This year, Gardening Know How’s School and Community Garden Sponsorship was fortunate enough to help support 15 gardens with $1,000 each. These gardens represent a wide array of community and school programs from Canada to Puerto Rico and many places in between. Each has its own unique and powerful story, and we’re excited to share them with you. Once a month we’ll highlight one of our sponsorship recipients to help spread the word about how amazing they really are. This month we’re featuring the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center in Kennewick, WA.
In 2014, the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) partnered with the Washington State Master Gardeners to create a gardening program for at-risk youth. Over the years, the garden has grown to include 10 raised beds, 4 flat plots, several containers and an indoor gardening space. Master Gardeners come to the JJC on weekends to teach classes and provide one-on-one mentorship for the youths. They also work with staff to teach ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the gardens.
The youths who work in the garden eat some of the food they grow, but the majority of it is donated to local food banks, giving participants a direct connection in doing some good within their community. In the 2017 season, over 2,600 pounds of produce were donated.
Some participants in the program are incarcerated, some are participating in the JJC’s detention school, and some are serving community service hours. Their ages range from 12 to 17 years. And they really seem to be feeling the positive impact. About 150 youths participated in the outdoor gardening program during the 2017 growing season and an additional 75 participated in the newly-implemented indoor gardening class.
This indoor class, which takes place in an indoor garden converted from an unused dormitory cell block, is especially important. Many of the JJC’s incarcerated youth are not able to visit the outdoor garden, which means the indoor garden and class are their only connection to nature and the community. The indoor garden also serves as an essential place to start seeds in the spring and extend the growing season.
It’s the expansion of this seed starting program that will be the focus of the Gardening Know How grant. The JJC and Master Gardeners plan to build a large hoop house to store and harden off seedlings started in the indoor garden. Many of these seedlings will be planted in the outdoor garden, and the rest will be donated to local, low-income community gardens. The program will be able to engage their indoor garden participants with more of the growing season, while simultaneously helping more of the gardening community at large. We here at Gardening Know How are very happy to be able to help them with their goal.