Produce Fresh from Jail: Salt Lake City’s Prison Horticulture Program

Share this with your friends

Gardening is a well known therapeutic, and luckily for some inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail, they are allowed to participate in a special horticulture program which teaches the joys of planting, maintaining and harvesting a garden in the ever-changing Utah climate.

Citizens are encouraged to attend tours of the garden offered by the jail which are open to the public, usually twice a month and last for approximately 60 minutes. For the month of July, the tour is scheduled for Wednesday, July 2nd at 11 a.m. and Wednesday, July 30th at 5 o’clock p.m.

Prisoners do work in the garden during the tour, therefore, for this reason, no guests under the age of 16 will are permitted and each tour is limited to 16 guests, which can be registered together by providing the full name and date of birth of each person attending the tour.

The jail, located at 3415 South 900 West, just south of the capital of Salt Lake City, requires pre-registration to attend the tours, which can be made through Cheri Livingston at or via phone at 385-468-8800385-468-8800. A 48 hour advanced RSVP is required and must be received by the 5 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the tour.

The jail does not allow cameras, cell phones, or other personal items, and visitors could be subject to a search, so please plan accordingly if you intend to attend a tour.

According to their newsletter, the Horticulture Program has a new, larger spot at the northwest corner of the Park. They have a variety of crops and quite a few plants (flowers, herbs, and produce) ready for transplantation.

Their newsletters also offers great gardening tips such as:

  • Fertilizing: understand that during the first 6-8 weeks of the growing season some your plants need to be fertilized at least once. Also know when to stop fertilizing to increase fruit production rather than green growth (especially on tomatoes and peppers).

  • Pruning: Some plants, such as tomatoes, benefit from pruning. Pinch the suckers that grow in between the leaves and the main stem. This will help put more energy into producing yummy tomatoes. Also, pruning leafy greens like Kale and Swiss Chard helps encourage growth and keeps pest down.

The Jail recently reported in its “Garden News” publication about their 2014 Summer Intern, Crystal Puckett. Crystal was raised on an orchard in Northern Utah and grew up learning how to care for trees. In addition, she has recently fulfilled an apprenticeship on a 25-acre sustainable farm in Washington. There she tended to and was responsible for pasture-raised livestock that included Icelandic sheep, chickens, Highland cattle, six Jersey cows, and raising plant starters from seed to sell at the local Farmers Market. Interns work in the garden in association with the Utah State University’s Extension Program which also provides excellent references for Utah gardens and may be accessed through this link.

Inmates and County Deputies will attend and work a booth weekly at the 2014 Downtown Farmers Market, held in downtown Salt Lake City at Pioneer Park every Saturday through the summer. The market opened June 14th and the calendar can be accessed via this link.

While it continues to be a shame that many of these prisoners are incarcerated for ridiculous paraphernalia or small amounts of cannabis charges, the positive note is that people are learning a valuable skill and giving back to their community by growing a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

Salt Lake County residents are encouraged to attend the tours and evaluate how their taxes are being utilized to treat jail inmates and perhaps learn a thing or two about gardening in the Intermountain west at the same time.

When contacted for this article in an attempt to obtain specific information regarding budget and inmate participation, Captain Matt Dumont sent the following response:

“Thank you for sharing your very positive opinions about the Jail Horticulture Program. I am also glad to see your interest in the Garden Tours. This program thrives on community support and helps make positive change in the community.

I must, unfortunately, decline the offer to participate in the article.

There is a conflict between many of the articles and advertisements posted in Ladybud Magazine and the message that we, as a law enforcement agency, send regarding the use of illegal substances.”

While it is certainly a shame that the Salt Lake County Jail personnel are prevented from associating with a publication that promotes cannabis advocacy, an offer was extended to Captain Dumont to provide any type of cannabis education (regarding medicinal, revenue possibilities from recreational and industrial hemp benefits, etc) at any time about the local or international cannabis reform movement.

Learn more about the progress of cannabis in Utah here.

Want to read about law enforcement working to end prohibition? Check out Ladybud’s past coverage of LEAP here.

Photo Credit: Derrick Coetzee under (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr