Residential Manager Graeme Hunter talking to one of the gardeners at CMP.A partnership between City Harvest and Ara Poutama Aotearoa Corrections, is resulting in large amounts of fresh produce being made available to people in need across Canterbury through City Harvest.

Since the Canterbury earthquakes, the two large produce gardens supported by Seeds of Hope have been providing fresh vegetables and fruit to Help for the Homeless and Women’s Refuge. We are happy to now be providing all produce to City Harvest which manages the distribution across various Canterbury organisations supporting people in our community.

Seeds for the garden are donated to six Hope Churches on “Seed Sunday”, an annual event when the churches request parishioners to bring seeds as their Sunday collection. These seeds are provided to a number of schools in the area and both Christchurch Men’s and Women’s Prisons where they are grown, and fresh produce produced for the community.

Seeds for the Christchurch Men’s and Women’s Prison gardens are grown by prisoners and provided to City Harvest for distribution to foodbanks and social services organisations across the Canterbury.

“This partnership enables our gardeners to develop their horticultural skills and donate more fresh produce, through City Harvest, to people in need in the community,” says Christchurch Men’s Prison Residential Manager Graeme Hunter, who oversees the Units growing the produce.

This crop is coming along nicely.“Gardening is an important and useful activity in prison. Prison gardens offer a rehabilitative peaceful space where people can work, sit or actively relax and work through their thoughts and emotions. Through their gardening, the men develop useful life skills including teamwork, responsibility and patience. The satisfaction and reward the men get for their care, responsibility and patience is their enormous pride of a job well done when their produce leaves the prison garden for the community.”

“Many of the men working in the gardens develop a lifelong interest in gardening as a leisure activity, as well as the tools to feed themselves and others, and the skills for future employment opportunities in horticulture. The men working in the garden take a lot of pride in their produce,” he says, “and have a great sense of pride in knowing that their hard work is helping someone in need.”

Hope Church Project Lead, Carey Ewing says with over 400 packets of seeds collected so far, Seed Sunday has resulted in significant amounts of fresh produce being grown in the prisons and gifted to people in need across Canterbury.

Programmes like this are good for everyone involved,” he says. “Men and women in prison enjoy the gardening and the accomplishment of providing the product and this is also a reminder that people in the community care for them and appreciate the contribution they are making.”

Comment from two gardeners

“I have been in charge of the DRU garden since Christmas last year and really enjoy how this gives me the ability to contribute to the community. My previous employment, I spent lots of time outdoors and this is my happy place. I enjoy working in the garden by myself as it can be hard to find solitude in the prison and I get the odd perk in the form of a raspberry or strawberry.”

“The garden is a peaceful and rewarding place to work. I enjoy being able to provide food to people in need, if I was homeless, I would love to get some fresh vegetables.”

A tip from one of the gardeners was to not put your rhubarb leaves in the compost, as this causes rust on your plants.

Across the two Christchurch Men’s Prison vegetable gardens, gardeners are currently growing: cauliflower, lettuce, bok choi, capsicums, cabbage, radish, tomatoes, yams, leeks, silverbeet, potatoes, pumpkins, cucumber, peas, various bean varieties, radishes, beetroot, spring onions, and brown and white onions, raspberries and strawberries, black and red currants, rhubarb.

Herbs include: Rosemary, thyme, basil, coriander, garlic, sage, oregano.