Inmates are growing gardens, and gardens are growing them.
Gardens offer so many metaphors for the ups and downs of life, and the inmates at Maine State Prison are getting the chance to experience them first hand. In a partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, a new gardening program gives some inmates the chance to tend a vegetable garden. The fruits and vegetables that they produce are used in the prison kitchen or donated to local food banks.
This new program achieves many things. Inmates get the therapeutic benefits that gardens have been shown to provide, They also learn a marketable skillset, and learn how to collaborate on a common goal. If those benefits weren’t enough, the prison is saving money using this fresh, inmate-grown food.
The prison garden produces tomatoes, peppers, string beans, cabbage, lettuce, beet greens, collard greens, cucumbers, and onions that are quickly consumed by the inmates. The prison also composts food waste and has a worm composting operation, a process known as vermicomposting. In this kind of system, worms break down food and convert it into compost.
The food we eat can travel thousands of miles before it reaches our plates. What we don’t eat gets shipped again, this time to a landfill. Reducing the carbon footprint of our meals is one of the best things we can do to combat climate change.
Kudos to Maine State Prison for its forward-thinking approach. Not only does this gardening program give inmates hope, improve behavior, and save the facility money, it involves inmates in helping to reduce climate pollution by localizing a piece of Maine’s food system.
You can view a short documentary of the program here: https://umainetoday.umaine.edu/2018/05/02/tending-the-yard/.