NICI's garlic rope wins top prize

Garlic rope hangs between two women at fair display
From left, Gail Gates and Liz Clark run NICI's horticulture program

North Idaho Correctional Institution’s horticulture program made a great showing at the recent Idaho County Fair. A garlic rope grown and woven by inmates took first place and best in show in the fair's horticulture-vegetable exhibit category.

“The 7-foot garlic rope was an offender's brainstorm, as we had recently harvested 75 pounds of garlic for the NICI kitchen,” says instructor Liz Clark.  “We also saved 10 pounds to replant in October for next year's crop.”

NICI’s horticulture program started in the summer of 2012 with construction of a 30-by-48-foot greenhouse. The program now offers four classes, ranging in length from 30 hours to 45 hours.  The classes are designed to give goal-oriented students training for future employment in plant and soil science or a nursery, greenhouse, or landscaping environment.

“We stress employable skills related to soil and media, plant structure, growth process, propagation and plant management,” Clark says.  “We try to balance classroom instruction with lab work, developing practical problem solving and critical thinking.”

Last year, 114 inmates completed at least one of NICI’s horticulture classes, an increase from 106 the year before.

In addition to teaching inmates valuable skills, NICI’s horticulture program is working to save Idaho’s declining sage-grouse population. Inmates are growing sage brush plants that will be used to restore the sage-grouses’ habitat. The birds,which are emblematic of Idaho’s high desert countr, depend on sage brush for food and habitat.

“We expect to continue to explore opportunities for partnerships with other organizations working with incarcerated individuals as collaborators and citizen-scientists, as we believe these experiences connect offenders to a multitude of disciplines and work related opportunities when they return to their communities,” Clark says.

You can see more photos of NICI’s fair entries here.

Story published: 09/12/2014
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