A new farming program is helping Ottawa women who have been through the criminal justice system get back on their feet.

For two months, the five women feed livestock, harvest crops and learn how to make preserves.

"I just got tired of the same old drugs and jail," said participant Tracy Spano, who has spent time in jail over the last 12 years while battling an addiction to heroin.  "I think it's time for me to give back to the community that's been taking care of me for so long."

The Budding Potential program is run by the Elizabeth Fry Society and financed with a $15,000 grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation.

In addition to taking care of animals and doing food preparation, the women earn CPR and first aid certificates.

'They have so much to offer,' says organizer

"I've been numb for the last 12 years of my life, so I really do feel good about myself," said Spano.  "I'm going to graduate from this program and get my high school diploma."

Social worker Stephanie McWatt created the program and runs it out of her sheep farm in Ottawa's east end.

"[The women] have so much to offer but they can't get that opportunity unless someone gives it to them," said McWatt.

Women from the Budding Potential program will be at the Metcalfe Farmers' Market on Saturdays selling their preserves.