Rolling out wetland plants for the Samish Indian Nation

By Anna Duron and Carl Elliott, Coordinator and Manager for the Emergent Vegetated Mat (EVM) program

EVM technicians at Stafford Creek Corrections Center loaded up jelly-rolled mats for delivery to the Samish Indian Nation. Photo by Anna Duron.

This year, the Emergent Vegetated Mat (EVM) program grew fifty mats for the Samish Indian Nation. Each mats was 15-feet-long and embedded with native wetland species Carex exsiccata, Glyceria elata, and Juncus supiniformis. Program technicians were instrumental in improving germination protocols, resulting in early spring plant growth. These young plants were ready for transplanting into the coconut mats by early summer. Again thanks to improved cultivation techniques, the plants grew vigorously; by September, the lush growth covered 80% of the mats’ surface. 

In mid-July, Josh Hieronymus, Graham Klag, Joseph Oddo, and Anna Duron check on wetland plants growing in the EVM nursery. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

We rolled up the mats in October, put them in a 24-foot truck without good shocks, and drove them to the Samish Indian Nation–a bit of a loud and  bouncy ride. Access to the planting site was by water, so we unloaded the mats into a warehouse and drove back south.

The mats were loaded onto boats to reach their destination across the Samish River. Photo provided by the Samish Indian Nation.
The Samish Indian Nation team shuttled the mats by boat. Photo by Charles Biles.

The restoration site is along the Samish River in an area recently confirmed as inhabited by the state-endangered Oregon spotted frog. Employees and volunteers from the Samish Indian Nation boated the mats to the site. They unrolled each mat and staked it in place. With the help of our prison-grown mats, they hope to improve the site’s native plant communities and create a better home for Oregon spotted frogs.

They placed the mats in a habitat recovery area. Photo provided by the Samish Indian Nation.
The mats were successfully put into place by these hard workers. Photo provided by the Samish Indian Nation
Oregon spotted frog seen checking out the newly placed mats. Photo provided by the Samish Indian Nation.

See Go Skagit’s news coverage of the project here.

Aquaponic knowledge, from one program to another

By Marisa Pushee, SPP Conservation Program Coordinator

Note: please be aware that individuals featured in this story and in these images have victims who are concerned about re-victimization; any sharing or promoting should keep that risk in mind.

This week, incarcerated students and conservationists gathered in the greenhouse at Cedar Creek where Anna Duron led a workshop for the aquaponics program. Anna serves as the SPP Coordinator for the Emergent Vegetated Mat (EVM) program at Stafford Creek and drew from her background in utilizing aquaponics for conservation initiatives. The workshop focused on best practices when working with aquaponics and the chemistry behind maintaining a stable system.

SPP Coordinator Anna Duron and SPP Biological Science Technician Will Rathgeber show workshop participants how to test pH, nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia for the water in the Cedar Creek aquaponics system.
Anna describes her work with the EVM aquaponics system at Stafford Creek, detailing the differences between varying approaches to aquaponics.

SPP Biological Science Technicians as well as students and TAs from Centralia College‘s horticulture program joined for the hands-on learning opportunity. They tested the pH, nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia levels of the water in the aquaponics system, discussing why certain results were more desirable and how the plants respond if any of the readings are too high or too low.

Many of the workshop participants were current TAs or students in the Centralia College horticulture program at Cedar Creek.
Workshop participant watches the fish enjoy their breakfast.

Since many of the workshop participants were horticulture enthusiasts, they compared successes and challenges, finding commonality in obstacles like plant nutrition and integrated pest management. We look forward to continued collaboration with such an engaged group of students!

Workshop participants discuss plant health.

Personal victories

by Ashley McElhenie, SPP Prairie Conservation Nursery Technician. Ms. McElhenie created this in response to a call for writing on “science in prison.”

Ashley McElhenie, front left, re-seeds containers of prairie plants during a work session in 2018. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

I first heard about the prairie conservation crew from my roommate’s friend. She and the other women on the crew were going to be released in a couple of months and they wanted to find hard-working, nice individuals to take their places. I guess I just so happened to meet the criteria, and did not like my job at the time so I gladly jumped at the opportunity. Not only was it not in the kitchen, but it was summertime and I’d be working outside all day. I could work on my tan and probably lose some weight — there was no downside to this new job.

