For the past nine months I have worked at the local domestic violence shelter, GreenHouse17, as an intern. I have talked of the organization in a previous post, but one of the incredible aspect of the shelter is a farm they have on their property. I have been working with the farm program for a portion of my time and decided to conduct a research project looking at the effects of the farm on the residents. The women who live at the shelter have the opportunity to work in the stipend program that pays them cash for farm work. As part of the stipend program the women also write a journal entry of their experiences that we can post online. I used these journal entries for a qualitative research study to see the impact of horticultural therapy techniques in relation to victims of intimate partner violence. An excerpt from my research is posted below…
While going through the journal entries is was easy to pick out common words and phrases to link together, however it was a little more difficult when deciding how to categorize the basic themes. In the end, the chart below shows the decided categories that outline the commonalities found throughout the entries. After much deliberation, the categories were broken down into Mind, Body, and Spirit – or in an even simpler way Thinking, Doing, and Feeling. When reading the journals, the women often wrote about physical tasks that they accomplishment, what they thought and learned about the tasks and experiences, and what they felt as a result of working on the farm. Under the categories presented are listed the words and phrases that were significant throughout the entries and they have been categorized as the researcher felt appropriate.
Throughout the women’s journal entries they wrote of specific skills they were learning from the farm program and the desire to take what they had learned and apply it to their own lives when they left shelter; they also stated ways in which they are learning about themselves – these themes are listed under the Mind category, because they are mentally being enriched from their time on the farm. The women would also relate the basic tasks they were given and the experiences they had on a weekly basis such as common chores, cooking, and sharing the experiences with others – this portion is listed under the Body section because it involves a physical output. The third common theme is how the women related the emotional and spiritual feelings that came about while working on the farm and how the work was both healing and therapeutic – these are listed under the category Spirit.
As an exploratory evaluation this study cannot give conclusive facts or statistics related to the journal entries. The outcomes are not quantitative or concrete in nature; however they are presented to contribute a precursory study that will hopefully inspire continued research with the aid of the foundational material presented. On top of the basic attributes that the farm program offers, the women find the work and space to be peaceful, stress relieving, and calming – along with providing the women with a quiet atmosphere that gives them time to think and also join in community. From the journal entries, it appears that the women have gained much from the farm program and they repeatedly thank the farm supervisors for providing such a peaceful space for them.