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Seeds of Change: The Give-Back Garden

Provide youth, under the jurisdiction of the Court, an opportunity to engage with the community by working together to create and maintain a community garden and donate the harvest to a local food bank.
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“The reason I continue to work is not because I like being outside in the dirt but because for once I can be a part of something healthy and beautiful. When I’m not in detention I’m too busy using drugs and living on the streets, so it feels so good to do something that people can be proud of me for.”  Female in custody.
Special thanks to the following businesses for their donations to the Garden Project:
  • Black Lake Landscape Supplies
  • Black Lake Nursery & Feed
  • Black Lake Quarry
  • Chehalis Tribe / Lucky Eagle Casino
  • Commodities Unlimited Inc.
  • Ferguson Waterworks
  • Great Western Supply
  • HD Fowler Company
  • Home Depot (Tumwater)
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • Kiperts Korner Feed
  • Lew Rents
  • Lowe's (Lacey)
  • Mutual Materials
  • Nature Perfect
  • The Plant Place
  • Platt Electric Supply
  • Rising River Farm
  • Tractor Supply Company (Yelm)
September 7, 2016 Harvest Celebration

Contact Us:
Mike Fenton
Juvenile Court Administrator
(360) 709-3141    E-mail
The Garden's Story

Juvenile Court staff and management are always looking for innovative ways to hold youth accountable while restoring communities and providing youth with valuable skills. The garden project is one of these innovative ways that youth can give back to the community while at the same time build competencies and work skills.

Planning and initial design of the garden began in March of 2016. Court staff worked with local businesses to get supplies for the project. Businesses and community organizations generously donated thousands of dollars for materials, including landscaping, soil, rock, plumbing, vegetables, and plants. The business community really stepped up for these youth and the garden could not be what it is today without their support.

The youth broke ground in April of 2016 and began site preparation, construction, planting, and maintenance. The youth have been an important part of each step in the process. They are taking ownership of the garden and learning valuable skills while getting dirty and breathing in the fresh air! In 2016 alone, the youth donated more than 500 pounds of produce to the Thurston County Foodbank. Their goal for 2017 was 1,000 pounds, which they more than doubled with a final weigh in of 2,069 pounds. In 2018, their goal is to donate 3,000 pounds.

The garden hosts a Koi pond with more than 30 Koi fish. The water from the pond provides valuable nutrients to the plants in a very environmentally conscientious manner. Staff and youth built a holding tank for the pond water and incorporate the nutrient rich water into the watering system. They have also installed composting sites to make their own useable compost to increase the nutrients in the garden dirt and reduce waste.

One local resident donated a greenhouse to the garden at the end of the growing season in 2016. The addition of the greenhouse has allowed the youth to begin planting starts during the colder months so they are ready to be planted in the spring. They no longer have to rely on donations of starts to begin gardening in the spring, they can now grow their own starts and be ready for planting after the last frost! Future plans include expanding the crop and growing space, as well as expanding the composting elements.
Growing Our Youth

Youth take part in community restoration projects to repair the harm done to the community by the actions of the youth. By connecting youth with the community in this fashion, they will be more invested in “our” community and will be less likely to reoffend in the future.

The young people are responsible for the construction of the garden, and the planting and maintenance of the produce. They are also responsible for the harvest and donation to our local foodbank. The garden provides them with opportunities to learn about the science of gardening, learn employable skills, engage in teamwork, and help in community restoration.

The juvenile department believes that youth participation in this project is a rehabilitative and restorative opportunity. It is more productive than just “doing time” in the detention facility.