Violets

Viola praemorsa is one of two violets grown for seed production at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Due to its bright yellow flowers it is also known as the canary violet. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

Viola adunca seed pods are green and curled up like an umbrella when they first emerge. As the pods mature, they become white and the stems stand up straight in preparation for explosion. Viola praemorsa (pictured above) does not have the same telltale signs making the scavenger hunt a bit more challenging. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

My first day I remember transplanting numerous Viola adunca into rows of beds. They were a pretty purple flower that did something for a butterfly species but that’s all I knew. As time went on, we began learning a little more about the violets and what our purpose was for growing these endangered native plants. It was kind of cool thinking I’m restoring areas of these native plants, being a Washington native myself, but that was about the extent of my interest.

It wasn’t long before I started going out to the Viola praemorsa beds on weekend mornings. I took a particular interest in these violas because they had a large seed pod with seeds that varied from a golden color to a deep brownish purple color. With a cup of coffee in hand and music player in my pocket, I’d spend hours tending to the beds and harvesting seed pods. The only problem with these seed pods is if you wait too long, they open up and shoot seed everywhere.

Viola praemorsa is less common than its bluish-purple cousin. This violet is only found in western North American oak savannahs and oak woodlands. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

It became a ritual to me. Each day was like a scavenger hunt looking for these seeds before they exploded and we lost our product. Because of the exploding seed pods, the Viola praemorsa would often end up in the Viola adunca beds and vice versa. I began to notice the differences between the two plants and after a while could easily identify which plant was a “weed” in the other’s bed. I was surprised to find out how different two plants from the same family could be; the Viola praemorsa with its single, fuzzy lead sprout or the Viola adunca with its clustered, small leaf bunch. Being in the violet beds became a refuge from the crazy living units.

Oaks

Garry oak acorns ready for planting. Photo by Jacob Meyers.
Quercus garryana, or Garry oak, growing in the nursery at WCCW. It’s the only oak native to Washington. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

When I learned we were going to plant Garry oak trees (Quercus garryana) working on the conservation nursery crew became even more personal for me. The island on which I was raised has a lot of oak trees. Prior to my incarceration, there was a bit of backlash when the city wanted to remove the oldest and probably most notable oak tree in town.  The tree’s roots had long been affecting a nearby road, but I didn’t want the oak to be cut down. It was a beautiful old tree that was a block away from the heart of downtown. It was a tree memorable from my childhood, the old oak by the post office. Despite the locals protesting, the tree was eventually cut down. A giant stump was left behind. Not only was it an eyesore, but a constant reminder of what is now gone. To my knowledge, the road has yet to be fixed and my town lost some of its history.

In the nursery, I felt that I could honor that oak’s memory, in a way, by planting 50 or more oaks that would live throughout the South Sound area. Being a part of that was small personal victory for me. I wanted to learn all I could about them.

Learning more

In the wintertime there is less manual labor to do so we focus on learning about the native plants with which we work. We learn how to identify these plants, the type of soil composition specific to our area and plants, the species that these plants affect, and how those species benefit from the plants. It was all so fascinating. I had never thought about plants as something more than food or landscape. It was rather humbling to be aware of this entire other system in which I was completely oblivious to.

Ashley (orange hat) and her colleagues study remnant prairie at Wolf Haven International. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The following spring, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to visit a prairie in where my work had been transplanted while still incarcerated. It was absolutely beautiful. The way all these native plants cohabited with one another in an seemingly untouched landscape of green, speckled with colors of blue, orange, yellow, and white as far as I could see. I don’t think I had ever appreciated nature more than I had that day. And it was an especially proud moment knowing that the plants I had grown were contributing to the landscape. During that day I remember drawing a weird parallel, that the restoration work I had been doing in the South Sound prairies was restoring me. I had been replanted, sprouted, grown, and was soon to be released into society.

At Violet Prairie Seed Farm, SPP Nursery Manager Carl Elliott (black vest) and Conservation Nursery Technicians Ashley McElhenie and Samantha Morgan discuss growing Lomatium triternatum. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

I can’t take full credit, though. The people who I’ve worked alongside have been some of the best people I’ve met in years. The people I worked most closely with on the prairie conservation crew treated me as an equal, despite being incarcerated. They had faith and believed in me. Over time, I started to have faith and believe in myself. This program has taught me more than I could have ever imagined, and which goes way beyond knowledge of prairie plants. It’s taught me more about myself and things I am capable of. While learning about prairies, I was able to rediscover the values and principles I had prior to my incarceration.

