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WKU Glasgow, Barren County Detention Center partner for jail garden project

Ribbon cutting Feb. 25 for ‘Breaking Ground’ collaboration

The Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce will conduct a ribbon cutting Thursday (Feb. 25) to commemorate a new partnership between WKU Glasgow, the Barren County Detention Center and the Barren County community for a new project that is breaking ground. The project, titled Breaking Ground: A Jail Garden Project, partners college students with incarcerated women to collaboratively examine current food-related issues of social significance while working together to design, construct and nurture a beautiful, healing, productive jail garden using sustainable agricultural practices.

During the first day of class, students who are participating in the Breaking Ground: A Jail Garden Project brainstormed the values they share that will guide their work for the rest of the semester.

During the first day of class, students who are participating in the Breaking Ground: A Jail Garden Project brainstormed the values they share that will guide their work for the rest of the semester. A ribbon cutting for the project will be held Feb. 25 at the Barren County Detention Center.

“We had considered the idea of a garden at Barren County Detention Center for quite some time,” said Barren County Jailer Matt Mutter. “When Dr. Nicole Breazeale, Assistant Professor of Sociology at WKU Glasgow, approached us with the Breaking Ground project, we were on board 100 percent. We plan to incorporate some of the produce from our garden into our menus at the Detention Center and any extras we plan to donate to the local soup kitchen.”

The ribbon cutting will begin at 11:45 a.m. at the Barren County Detention Center. Everyone is invited to attend.

“This project is community-controlled, and we have been very intentional about building on and integrating local partners and resources as well,” Dr. Breazeale said. “In this way, we hope that the project is sustainable and builds community capacity — a benefit above and beyond meeting a specified need. This is the true test of a community development service-learning project: Does it succeed in enhancing the community’s abilities to solve its own problems in the future?  We are firmly committed to this end goal.”

Dr. Breazeale is leading the collaboration and is teaching a course titled “Sociology of Food & Agriculture” at the jail this semester. The students taking the class consist of a total of 22 students – 17 undergraduate students and five incarcerated students. The first half of each week’s class will involve teaching a sustainable agriculture technique and working in the garden; the second half of each class will involve guiding the students through a food justice curriculum. Students will learn about our contemporary agri-food system and how it has developed over time.

“Many jails in Kentucky have gardens, but ours is different,” Mutter said. “We are not looking for mass production of food and plants. We are looking to change the way people look at gardening and the way they think about food.”

The project also incorporates other WKU Glasgow faculty, including Lindsey Reynolds, Instructor of Agriculture, and Melaine Asriel, Instructor of Psychological Sciences. Reyonlds is integrating this project into her “Environmental Sciences” course; her students will build a permaculture herb spiral in the jail garden. Asriel will be working closely with Samantha Johnson, a sociology major and senior at WKU Glasgow who is completing an independent psychology project.

“Dr. Breazeale, Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Asriel are phenomenal instructors who are committed to ensuring a successful outcome. So, when you add that level of commitment to the strength of the partnership already established between our two entities, it will be an extremely valuable experience for our students, the Barren County Detention Center and the community,” said Dr. Sally Ray, Chancellor of WKU Glasgow. “We are delighted to see this project come to fruition. As a regional campus, part of our mission is to serve the communities in which we are located, and so we are grateful to Jailer Matt Mutter for his willingness to embrace the idea, support it and make it happen.”

“Regional campuses of public universities are well positioned to make a vital contribution to the surrounding community because a majority of students are place-bound and have a deep-rooted desire to gain skills, experiences, and leadership abilities that will allow them to improve ‘our’ little place in the world,” Dr. Breazeale said. “Moreover, jails can enhance the lives of current (and formerly) incarcerated individuals by offering more opportunities for them to gain concrete skills, strengthen their bodies, empower their minds, heal their spirits, and give back to other people.  Programs like these also reduce rates of recidivism, which contributes to safer and healthier communities.”

For more information about Breaking Ground: A Jail Garden Project, contact Dr. Nicole Breazeale at nicole.breazeale@wku.edu or call (270) 659-6900.

Contact: John Roberts, (270) 659-6984

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