Non-profit Flips Abandon Prison into Sustainable Farm

Community activists have transformed an abandoned decommissioned prison in Scotland County, North Carolina into a sustainable farm that combats food insecurity and joblessness.  Growing Change, the organizer of the project, believes the best way to address social ills is by striking at the root of problems (food insecurity and joblessness) not the stem.

Since 2011, they have been working with partners to transform old prisons into year round sustainable farms and education centers. Their program brings together at risk youth and unemployed wounded veterans returning from deployment to provide structured mentoring, optional mental health therapy services, and instruction in the environmental sciences that can culminate in the conferring of university degrees for the veterans.

The model relies on the strength of the veterans’ discipline and leadership skills to teach youth in the program life skills, while they collectively learn sustainable farming practices and animal husbandry.

The project was envisioned to help reduce youth incarceration rates in North Carolina, one of only two states in the country where minors at the age of 16 are charged as adults. Founder Noran Sanford said, “At the core level, we are instilling hope.”

In 2016, the program began accepting youth from homes with unstable family dynamics that put the minors at increased risk of school dropout, substance abuse, and mental health challenges.

The success of the program has contributed to a reduction of 92% in the recidivism rate among youth in the program compared to a national average of just 43% in similar programs nationwide.

Sanford remarked, “When hope is gone, it creates a pretty vicious void that a lot of other grimmer things can get pulled into. And as low-wealth rural America is left further behind, then that vacuum is stronger. We’re breaking that stream.”

Source: Good News Network