Family Focus: Inmate horticulture course helping local food banks

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

More than 100 Mecklenburg County inmates are learning a trade, but jail staff said it is much more than just job training.

Channel 9 anchor Natalie Pasquarella visited a greenhouse at the Mecklenburg County Jail to see how a horticulture course is helping inmates and the community.

Rob Dixon is the head of inmate programs. He said the horticulture courses are not just about learning to garden; the inmates learn more about empathy and how to nurture.

“If you haven’t seen anything evolve like that, it’s actually an emotional thing,” Dixon said. “They are learning more about life in general that maybe they weren’t taught directly when they were outside in the community.”

The inmates also learn about giving back to the community instead of taking from it.

Dixon said everything they grow is donated to community gardens and soup kitchens across the Charlotte area.

“They actually give us orders, they will supply us with seeds, we will grow what they want in several trays. They come six to eight weeks later to pick up their plants and grow them in local gardens,” Dixon said.

Eddie Beach runs the Davidson Community Gardens, which is one of 86 gardens the jail teams with.

“We feel like partners. They are working with us. We’re working with them,” Beach said.

Beach dropped off seeds for the inmates to plant this month. He said he's excited to see the results because he donates all produce and plants to the nonprofit Loaves and Fishes.

"It makes me feel grateful, makes me feel like we have a positive mission and we're really helping people and that's an important thing," Beach said.

Dixon said the horticulture program is one of three inmate vocational programs. The other two are carpentry and culinary courses.