Gardening goes to prison

The Minnesota Legislature today embraced an innovative program that apparently makes too much sense to ignore — gardens in prison.

In passing an omnibus corrections bill today, the Minnesota House fairly gushed over a provision establishing a gardening program for inmates at each correctional facility in the state. The goal is to grow enough food to feed the inmates, with excess produce going to food shelves and charities.

The idea springs from an experiment from San Francisco . The Garden Project of San Francisco started selling fresh produce to a hip restaurant. The woman who founded the program in 1992 said she realized its potential in a post-release program when one of her “students” asked the sheriff for permission to stay and work on the farm.


An increasing number of prisons are launching gardening programs: on-site gardens improve the nutritional intake of inmates and as a direct result can reduce violence and improve participants’ mental health, teaches horticultural skills that can be used upon inmates’ release (slashing recidivism rates), and also often produce surplus that is sent to food banks or other community centers or services. Here’s just a sampler of such programs that have started since Sneed’s Garden Project, or even before.

The Insight Garden Program, also in the Bay Area, runs a 1,200 square-foot organic flower garden at the the medium-security San Quention Prison, where classes are given to teach inmates about gardening, environmental sustainability, and community care through gardening. (Go here for more examples)

This is Cathrine Sneed. It’s her idea: