Career Technical Education
Jail Industries Plant Nursery
As part of its Career Technical Education (CTE) services, the Sonoma County Office of Education collaborates with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to provide educational services to adults incarcerated in local correctional facilities. With an eye toward increasing each individual’s future employment options, the program provides vocational training and basic skills education to inmates.
The Jail Industries Plant Nursery is located on a five-acre parcel at the North County Detention Facility, next to the Sonoma County Airport. It was established in 1994 and serves minimum security inmates.
The program is staffed by a SCOE teacher and includes classroom instruction, hands-on projects, and work in a production garden. These activities are designed to provide inmates with skills and training that will prepare them for greater success when they are released from custody.
Planting Seeds for a Better Future | Aug 2011
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office developed this three-minute video, posted on YouTube, that provides an overview of the Jail Industries Plant Nursery program.
Classes are taught in irrigation, fresh water issues, sustainable agricultural methods through the use of organic soil amendments, plant propagation, landscape design, soil conservation and composting, greenhouse production, plant identification, and pruning techniques. Inmates can earn certificates, such as the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) from the Sonoma County Water Agency, to support their employment upon release from custody.
A two-acre teaching garden provides food for the Jail, with excess donated to local food banks and other community nonprofits. A portion of this area is set aside for demonstration projects with the Master Gardeners, among others.
The Plant Nursery
The one-acre plant nursery grows more than 200 varieties of grasses, trees, vines, shrubs, groundcovers, bulbs, perennials, and vegetable starts. All plants are grown in compost without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and are for sale to the public during periodic open house events or by appointment only.
Individuals interested making an appointment to visit the nursery and purchase plants should contact Jail Industries instructor Rick Stern at (707) 525-8310 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Normal visiting hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9:00am to 1:00pm. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. The Nursery is located at the North County Detention Facility, 2254 Ordinance Road, Santa Rosa (next to the Sonoma County Airport).
Projects completed by inmates have helped many local schools, nonprofit groups, and city, county, and state agencies by providing food, plants and trees, and landscaping materials and services. New projects are added each year to address current needs in the community and provide opportunities for inmates to make connections with community groups and agencies that they can join, volunteer with, or work for when released. Current projects include:
- Demonstration garden of natives and “superstar” plants
- Propagation area for the Master Gardeners’ garden tour
- Vermiculture (worm bins) demonstrations to reduce kitchen waste
- Vegetable starts for school and community gardens
- Landscape design and materials for public facilities
- Organic food for Sonoma County Jail inmates
- Donation of excess vegetables to local food banks and community groups
Program sponsors have included the California Landscape Contractors Association; City of Santa Rosa–Recreation, Parks & Community Services; Marin Community Foundation; National Tree Foundation; Sonoma Compost; Sonoma County Community Foundation; Sonoma County General Services Department, Energy and Sustainability Program; Sonoma County Regional Parks; Sonoma County Water Agency; UC Extension, Sonoma County Master Gardeners; UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance; and Wheeler Zamaroni, among others.
Volunteers and Donations
The Jail Industries Plant Nursery relies on the help of volunteers, donated goods and services, and plant sales to continue its successful program. Volunteers may serve as guest speakers, guest instructors on specialized landscaping skills, assistants at plant sale and open house events, and/or assistants to support newsletter and brochure production. Volunteers and schools receive a 20 percent discount on purchases. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the program should contact Rick Stern at (707) 525-8310 or email@example.com.
- Rick Stern, Jail Industries Instructor