For those of you new to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Maintenance Collaborative blog I want to introduce myself. My name is Ferriss Buck Donham and I teach Horticulture to 8 minimum security inmates every Wednesday at the Boston Pre Release Center (BPRC) in Roslindale, MA.
All other weekdays throughout the year the men work in the Emerald Necklace Parks in Boston and Brookline. The idea for the program began in the 1980s when then Governor Michael Dukakis saw the need for jobs for inmates or soon to be released men. Dukakis also witnessed the condition of the parks and recognized a need for maintenance to make them safer and more pleasant as well as preserving a piece of American History. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy started the collaborative about 8 years ago.
At the BPRC we have a classroom and we have gardens on site. We have vegetable, herb, perennial, bulb, cutting and fruit gardens. The goal is to teach job skills to men who are about to leave the prison for good. I am a Master Gardener as well as own my own residential gardening business where I design, install and maintain perennial gardens. I teach the men using the Master Gardener Curriculum that I have altered to fit the needs of the program as well as many of the business skills I have acquired over the years owning my own business.
While in the parks the men acquire many job skills, from showing up to work on time and managing themselves with others, laboring in all weather conditions, learning maintenance of plants in an historic park and commitment to a job that makes a difference to the many people who safely use the parks every day in all kinds of weather.
In the classroom we learn about soil, seed to fruit production, compost, organic practices, propagation, pruning and pests. We spend time reading aloud, writing and drawing, coloring and painting. The classroom time is very hands on and structured in an inclusive way to create learning in an experiential and inviting way.
Welcome to the blog and I look forward to sharing the program with you.
In the meantime, I am constantly on the lookout for similar programs and inspiration.
Here is today’s inspiration: