News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – “This is a fantastic initiative and yet another example of some of the positive developments coming from our correctional institutions,” said Minister of National Security Michael Weeks.

It follows the news that eight Westgate Correctional Facility inmates are thriving in a voluntary programme to certify them in sustainable farming.

It is being taught by Mr Christopher Faria, the founder and managing director of the AgraLiving Institute. During the weekly course, which began last October, the all-male group learned how to use sustainable farming methods to grow various food crops, including grains.

The classes are taught mainly using hands-on learning methods and focus on growing healthy soil, the preparation of a garden, transplanting and sowing seeds, watering and gardening maintenance and composting and garden planning.

Graduates of this curriculum will be able to use these skills to grow their food, find job opportunities in a growing field or start their own business growing and selling market vegetables.

Photo caption L-R (Westgate Garden photo): Westgate inmate Jahmico Trott, instructor Chris Faria, Westgate inmate Detre Ford, (kneeling) is Westgate inmate Jacquii DeSilva-Pearman.

During this winter season, the students chose to grow oats, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, kale, onions, beets and sweet potatoes in their large garden situated in the central courtyard of the Westgate Correctional facility.

They have begun to harvest a few bags of produce each week which is being used in the kitchen.

As the garden and the students’ skills continue to grow, more produce from the garden will be used to offset costs and significantly increase the nutrition of the food being offered.

The project will supplement the produce output from The Farm Facility, which maintains the Department’s most extensive gardens.

Retired Officer Andre Outebridge has continued to instruct inmates and oversee the gardens at The Farm Facility since he retired from the Department.

Officer Winston Weekes has been assisting him. The Farm Facility distributes its harvest among the three correctional facilities within the Department of Corrections.

When there is excess produce that may spoil before the Department can utilise it, those items are shared with care facilities around the island. The successful programme will soon be expanded to the Co-Ed Facility in St George’s.

Minister Weeks added: “There is a body of evidence out there that suggests gardening skills can bring tremendous personal benefits to inmates.

“I applaud any initiative that attempts to interlink sustainable living and the natural world, which we sometimes forget about, with people undergoing life-changing transformations.

“I salute the participants of this curriculum for taking on a challenge to improve themselves and Christopher Faria for his leadership and inclusive approach to the community.”