For so many years I was so focused on destructive behaviors, whether it was my own or others’. Working with endangered plants gave me a different way to channel that energy. I was able to do productive activities that benefited people, animals, and plants. It gave me a sense of worth knowing that what I was doing made an impact on so many levels. No matter how small that impact may be, I knew it was a positive one.

Pictured here, Ashley is showing off the impressive runners of another important prairie plant — wild strawberry (Frageria virginiana). As Ashley moves closer to her December release date, she is all smiles. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

Fly Like An Eagle to the Sea, No More I See

By Daniel Keen, writer incarcerated at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, written for submission to Humans and Nature‘s Minding Nature

Photo of Mt Tahoma from flickr.
Photo of an adolescent bald eagle from flickr.

From the day as a chick,
I have always been free.
From glacier cap mountains,
To sea to coral sea.

Brother species who play and breed below,
Across fields and up rivers Migrating they flow.
For thousand years Mother Earth grows,
For thousand years climate change is slow.

For today my chick hasn’t a tree,
Clear-cuts and mudslides left only for me.
Snow cap mountains glaciers retreat,
Dead baron seas with dried up reefs.

Polar bears, salmon, star fish, little honey bees,
Man-kind harvest only greed selfish to you and me.
In one hundred years Mother Earth slowly dies,
In one hundred years climate change super sizes.

Bald eagle preparing to fly. Photo from wikipedia.

Happy Halloween from Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Text and photos by Graham Klag, Conservation Nursery Coordinator

This year’s pumpkin and squash harvest

Halloween pumpkins in prison! In addition to growing important prairie plants, technicians at Stafford Creek Corrections Center also grow a cornucopia of produce for Grays Harbor County’s Coastal Harvest Program. Their hard work and harvest provides food for hungry families and Halloween pumpkins for people in prison to enjoy. Happy Halloween!

Conservation nursery technician Dale King and the crew tilling new rows for the new season
From hoop house to table
A week’s worth of produce harvested and headed out to the community

Growing food on a greater scale: WSP’s Institutional Sustainability Garden

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager

Beautiful heads of cabbage grow in Washington State Penitentiary’s main garden. Photo collage courtesy of Jim Atteberry, Facilities Manager.

Outside of the prison fences, Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) tends 10.5 acres of crops. This is the prison’s Institutional Sustainability Garden, and it’s the largest and most productive of all the prison gardens statewide.

This is a view from the garden looking back up the hill at the prison facilities. Photo by Bethany Shepler.

In 2017, the crew harvested 151,470 lbs of vegetables — that’s more than 75 tons. They donated 9,655 lbs to local non-profits. The rest went the prison kitchen, improving the taste and nutritional value of the meals. Producing the food on site also saved $122,677 worth of purchasing. 2018 was somewhat less productive year, the weather wasn’t as good, but still the garden produced ~110,000 lbs. Both years, WSP’s vegetable harvest was about half of the total harvest statewide…pretty amazing if you consider that eleven of the twelve prisons grow food!

This September, the crew harvested cabbage, squash, bell peppers, banana peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, and radishes from the fields. They also tended to the plants and pulled out weeds.

In mid-September, the crew attends to weeds in the Institutional Sustainability Garden. Photo by Bethany Shepler.
Earlier in the growing season, the fields are full of vibrant greens. Photos courtesy of Jim Atteberry.
A crew member talks with Garden Supervisor
Daniel Randolph; from Jim Atteberry: “Daniel and Shawn Treib supervised this year’s Institutional Garden, they both did an outstanding job during a tough period of time.” Photo by Bethany Shepler.

Welcoming New Roots Instructors!

By Shohei Morita, Green Track Coordinator

Note: please be aware that at least one individual featured in this story and images has victims who are concerned about re-victimization; any sharing or promoting of images should keep that risk in mind.

The Roots of Success (Roots) program recently gained three new instructors at Washington Corrections Center (WCC). Led by Master Trainer Grady Mitchell, two candidates from WCC and one from Larch Corrections Center (LCC) came together for this instructor training. Through collaboration and hands-on work, they learned about how to effectively teach environmental issues using real life examples. Mr. Mitchell also focused on strategies for improving students’ problem solving skills.

