Inmates within the Oregon Prison system have the unique opportunity to grow organic produce within their prison gardens. In 2008, the Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation began working in one Oregon prison to teach horticulture and sustainable gardening practices. Today, this organization works in several Oregon correctional facilities creating gardens and gardeners.
The Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation uses volunteers who are Master Gardeners to help with the education of inmates in learning the skills of organic and sustainable gardening. Most of the correctional facilities have donated an acre of land for the inmates and volunteers to garden on. The produce is used internally within the prison system and a large portion of the produce is donated to affiliates of the Oregon Food Bank.
The program has the potential to increase the quality of life for participating inmates, by providing healthy outdoor activities, enriching the nutrition and dietary variety of their food, and providing educational and vocational skill building opportunities.
The mission statement of the Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation is: “to work with community partnerships to establish vegetable gardens inside prison walls, supplementing inmate diets and providing horticultural job training and education.”
They believe that everyone needs to be treated with respect and compassion and that by teaching valuable therapeutic skills, such as gardening, that the inmates have a chance to rehabilitate themselves. The inmate/gardeners learn about the interconnection of of all living things, feel a connection to the earth, how to work in teams and responsibility. In addition, the food grown also gives the inmates much needed fresh organic produce as well as the self-esteem of knowing that the food they have grown is helping to nourish low-income families.
The Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation also teaches the Oregon Master Gardening curriculum and inmates who complete the program earn a certificate of completion. Currently, the class has graduated 90 inmates from the Oregon Master Gardener program.
The Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation is funded by generous donations and grants. Companies such as PG&E and the Hoover Foundation have donated generous grants to the cause. If you would like to donate to Lettuce Grow Garden Foundation, please do so here.
If you would like to volunteer – please fill out the volunteer application here.