Early spring 2009 brought growth in an unusual way to inmates at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Ore. What started out as one seed of an idea sprouted from Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has become an organic garden that supplements the prison’s food supply, provides job training and education opportunities, and offers the resident women a positive, social activity.
The Oregon Department of Corrections, community partners, farmers and volunteers came together with seeds, soil testing, gardening supplies, and banks of time and knowledge to cultivate the Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation. It started as a project behind bars and is now involving a whole community, from a grade school growing tomato starts for the garden to A&L Laboratories, which provides soil testing.
With budget cuts across the board in state governments, the garden harvest is supplementing diets as well as reducing costs in the kitchen. In a system where residents, in general, face mounting health concerns, the nutritional benefits start with fresh fruits and vegetables at meals but branch out into an increased knowledge of the role these foods play in optimum health.
Excited about the impact their program has had within the walls of their prison, the Coffee Creek gardeners have the Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation website so others can learn from them and perhaps even start their own program. You can read about their progress, challenges and milestones as the gardening program grows.