Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program
By Aja Crouteau, Bonner Scholar Intern

Photo caption: While Aja was painting the benches in our healing gardens, she experienced a paint can mishap. Rather than get upset, she just had fun with it.

My name is Aja Croteau and I’m a sophomore at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. This summer I worked on the farm at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program [BDVP]. Working on the BDVP farm was one of the best experiences of my life. Last year I’d been toying with the idea of majoring in Agriculture and Natural Resources, but I had no experience with farm work or even gardening, so I wasn’t sure if it was really the right job for me. I realized this summer that growing food is definitely what I want to do with my life. I learned a lot about crop maintenance and why farmers do the things they do. I also learned about how to run an organic (or mostly organic) garden.

Another important thing I learned this summer is what a positive effect gardens can have on people. At the BDVP, there are many women and children seeking shelter from crisis situations. I worked with some of those women, and I saw how working on the farm served them in therapeutic and empowering  ways. There is a satisfaction in planting a seed and watching it grow into something beautiful and or practical that you don’t get simply from attending counseling sessions. It also teaches the women skills that help them become more self-sufficient, which is very empowering. That empowerment is great for the women who seek shelter there. I saw how happy the women were to be in the garden surrounded by beautiful flowers, and how much they enjoyed eating the produce they had worked to plant and maintain. I think the BDVP has a wonderful program that helps the women spiritually, emotionally, and financially. After seeing what an impact agriculture can have on people, I aspire to implement similar programs at other shelters in the future.

I had a wonderful experience at the BDVP farm this summer, and I plan to continue volunteering there regularly. It’s a great program and I encourage everyone to help them out in any way you can.