Prison, college team up to help inmates grow food indoors

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 3:59 PM EDT
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POTSDAM, New York (WWNY) - Riverview Correctional Facility inmates are preparing to grow food inside the facility’s walls. It’s all part of a partnership between a local college and the prison to teach inmates new job skills as they reach the end of their sentence.

Professor Raymond Bowdish is the Wagner Institute for Sustainability and Ecological Research Coordinator at SUNY Potsdam.

He’s explaining to Riverview Correctional vocational staff how to put together the facility’s newest tools for growing food in the winter, seven hydroponic tower gardens.

The towers themselves grow food with concentrated amounts of water that are distributed across sections built on top of each other.

“The quality of nutrition of things grown fresh and eaten right away are what we call hyperlocal foods which are foods that are grown where they’re eaten,” said Bowdish.

Bowdish says the seven hydroponic towers will be used among inmates as part of Riverview Correctional Facility’s horticulture vocation program.

“We’re one of the first medium facilities in the state to consider this program and we think it will be a good learning tool for incarcerated individuals. My instructor is very knowledgeable and he wants to pass that information on,” said Vernon Burns, the prison’s vocational supervisor.

Burns believes inmates will increase their skill sets as they complete the program.

When the towers are installed, foods such as lettuce, peppers, peas, and any other kind of vegetable or produce can be grown.

Some of the food will go to local food banks.