UK Research Shows the Benefit of Therapeutic Horticulture on Women Who’ve Experienced Violence


Diane Fleet:  Greenhouse17 serves Central
Kentucky; so we serve Lexington and the 16 surrounding counties. Our primary focus is
working with families who are experiencing intimate partner violence, working with families with
whatever it is that they need that’s a barrier to help them move from some sort of crisis
to self-sufficiency. Diane Follingstad:  We knew that they had
moved from the inner city. But, they now are in the area where there’s horse farms. They
have 40 acres. And, we didn’t know that Diane Fleet, the associate director, was starting
to think about how can we use this land? How can we make it work for us as a shelter? Can they really bring in farm activities into
a shelter, where the goal is to help battered women basically recover, stabilize, and then
move on with their lives. Is that the same thing? Is it different? Can it be integrated?
So, they were looking for someone to come out and talk to the workers there, and see
how they viewed it. So, that’s how Claire Renzetti and I got involved. Diane Fleet: You’ve got to have a roof over
people’s head, and you got to have food in their tummies, and you’ve got to have safety.
I get that. But, what is it you can do already with the resources you have to amplify the
services that women really need? So I think at that point people started connect staff started connecting the dots between what I’m doing, and I’m talking about stress, anxiety, physical ailments due to a traumatic
experience; and oh, we have this farm and we have nature and we have these pieces. So
it began to build. And, now I think it’s really changed our programing
in entirety. Women are involved, clients take leadership roles. They make decisions about
how the programing goes, and what the product should be called, and what are we going to
produce. So we started seeing more confidence being built in women and making decisions
around their lives when they were allowed access to do those things. Claire Renzetti I was really fascinated by
the impact that this was having on women who have experienced horrible things in their
lives. And their children. And the fact that they were somehow recovering more
quickly. And particularly for women who have substance use problems, it seemed that this
was really helping them not only recover from the intimate partner violence, but also recover
from their substance use problems. Diane Follingstad:  In order to get women
that are willing to commit to a six-week program of the farming, to be able to say, if you
go through six weeks of this, are you somehow reaping some benefits that women who go through
the other aspects of the shelter are not? You typically need to provide some kind of
incentive to get that consistency. Claire Renzetti:  And so we looked for a
good fit in terms of funding mechanisms. And the Office on Violence Against Women had a
funding mechanisms, and we applied, and they agreed with us that it was a good fit. In
fact, they gave us more money than we asked for, which is unheard of.  They recognized
the value of the project. Claire Renzetti: As we’ve learned more about
therapeutic horticulture, we’ve learned that you can do this with container gardens. You
can use rooftop gardens; you can use a front lawn. Any community garden. So,
this has a tremendous potential impact for rural communities. But it also applies to
suburban and urban communities as well, because you can do therapeutic horticulture in pretty
much any setting. Diane Fleet:  Their joy, their inspiration,
their encouragement of what we’re doing has been extremely beneficial. Because, you know,
we’re not sure if what we’re doing makes sense. And to have somebody, you know, like Claire
and Diane go, oh no, this makes perfect sense. We’re seeing this work done with veterans
returning home. We’re seeing this work done in, you know, medical facilities. We’re seeing
this work done in prisons. Like, this makes sense that people who’ve experienced long-term
trauma can benefit from this work. We talk anecdotally about what happens out
at Greenhouse17, but I think to have research behind it, really gives us some leverage as
we’re competing for dollars. I’d like to figure out how to expand Farm Concept to our 16 surrounding counties. Diane Follingstad: Our mission is research.
If you have been a victim of violence as a women, we would like to know the best ways
to help you get better, to help you heal. This certainly fits with that kind of research.
But we’re also into prevention. And, if you think about it, these shelters are hoping to prevent future violence for
the women. And, if this therapeutic horticulture experience for them, helps them change, grow,
heal, do better with whatever resources that they have; then it definitely meets that mission. Claire Renzetti: That’s not just the mission of the center. That’s the mission of the University of Kentucky. To serve the Commonwealth and beyond. And so, we’re just doing what the university does.

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