How it Began: The Grapes of Wrath
Cathrine Sneed is no stranger to reaping the fruits of hard work. She was 17 years old, homeless and pregnant, when she came to San Francisco. Determined to make a life for herself and her children, Cathrine went to law school, and began a career counseling prisoners.
When hospitalized with kidney disease, Cathrine was inspired by the book, The Grapes of Wrath. "When people had a connection to land, they had hope in their life." Cathrine encouraged the jail to convert old farmland into The Garden Project.
The Solution: A Connection to the Land
Garden Project participants are primarily prisoners serving misdemeanor sentences of less than one year who tend not to be violent offenders. The prisoners work on the jail's 145 acre farm and when they are released, they are eligible to be employed at The Garden Project through the Sheriff's Department.
The program gives prisoners and ex-offenders alike an opportunity to give back to their communities. The organically grown vegetables are distributed to local soup kitchens, senior citizens and children's programs. For Halloween, the prisoners and the employees at The Garden Project will work with the police department to donate 25,000 pumpkins to schoolchildren.
The program not only teaches a trade—it also promotes valuable life skills like work ethic, self-confidence and literacy. One ex-offender says, "Going through this program, I learned to care about people and that made feel good about myself." This Garden Project graduate now talks to children about his past so they don't repeat his mistakes. Cathrine says, "I think that because they're giving, it helps to heal them in a way that I don't think anything else can."
A Special Gift: A New Tractor
When New Holland heard The Garden Project needed a new tractor, they donated "The Boomer," a deluxe compact tractor! The Garden Project has farmed more food for donation to the unemployed and working poor than in the past with their new tractor.
* For more information on New Holland, please visit www.newholland.com/na/.
Since receiving the Use Your Life Award, The Garden Project has been able to: build a greenhouse; educate children about nutrition; and purchase additional farm equipment for harvesting and computer equipment for their education program.
"The Use Your Life Award was vital in helping us to continue to work with former prisoners and poor communities," Cathrine says. "Seventy-five percent of Garden Project participants do not return to jail."