Time to Grow

The adults in custody (AICs) at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) take pride in their garden growing skills! So far this year, they have produced all kinds of vegetables to be used in the kitchen at the institution.

At the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC), all 12 facilities have garden programs, they are part of the Sustainability initiative. Growing Gardens-Lettuce Grow, a nonprofit organization, in conjunction with the Oregon State University Master Gardner’s program provides educational materials about the art and science of growing and caring for plants to educate and teach sustainable organic gardening practices to AICs.

Other than food production, these sustainable gardens have many byproducts. They provide AICs with horticulture skills, team building and positive relationship building skills, thereby increasing a successful future. Food produced in the institutions provide low cost, healthy food sources.

The garden at SRCI began in 2014, on a half-acre, with a budget of only one-hundred dollars. Since then, the garden has grown to over a five-acre farm. The first year only two AICs worked the garden, today there are 10 full time gardeners. Some of these gardeners have never put their hands in the dirt before now. The garden is a vital part of these AICs rehabilitation. A few AICs were gracious enough to write about what the garden means to them and how it is changing their lives.  

Garden Tech, AIC Micha Bills (left) and Garden Tech Lead, AIC Frank Nicholson (right)

“When I get to the garden every morning, the fresh air and the birds chirping, I’m in a spiritual Zen, one with nature, and completely void of being in prison. At the end of the day, I’ll be sweaty and dirty, might even ache but the next day the garden will call me back.”

AIC Micha Bills

“My favorite time in the garden is on Monday mornings. I’m always in awe of how big everything gets after two days off. I love walking through the plants and harvesting the veggies for a few hours because I forget I’m in prison, I feel free and at peace in the garden. The byproduct of the garden is the veggies and harvesting them for the AIC population. It feels good to contribute something and it off sets the food budget for the prison. Working in the garden, I feel, prepares me for release and teaches me how to become a productive member of society.”

Garden Tech, James Howard
AIC Frank Nicholson

Click here to read James Howard’s story about his incarceration and the steps he has taken to better himself.