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Vocational Skills Horticulture Program

Mecklenburg County, NC
Program Year: 2019

The Vocational Skills Horticulture Program is conducted by volunteers and staff of NC Cooperative Extension, a part of the Park and Recreation Department, in partnership with the County Sheriff’s Office as a part of their Adult Programs for inmates. The purpose is to prepare participants for various careers in horticulture. Participants learn skills related to horticulture, greenhouse operations, and use of hardscape products for landscapes and gardens. Coursework includes instruction in plant science, plant materials, propagation, soils, fertilizer and pest management. This program includes classroom and hands on instruction. The curriculum used covers horticulture, hydroponics and aquaponics, and greenhouse operation. Staff and an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer used the NC Extension Service Master Gardener manual and other research-based resources to prepare the Program curriculum. Participants receive classroom instruction and hands on experiences in the greenhouse, labs, and outdoor gardens, including raised beds. In addition, participants in the Construction program led by the same volunteer have constructed raised beds for use at the facility and other public sites including park facilities. They have also built a mobile, accessible raised bed for use in the horticulture therapy program at a local hospital. In 2 years, about 120 inmates, both male and female, have completed the 2-week Horticulture Program. Follow-up, which can only be done with county residents a year after release, has indicated that at least 6 have been employed by a local greenhouse operation and two by a construction company after their release. In addition, participants in the horticulture program have grown over 30,000 vegetable and herb plants that have been donated to community groups. Recipients of plants include community gardens, Recreation Center programs, and the hospital horticulture therapy program.

Ms. Terri Lynn Stowers
Recreation Manager