NORTH STONINGTON — From the second floor space where she practices holistic medicine at the Holly Green Plaza, Dr. Stefana Pecher can see the red roofs of her new farm across the road.
Pecher, 48, who has operated the Country Doc Walk-in and Wellness Center at 391 Norwich-Westerly Road (Route 2) since 2004, intends to operate the 33-acre farm as a healing center for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
“In keeping with our vision of what we see as healing for the community, we came up with the idea of forming a nonprofit that will reintegrate veterans through agriculture and forestry,” she said at her office Wednesday.
When the ground thaws this spring, a concrete slab will be poured for a Morton building that will be used year-round as a growing facility, focusing on farm-to-table herbs and vegetables.
“We also want to put up two hoop buildings and grow some hemp in conjunction with UConn as a pilot program,” she said.
Pecher, an M.D., received her degree from the First Faculty of Medicine of Charles University, in Prague, Czech Republic. In August, she partnered with an artist, Christopher Morrissey, 34, of Stonington, to buy the farm from Eric and Kathie Kallen for $363,000.
Pecher said that as a veteran, Eric Kallen was particularly supportive of her mission.
Under the moniker Better Together CT Inc., the farm will also offer community activities such as art therapy, farming and crafts for seniors, Native Americans, and children.
“One of our first projects is a community sewing circle with tribal ladies, community women and even a few men,” Pecher said. “Our first project will be a community quilt.” Ten sewing machines, fabric and thread have already been donated for the project.
Pecher has hired a veteran, Drew Schnell, who has experience in agriculture, as farm manager. Troy Zaushny, of the Hygenic Art Galleries in New London, will direct the art therapy program.
In one of the red-roofed buildings, the farm will operate a country store, selling handcrafts and other items.
The town is also in favor of creating a farmers market on site and several local restaurants have expressed interest in buying produce for their farm-to-table menus, Pecher said.
But the project doesn’t stop there.
In April, Pecher and Morrissey also bought a 4,200-square-foot building, to the rear of Holly Green, from the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation.
The new space, currently being renovated, will house the New England Center of Excellence for Holistic Medicine.
Inside, Pecher has already installed a float pod, a 1,600-pound giant bathtub with a lid that holds water imbued with Epsom salts.
“You lay in there and there’s so much salt that you’re weightless and you can’t sink,” Pecher said. The pod’s benefits include relaxation, improved athletic performance and relief from joint and back pain.
The center will also include a test kitchen, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, a physical therapy gym and a Himalayan salt cave that has healing qualities for respiratory ailments. Acupuncture, group massage, psychotherapy and yoga are among the services Pecher plans to offer. The facility will also have a gathering space available for events such as weddings and parties.
If the renovations proceed as planned, the float pod, physical therapy and acupuncture services will open in about two weeks.
Pecher is also a longtime proponent of medical marijuana for patients with chronic conditions. She said the new facilities will allow her to lower the price of a patient’s certified medical marijuana card from $250 to $175. She will not grown marijuana on the farm because the state did not grant the necessary permit.
At the farm, Pecher visited with King, a 38-year-old quarter horse that is still owned by the Kallens.
“He came with the farm so we named our newsletter for Better Together CT ‘King’s Gold,” Pecher said.
She said being with animals and working on the farm is especially healing for her veteran patients, who often have difficulty trusting their doctors.
“Over time I’ve learned what’s lacking in their life medically and the different modalities that they need to help them with traumatic brain injury and PTSD,” she said. “Traditional medications just aren’t working and the more I delved into holistic approach, I found these things do work.”
Morrissey said farming added an environmental connection to the healing process.
“There’s a spiritual connection to the earth, taking care of each other and the planet,” he said. “When you help other people you help yourself, it’s all connected.”