As a certified Roots instructors, these three can go on to teach the Roots curriculum to other students. Roots not only covers important environmental topics, but also emphasizes employment and career readiness – great skills for anyone to have! These new instructors were excited to have a positive impact on their future students, as well as other people in their community, regardless of where they are.

Thank you to WCC, Roots of Success, and everyone else involved to make this possible. Welcome new Roots instructors!

The ability to use technology is an important skill for a Roots instructor. Instructor candidate Matthew Edens learned how to use PowerPoint from Master Trainer Mitchell. Photo by Bethany Shepler.
Instructor candidate John Morimoto tries out ways to engage his students as he practices teaching the Roots curriculum. Photo by Bethany Shepler.
Instructor candidates John Morimoto, Matthew Edens, and Jayson Smith listening to Master Trainer Mitchell. Photo by Bethany Shepler.
Instructor candidate Jayson Smith practices illustrating concepts with real-life examples, explaining how plastic bottles and cardboard are types of solid waste. Photo by Bethany Shepler.
Master Trainer Grady Mitchell and the new Roots instructors Jayson Smith, Matthew Edens, and John Morimoto hold their instructor certificates. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Persistence pays off: beekeeping in Massachusetts jails

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager, and Susan Goldwitz, Beekeeper and Program Coordinator

Susan Goldwitz stands with one of her hives. Photo by David H. Deininger.

Two-and-a-half years ago, beekeeper Susan Goldwitz traveled from Massachusetts to Washington State and attended the first-ever beekeeping summit in a prison. More than a few beekeeping programs were born that day. Delightfully, Susan Goldwitz took some of that inspiration beyond Washington!

Beekeeping association partners, staff from every prison, incarcerated beekeepers, and the SPP team from Evergreen came together for an inspirational and productive day-long beekeeping summit at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

For three years previous, Susan had been trying to create bee program in Massachusetts prisons and jails. She had been teaching literature and other classes in prison for nearly six years, but hadn’t yet found traction on adding beekeeping. After the summit, she returned home reenergized and with an improved, inspired pitch. She made her proposal more than a dozen times, to any facility willing to hear it.

As the “no”s and “maybe”s stacked up, she kept in touch with SPP. Susan is unusually good at asking for and receiving help — a strategy I admire — and I was happy to provide the advice and encouragement she requested. She also had the support of another ardent beekeeper, former Governor Deval Patrick; he encouraged her to “Keep pushing!” So she kept pushing. She knew how to take our optimism and translate it into programming success.

On her 12th or 13th try, at last, she found a willing host: Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office in Dedham, MA. They were willing to take a risk on this unusual program, to think outside of the normal menu of activities and educational programs for the incarcerated.  The jail had an abundance of outdoor, open space and — bonus! — a member of the staff was already an enthusiastic beekeeper.

This summer, I received a welcome update, which you may read below. It is so pleasing to share Susan’s story of success!

“It’s been far too long since we connected and I’m taking this opportunity to send you a little note to let you know that persistence can pay off!

I was able to start a pilot beekeeping program at a jail in Dedham two years ago. It took the usual meetings and waiting, but finally (after three years of trying!) I found a jail willing to take a chance on this “out of the box” program.

I set up two little hives at the jail, paid for everything myself, and worked with a wonderful company here called Best Bees because they have an overarching insurance policy — helpful for assuaging the security concerns of the administration.

We had a great year; the bees might have known there was a great deal on their little shoulders. We had two thriving hives, a honey harvest, and only two little stings: one on an officer and one on a prisoner. That turned out to be a little blessing in a painful disguise: the men recovered, no one was in danger, and some institutional fears were allayed.

Both hives overwintered successfully (!) and the jail decided to take on the program themselves — to pay for and support it. Now I’m focused on getting a beekeeping school together to start (I hope) this winter. Small steps, as ever.

I’ve just set up a meeting with the Suffolk County House of Correction (Boston) to discuss starting a similar program there.  Fingers crossed! I think I needed a sufficient track record at one facility before attempting to convince another.

I did talk to the head of a wonderful program here called the Urban Farming Institute about having a place for newly released prisoners to practice their beekeeping. We have just opened our discussion, but the President/CEO Patricia Spence was enthusiastic about the eventual opportunity and hopes they will be setting up hives at one of their gardens soon.

