Urban Farming in a Participatory Community Action Research Project in Homeless Shelters: A Feasibility Study of Therapeutic Benefits

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Clinical Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Roger Reeb


This feasibility study was completed within the context of the Behavioral Activation Research Project in Homeless shelters, which represents a collaboration between Dr. Roger N. Reeb (Professor of Psychology, Faculty Research Fellow in the Human Rights Center, University of Dayton) and administrators at St. Vincent de Paul (Dayton, Ohio). The Behavioral Activation Project collaborated with The Ohio State University Extension in order to establish an urban farm on the grounds of the Gettysburg Gateway Shelter for Men, which exists in a food desert and away from community resources. Based on a body of research suggesting psychological benefits associated with gardening and farming activities, it was believed that it would be possible to recruit shelter residents to assist on the urban farm. The feasibility study focuses on shelter residents (N = 29) who were recruited to assist researchers in activities to maintain the farm, such as watering plants, weeding and pruning the flower garden, and harvesting and weighing vegetables. Results showed some support for the main hypotheses of this feasibility study: (a) shelter residents who volunteer to assist with the farm perceive immediate benefits (i.e., perceive the work as meaningful, important, enjoyable, worthy of repeating); and (b) by virtue of working on the urban farm, shelter residents perceive decreases in anxiety and increases in sense of wellness. Results of analyses examining the hypothesis that the construct of connectedness-to-nature moderates or mediates therapeutic benefits of farming activities were also considered. Quantitative results (based on psychometric instruments) are supported by qualitative data (i.e., comments written by shelter residents). A number of serious methodological limitations and problems in this feasibility study are discussed, and recommendations for a more comprehensive and systematic study are delineated.


Psychology, Therapeutic benefits of farming or gardening, Behavioral Activation, Homelessness Interventions

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