Harvest at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Detention Center

Upon our return to the Stanislaus County Juvenile Detention Center we did some serious harvesting, planting and food justice workshopping with the young men there.


We harvested eggplant, bell pepper, Anaheim peppers, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tons of basil, watermelon, musk melon, butternut squash and tomatoes. We left some basil so that it could be harvested throughout the next six weeks as the plants finish their natural cycle. Harvesting the eggplant, squash and melons presented a bit of a challenge with their respective thorns, horns and pokies. The eggplant was home to a white fluffy pest and even more lady bugs and lady bug larvae (the coolest bug babies around). All the harvests from the garden will be used for the culinary arts classes and by the facility for meals which include pizza, salad and lasagna.

Of course we left one bed untouched, the strawberry bed, since strawberries are crops which live longer than one growing season. These strawberries are sending out runners which rootdown to create a real 'strawberry patch'. We had the classic tension presented at the change of seasons where we are faced with removing plants that are still producing to replace them with plants which will soon produce. The Permaculture principle of planting in successions can help with this problem in gardens where planting can happen with greater frequency. Check out our blog from our bus tour which gives a working example of planting in succession.

Our workshop this time highlighted historical events of different struggles people around the world have faced which grounds and connects the work youth are doing in the garden inside the juvenile detention facility with different social movements around the world.

They learned about the difficult and hazardous working conditions farmworkers face in industrial agricultural fields and the strategies United Farm Workers used in 1965 to build alliances across different ethnicities to put pressure on grape and lettuce growers to negotiate for better union contracts.

The youth explored some ways that women's rights intersect with struggles for food justice, learning about Mohawk women of the Mother's Milk Project who organize to raise their own fish using aquaculture methods. Fish is their traditional source of protein, however fish in the local waterways are contaminated with toxic chemicals like PCBs, DDT, Mirex, and HCBs that are dumped into the waters by various industries. These toxic chemicals are stored in our body fat and are excreted primarily through breast milk, meaning that babies are at risk of receiving concentrated dosages. The importance of food sovereignty began to hit home as the youth connected this sacred natural link to our initial experience of food as nourishment and medicine. One young man drew connections between women's rights and the sexual harassment female farmworkers often face when working in agricultural fields.

Youth learned about the Japanese farmers who lost thousands of acres of land in the U.S. when 110,000 people of Japanese heritage were unjustly interned during WWII. They also learned about farmworkers in Immokalee Florida who, for the past 12 years, have been using direct actions and online organizing strategies to successfully win fair food agreements with over 11 multi-billion dollar food retailers such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Whole Foods, establishing more humane farm labor standards and fairer wages for farm workers in their tomato supplier operations.

By learning about the Greensboro restaurant sit-ins or the life of Mohamed Bouazizi, youth at Stanislaus JuvenileDetention Facility explored how a single act of protest can become a catalyst for a revolutionary wave of demonstrations such as the Civil Rights movement or the more recent Arab Spring.

This past month, what we planted in the garden was a beautiful array of winter annuals and more perennial herbs. The annuals we brought included an assortment of brassica: broccoli, cabbage, collards, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. We also transplanted some celery, lettuce, spinach, chard and arugula starts remembering to tickle the roots. To maintain natural resilience we practiced intercropping planting onions, garlic, chives, leeks and garlic in the beds with the leafy crops and brassica. Our twelve beds ended up packed with all these young transplants. Part of maximizing your production in limited space includes planting plants together which will mature at different speeds and which grow in different ways. For example we planted beets in with our collards. The collards will grow up big and tall above the soil and the beets do a good portion of their growing underground. We planted garlic cloves and carrots seeds in other beds with kale using the same principle.

The kitchen garden got an assortment of new perennials including a lovely lemon thyme, lemon verbena, lavender, two varieties of oregano, purple culinary sage and rosemary. A meaningful connection we got to make at our JuvenileRedemption Garden included the planting of native California yarrow seeds which were grown and harvested from our San Quentin veggie garden in hopes that that the seeds grown inside the Stanislaus County Juvenile Detention Facility spread far and wide."