I wrote once more to our mutual friend, Governor Patrick, to let him know of the jail successes, and yet again he was encouraging and supportive.  

That’s the brief news from here.  Hope you are well and that you and your programs are thriving.

Let me thank you and SPP once again for your unflagging support, expertise, and gentle cheerleading.  It definitely made all the difference!” 

Re-reading Susan’s news now, it’s no surprise me that she’s found success. Building programs in prison is really challenging. The best way to meet those challenges is large quantities of persistence, creativity, and positivity. Susan clearly has all three!

End Note

Susan’s other great love is poetry, especially Emily Dickinson’s.  The poet wrote about 100 poems concerning bees in her collection of about 1789 poems. Here are a few delicious examples:

Identifying numbers are from Thomas H. Johnson, ed. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.

A bee on flowers at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

#1627
Version II

The Pedigree of Honey
Does not concern the Bee –
A Clover, any time, to him,
Is Aristocracy –

#1755

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

#676
Least bee that brew –
A Honey’s Weight
The Summer multiply –
Content her smallest fraction help
The Amber Quantity –

#1220

Of Nature I shall have enough
When I have enter these
Entitled to a Bumble bee’s
Familiarities.

The Magic of Caring for Turtles

By William Angelmyer, former SPP Turtle Technician and current student at The Evergreen State College. Photos by SPP staff unless otherwise noted.

Bill worked as a Turtle Technician for SPP from 2015-2018 and is now completing his undergraduate degree at The Evergreen State College. Note that some of the turtle care protocols referenced in this blog have changed since Bill left the program.

Bill Anglemyer holds at western pond turtle.

“Any job that offers an opportunity to change perceptions is more than just a job; it’s a learning experience.”

Summer is coming to an end. This is an exciting time for the SPP Turtle Technicians at Cedar Creek. The end of summer means that soon the technicians will be receiving new turtles. Speaking from personal experience, I know that summer is a good time to do a lot of reading and research—basically, doing book work. Without turtles to manage, we technicians spend the summer studying and catching up on other projects.

Raising mealworms for the next round of turtles and entering data for a woodpecker monitoring project  keep us busy every day, but the real valuable time is the time spent learning about biology and animal behavior. Of course this takes some self-motivation to launch because you are responsible for your own choice of study. No one makes you read text books. For those of us that use education as a coping mechanism to deal with incarceration, we can’t be stopped from studying. After an entire summer of reading, though, it is a refreshing change to receive new western pond turtles and start practicing animal care and shell disease management. Although this hands-on work carries with it a new level of stress and anxiety, it also provides valuable moments fraught with emotional ups and downs. Caring for the turtles brings home some of the studying from a theoretical context into a concrete reality. All of the turtles we receive after summer have gone through a recent debriding process. Debriding is a procedure where portions of their shells have been cut away in order to stop the disease from spreading.

Mealworms production at Cedar Creek. All part of a balanced turtle diet.
Anglemyer reveals the healed plastron of a turtle about to be released into the wild.

Unfortunately, this procedure—removing damaged portions of the shell—also leaves the turtles with wounds that have to be taken care of diligently in order to ensure that they heal efficiently and without infection. This is where the emotional rollercoaster part of the job comes to bear. Not all the turtles heal at the same rates. Some turtles heal slowly. Sometimes, they heal very slowly. Sometimes turtles will stop eating for days or weeks. Cataloging their  progress and behavior can be worrying at times.

Turtle Technician Bill Anglymeyer and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Emily Butler evaluating turtles before releasing them back into their habitat.

However, these new worries are accompanied by a refreshing hands-on learning experience. Many of the technicians have never worked closely with reptiles. Many people have preconceived notions about reptiles having a deficiency of personality. Moreover, reptiles are stereotyped as being only focused on needs and lacking social interactions. After working closely with turtles, though, it is easy to recognize the personalities of each individual. Like many mammals, some are social and playful, some are fearful and isolate, and some are fixated completely on food.

Western pond turtle, a state listed endangered species and one of only two native turtles in Washington State.

Seeing this new perspective is one of the most valuable experiences I gained as a Turtle Technician. Any job that offers an opportunity to change perceptions is more than just a job; it’s a learning experience.  My work with SPP was also greatly valuable to me because seasonal changes offer such a wide variety of experiences. Summer means book work and the fall means implementing that study into practical experience—along with the experience of caring for real animal lives. I miss my times at the CCCC Turtle Area. That may seem a little insane, considering I was incarcerated at the time. But the time I spent learning and caring for creatures, which I had had very little understanding of before, was a magical time during which I rarely realized that I was incarcerated.

