Growing skills for job readiness
The Farm and Food Program at the Franklin County House of Correction gives men who are incarcerated the skills to find employment in the regional food economy after they are released. The program includes gardening and cooking classes, with the opportunity to grow organic food on the premises. Participants benefit from increased exercise, time spent outdoors, fresh vegetables, and connection to the land.
A greenhouse and organic raised beds are located in a medium-security area, with more organic beds in minimum security. The facility is adding new garden beds each year to meet the increasing interest in the program. Because participants aren’t permitted to store the produce, they grow vegetables that can be eaten directly from the garden, such as peas and tomatoes, or produce that can be used in the cooking and preservation classes. Outside the perimeter, near a reentry house for those who are transitioning back into the community, there are additional raised beds, a permaculture micro-orchard, and a compost system made in the wood shop. The produce from this garden is available to the reentry residents to cook in their kitchen.
Since Abrah Dresdale began the Farm and Food Program at the jail in 2014, more than 70 men have completed the program. Currently four Farm and Food Systems college courses are offered inside the jail through Greenfield Community College. These include Introduction to Food Systems; Organic Gardening taught by staff at Seeds of Solidarity; Creating Farm and Food Cooperatives in association with Toolbox for Education and Social Action; and Food Preservation and Storage, with Yard Birds Farm. For those with pre-release status, credit-earning internships are available at Just Roots, a community farm in Greenfield and the Compost Cooperative.
One success story involves a man who took all of the available classes and completed an internship at Just Roots. Since being released, he has worked part-time at Just Roots and part-time at Real Pickles, where he is now eligible to become a worker-owner. His employers collectively bought him a bicycle so that he can more easily commute to work.