It was a long, hot summer. Usually this type of statement in a correctional facility is an indicator that things are not going well and trouble is brewing, but at Mission Minimum, it was a sign that good deeds were on the horizon.
Mission Minimum is part of the Mission Institution Cluster, which includes Mission Medium, and what was formerly known as Ferndale Minimum Security Institution. The complex “clustered” in 2014, and is now considered one operational site.
Mission Minimum has been operating a garden for about 14 years. Starting as a small operation, the garden produced several thousand pounds of fresh produce. In the 2018 growing season, over 125,000 pounds of fresh vegetables were harvested for the community.
The garden is situated on CSC property, but is essentially run by the Lookout Housing & Health Society, a non-profit charitable organization established in 1971. They offer a range of programs, housing and health solutions to vulnerable adults living with multiple challenges.
The Lookout Housing & Health Society serves 14 municipalities in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia including Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey, New Westminster, West Vancouver, North Vancouver (City and District), Burnaby, Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Maple Ridge. Including emergency and extreme weather shelters, Lookout houses more than 1,400 people each night.
Lookout’s multiple services include 18 outreach teams, 2 community resource centres, medical and dental clinic, food bank, needle distribution and community cleanup, HIV and Hep C supports, 3 social enterprises, numerous peer and employment programs and youth counselling programs. These services collectively serve more than 2,500 people daily.
In addition to the Lookout food banks, recipients of the Mission Minimum garden produce have included local food banks, mental health support networks, local first nations, and the Salvation Army.
Just to give a little bit of perspective, the garden produced 15,510 pounds of potatoes, 12,184 pounds of zucchini, and almost 1,100 pounds of onions! Other favourite items include cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots. In total, the garden produces 33 different varieties of vegetables.
This collaboration with the Lookout Society and Mission Institution has some very definite and positive impacts. The garden provides much needed employment opportunities in a real world, skill based environment. The participants learn about more than just growing plants. They learn about resource management, water conservation, bee keeping, small engine repair, plumbing, problem solving, commitment and teamwork.
The connections to the community also provide an opportunity for Escorted Temporary Absences to conduct food deliveries and plant sales. This access to the community is beneficial for the offenders’ reintegration plans and allows them to see first hand the recipients of their work.
Garden Supervisor Greg Bailey has been the driving force in the day-to-day operations of the garden. From the training garden’s inception, he has worked tirelessly to develop the operation as it is today. Greg has enjoyed working with the offenders, meeting the needs of the community, and making a difference.
Chuck Griffith, Operations Manager for the Friends in Need Food Bank offered: “Often when Greg shows up, he and his helpers will bring the food right out to the front so our clients can access it right away. The tomatoes, carrots and the other items are well received. Over the years Greg has become a part of the family and it is always nice to see his warm smile when he comes in. Greg has made it his mission not only to bring us the produce, but he takes the time to cut flowers that we display all over our food bank. Often you can see him handing those out to our staff. It is his personal touches that really make the difference. The men who come along with Greg are always helpful and friendly.”
As we look forward to the 2019 growing season, we are in even better shape. It is the hope that this great collaboration between the Lookout Society, staff, offenders, and the community will continue to grow, year after year.
“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a taste of freedom” — Nelson Mandela, “A Prisoner in the Garden.”
A/AWI Mission Minimum