Bill on Evergreen’s organic farm. Photo by Tierra Petersen.

Peer education created by and for incarcerated gardeners

By Carly Rose, SPP Curriculum Development Coordinator and Emerico, Gardening Curriculum Author

Gardeners tend to the soil in the gardens at Monroe Correctional Complex – Washington State Reformatory Unit. Incarcerated authors at MCC-WSRU are working with SPP to author chapters on Vermicomposting, Bokashi Composting, and Soil Science. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

For the past six months, gardeners at Stafford Creek Corrections Center and Monroe Correctional Complex – Washington State Reformatory Unit have been helping to build the new Gardening Curriculum. To develop course chapters, authors are combining expertise gained through personal experience with knowledge from scholarly research. Authors are working on a voluntary basis: they elect to share based on their desire to explore and describe a particular topic; some of the chapters currently in development include Vermicomposting & Bokashi Composting, Soil Science, the Soil Food Web, Planting and Harvesting Vegetables in Prison, Seed Saving, and Aquaponics.

Developing part of a curriculum while incarcerated requires some creativity. In order to submit materials, authors have provided handwritten work that is then typed and formatted by myself. One author types his work into JPay (social email) and mails it to a family member who mails it back, which gives him a pre-typed manuscript to submit. Most authors also provide their own illustrations and diagrams to be included in the chapter. Authors use a mixture of narrative from personal experience, tips on gardening that are specific to a prison environment, and college-level scholarly research to produce their work. They provide instruction that is created by and intended for incarcerated gardeners across the country. Authors and I send materials back and forth so they may provide feedback and edits on separate drafts of their work. One of the authors, Emerico, offered a personal narrative on his motivation to learn and write about his topic, Aquaponics. 

Introduction to Aquaponics by Emerico

I first became interested in aquaponics after reading a few articles and watching some educational television programs. I was working on the gardening crew at Stafford Creek and when the gardening classes started, I was thrilled to be included. Over time, I have learned every person—incarcerated or not—has a purpose in life. My purpose was building an aquaponics system with no budget. I had to lose my freedoms before I could find my purpose in life. This is where aquaponics all began for me. I had an idea, so I put it to paper and talked to the garden supervisor about the idea.

One of my first jobs on the garden crew was working with the hydroponics system. I found out that this type of system, which requires chemicals to grow plants and vegetables, is expensive and I believe far less healthy. My goal was to get away from using chemicals and go to more of a natural resource system. I thought about a way to build a small-scale aquaponics system that uses fish to feed the vegetables. After many attempts to get it approved, and with the help of the garden crew, we built a recycled materials aquaponics system. The first part of the vision of my idea came to life.

This is part of the aquaponics system built by Emerico, who is authoring a chapter on Aquaponics. He explained that he wants the chapter to be accessible to both incarcerated gardeners and low-income families outside of prison. Photo by Jacob Meyers.

There is a sense of satisfaction when growing your own vegetables whether for self/family or others. I believe also that gardening can relieve stress. This country is blessed; there should not be anyone going hungry. We see too much senseless hunger in our country and throughout the world. There must be a solution to this problem. How can we do this? By making people aware and teaching them that aquaponics is not only a healthier way to grow produce, but is also cheaper. Aquaponics saves money in the long run for people and their families, and is a fun way to bring families together in the garden.

As for me, it is all about giving back and helping those in the community and throughout society that are less fortunate. The purpose is to get a finer perception of aquaponics through research. Anyone can pretty much build a small-scale aquaponics system with a limited budget and few resources. I hope this brief overview has helped you. Above all else, have fun.

From his lab notebook, Emerico shows a diagram of the aquaponics system. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Next Steps

The course is projected to pilot in winter of this year. The two teams of authors plan to be part of that process as well; they will be among the first to try out the new program. Their feedback during and after the trial run will help us further refine the course, and then be ready to share it statewide and beyond.

All of the authors have personal experience gardening in prison, working on projects such as this garden at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. This garden is tended by individuals serving a life sentence, and is known as the “lifer’s garden.” Photo by Ricky Osborne.