Residents of Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia are eating their own ‘home-grown’ vegetables thanks to offenders serving sentences of community work.
The offenders have been hard at work creating and maintaining a healthy garden at the home as reparation for their crimes.
Facilities manager, Glen Cowie says that the 70 residents have been very pleased with the result of the garden.
“Many of the residents here were once keen gardeners themselves and take an interest in the garden's progress. They agree that home grown produce tastes better too!”
“The garden was planted in October after a neighbour ploughed the huge 70x15 metre area of grass for us. We then had the help of Community Probation & Psychological Services who organised for the offenders to hoe the ground, spread topsoil and plant seeds. Over summer we ate fresh beans, kamo kamo, pumpkin, zucchini and potatoes. Our hope is that the winter harvest will be just as plentiful – with cabbages, broccoli, brussell sprouts, carrots and leeks already planted.”
Community Work Supervisor Norman Popata says it was satisfying for the offenders involved to see their efforts through from start to finish.
“Some of the offenders had more gardening experience than others, and were able to share that knowledge. All of the offenders were enthusiastic and proud of what they had achieved when the first vegetables were harvested for the residents to eat.”
Community Work sentences require offenders to do unpaid work in the community for non-profit organisations as reparation for their offending.
The work for offenders has not ended with the creation of the garden. Ten offenders go back to the home fortnightly to weed and water the crops, and continue planting so that the vegetables are available year round. Glen is thankful for their help.
“Not only does their help mean we save money by not having to buy the produce, but it means our residents are eating the freshest vegetables available. They have also enjoyed watching the seedlings flourish in an area that was once just grass”.
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