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Gardening behind bars grows through the years

Gwinnett County Jail's garden recently renamed 'Fresh Start' by female inmates.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Since its inception in 2016, the Fresh Start Garden Program at the Gwinnett County Jail has evolved into a farm to table initiative teaching inmates valuable skills and providing them with a chance to gain hands-on landscaping experience. 

With help from the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension, volunteers educate inmates about the science of gardening and horticulture. Inmates in the program are given hands-on instruction regarding best practices for sustainable gardening. They are also tasked with seeing, planting, and harvesting the fruits and vegetables grown in 4,170 square feet raised beds. 

So far, the garden has harvested over 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables which are used in jail kitchens to lower food costs. Currently, the Fresh Start graden is producing corn, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, assorted hot peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and other summer and fall crops.

Deputy Shannon Volkodav with Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office says the program is also designed to give inmates valuable life skills.

"It's a way for the inmates to truly get a fresh start and learn responsibility, discipline, mindfulness, and how to effectively work in a group setting," Deputy Volkodav explained. "Our goal is to provide therapeutic and educational services to the inmates tending the garden in the hopes they acquire skills to help them succeed when they leave our custody." 

The program was created to replace a work detail at the Recycling Bank of Gwinnett. When the county recycling bank closed in the Spring of 2016, staff decided to use existing green space to plant a garden outside of Housing Unit N. The garden formerly known as the November garden because of its location was recently renamed Fresh Start by the female inmates.

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