In the second season of Netflix's hit show Orange is the New Black an inmate-run greenhouse takes center stage. It's appropriate, because that’s what’s happening at a lot of prisons around the country: Farm programs, like the ones below, teach inmates about nutrition, how to grow food and related life-skills. The programs supply healthy food for prison cafeterias as well as for nearby restaurants and homeless shelters. Not only that: These gardening programs have been shown to reduce the rate of repeated incarceration.
Cook County Jail; Chicago
For more than 20 years, the Cook County Sheriff’s Pre-Release Center (in partnership with the University of Illinois) has worked with inmates on a vegetable garden that supplies homeless shelters, nonprofits and restaurants throughout Chicago. Local hero chef Matthias Merges (of Yusho, Billy Sunday and A10) is a fan. “It’s a way to give back to the community,” says Merges, who hires graduates of the program and teaches about growing restaurant-grade produce. Inmates can earn a Master Gardener certificate. The jail’s garden recently added a greenhouse and has been experimenting with aquaculture; they’ve been generating more than 9,000 pounds of produce per a year.
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility; San Diego
Farm and Rehabilitation Meals (FARM) is a brand-new program at one of San Diego’s prisons, aimed at creating a self-sustaining food supply for the prison cafeteria and reducing the recidivism rate. It’s still in the roll-out phase, but the three-acre farm cost only $4,000 (funded by private donations) to launch, and will teach inmates about sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Wehtahnah Tucker, the program’s coordinator, saw the success of similar programs around the country and wanted to create a program that would teach sustainable practices, as well as reduce the prison’s re-entry rate.