Tomato plants grown at Rolleston Prison are loaded for distribution.Five thousand tomato plants grown at Rolleston Prison have been distributed to Christchurch City Council housing tenants and schools over the past month.

This makes a total of more than 30,000 tomato plants distributed to the community since the tomato plant partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Council began in 2008.

“The prisoners involved in the garden are always really proud to see the tomatoes leave in the council van for tenant and community gardens,” says Rolleston Residential Manager Sandra Poff.

Gardening can provide the men with a form of exercise, a time of reflection and solitude and many health benefits associated with growing their own food.

“They feel they are making a meaningful contribution to the local community as well as learning skills. Growing plants to a size that will bear fruit over the next few months takes patience. The plants are grown from seed, so they take a great deal of nurturing and care before they can be sent out to plant in people’s gardens.”

Sandra says many prisoners who have worked in the gardens are continuing to grow their own vegetables on release.  Many of the gardeners’ interest in plants and gardening has developed through their time at Rolleston Prison and most of the men involved have had very little to do with gardening or plants before.