguese lavender. While there are many differences between lavandin and lavenders, the most prominent are in size, oil production, and smell. Hanson explained that lavandin is generally taller, produces more oil (although considered lower quality), and smells more herbal, or “medicinal.” Lavandins are also sterile.

Hanson also started her own farm after finishing the veteran’s program in 2017. Hampden Farms is a “backyard micro farm and also a farm business,” she explains.

She quickly found how difficult it was to make a living as a farmer. “And that’s unacceptable,” she declared. Through her farm, she hopes to be a source of community connection.

Working with organizations and farms like Frontline Farming, East Denver Food Hub, and Mile-High Farmers, Hanson focuses on “how to grow a business while farming and make it profitable. Farmers should have thriving wages. Ag workers should have thriving wages.”

In this work, she weaves in her lavender. She is currently looking at how profitable lavender can be while collaborating with the farming community. Profitability can be challenged by various factors. “We lost plants this year, right. So that’s going to impact how much money you can make with lavender,” she explained.

Through her connection with the gardens, she provides locally sourced lavender to companies and organizations in the area. She explains that it can be used in a variety of ways to ensure maximum profitability: “People, when they order their flower CSA, they can order a lavender CSA…Collaborating with other local makers and providing lavender for a product. And then collaboratively selling products that go along with that.”

Hanson hopes to continue collaborating with organizations that are already doing this work.

“They already have products,” she said. “They already are working on hubs. They do workshops and classes. What they do need is financial support. They don’t need anybody to tell them how to do it.”

Hanson believes that this work—community wealth building—is also a form of healing.

“All these things are connected. Like that’s what people don’t understand…Everything you do in farming connects you to healing.”

Clarissa Guy is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at [email protected] .

Air Force Wants Ray Guns for ‘Weed Prevention’

The Air Force is looking to hire a gardener — preferably one with ray guns. You see, just like the rest of us, the military is embarrassed by their unkempt, weed-filled backyards. They’ve tried spraying those pesky weeds with toxic herbicides, but chemicals are expensive and — this was news to me — apparently, when […]

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The Air Force is looking to hire a gardener — preferably one with ray guns. You see, just like the rest of us, the military is embarrassed by their unkempt, weed-filled backyards. They’ve tried spraying those pesky weeds with toxic herbicides, but chemicals are expensive and — this was news to me — apparently, when you spray Round-Up on a dandelion, it doesn’t instantly turn black and swoon and shrivel up, like it does in the commercials. Manual weeding takes forever — and besides, fighter jocks aren’t paid to mow the lawn.

So when hand-to-hand combat and chemical warfare fail, what’s left to do? Zap the bastards.

Every so often, the Air Force asks small businesses for research proposals on a dizzying array of topics. The most recent list includes 160 projects, one of which is titled “Floral Disruptor – Directed Energy Weed Abatement and Prevention Tool”. The objective: “Develop a device that uses directed energy technology to prevent and abate unwanted plants (weeds) in areas that require control or defoliation. The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.”

If you’re wondering, yes, you’re right — “directed-energy” is a compound adjective that typically precedes “weapons,” as in lasers, pain rays, and sonic weapons.

The military spends millions of dollars on weed control every year, and they’re looking for someone who can make the unwanted plants go away for good. Someone with an idea for a clover-zapping laser cannon, or maybe a microwave-radiating, dandelion-patch-destroying fighter jet.

The Air Force wants its plant-zapper to get rid of weeds, and “protect wildlife at the same time,” as the call for research notes. After all, “herbicide use generally has negative impacts on bird populations.”

But think of the weeds, those poor, unsuspecting plants, who’ve been branded as undesirables for their entire lives. They’re wildlife too. One minute, they’re just sidling up to a cinder-block wall or butting in on a patch of petunias, and the next, they’re wilting to their melty demise, wishing they could have lived to spread their seed one more time, or watch their offspring germinate.

As ridiculous as it may sound to suggest weeding with directed energy, an Air Force representative told Danger Room that they’re not asking anyone to reinvent the wheel. They’ve looked into the idea enough to believe it’s feasible and, perhaps, even practical.

Private industry is already hard at work engineering herbological catastrophes. They’ve tested microwave radiation, lasers, thermal technologies (e.g. foam, hot water, steam, quenched hot gases) and, perhaps the cruelest of all, sound, to get rid of the unwanted plants. Sound, says the research call, can be used to “deter, disrupt, deny, or degrade” weeds. Just yell at your weed until it’s so emotionally haggard, it decides it can’t go on anymore.

The aforementioned Air Force rep, though very friendly, was officially unable to share his name or any details about whether progress has been made in developing directed-energy gardening products. He did say, however, that if a product along these lines is developed for the military, chances are it will make its way into the consumer market as well. That’s how these things usually work.

Submissions for phase-one proposals are due electronically at 6 a.m. on January 11. If you can think of the best way to wreak havoc on weeds, you win a nine-month research grant worth up to $150,000. So get cracking, all you gardeners who have ever harbored thoughts of herbicide. (Frickin’ sharks not eligible.)