A couple that own and run Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville honor their son's memory, military service, and love of bees.

If you make your way Pleasant Hill Blueberry Farm in Fennville you will be greeted with a scene so breathtaking, it looks like a painting filled with vivid red and Shirley poppies, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and cornflowers.

Courtesy of Pleasant Hill Farm
Courtesy of Pleasant Hill Farm

John and Joan Donaldson adopted their sons, Carlos and Mat, in 1986. The couple says as the boys became pre-teens, two grandfatherly figures in their life introduced the boys to beekeeping. The interest became a love and a small business that Carlos and Mat ran until they left for college and enlisted into military service. The family started planting the fields for the bees and kept up the tradition after they grew up as the fields fed pollinators.

Mat, Army Sgt. Mateo Donaldson, spent about 15 years in the service, first in the Navy, and then he transferred into the Army. Mat served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. His mother says when he returned he suffered from the effects of PTSD. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Mat died on February 19, 2015. He is buried close to his family's farm at Fennville Cemetery.

In 2018, we planted the field near the cemetery as it was close to Mat's grave and we felt it was a way to honor him. We were stunned by the reaction of people who found out about it. Slowly, we came to realize that people are hungry for beauty and simple flowers can fill that void in an outdoor setting. So we do this to make people happy. And Mat would have liked that as he liked to grow flowers and often helped other people. ~Joan Donaldson

Once a small field of flowers out of the public eye, now sprawls across 4 acres on their farm. The public is not only welcome but encouraged to come enjoy the peace and beauty the flowers provide. There are only two rules when visiting: 1.) Do not walk on the flowers and 2.) Do not pick the flowers. These beauties won't wait forever though. The poppies are at peak bloom right now and by the 4th of July, they'll be gone.

June is PTSD awareness month. If you or someone you know suffers from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, they are not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,  there are currently 8 million people in the U.S. with PTSD. There are treatments and they do work. 

Free 24-Hour hotlines:

  • Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-TALK (8255) and press “1”. This toll-free hotline is available for veterans and their loved ones. You can also send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential, free support and referrals.
  • PTSD Foundation of America, Veteran Line: (877) 717-PTSD (7873). Providing referrals, information, and helpful resources to veterans and their families, this toll-free hotline is available 24/7.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (also affiliated with Mental Health America): (800) 273-TALK (8255). Available any time of day or night, 365 days a year, this toll-free PTSD helpline has trained volunteers standing by to provide crisis intervention, to offer support for people in distress, and to give information and referrals to people with PTSD and their loved ones.

Asking for help does not make you weak. It takes strength and courage to recognize there is a problem. You can be your own hero by taking the first step towards a healthier life.

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