Home Nature Inside the East Oakland Plant Nursery That’s Breaking the Incarceration Cycle

Inside the East Oakland Plant Nursery That’s Breaking the Incarceration Cycle


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Luis Sr. Ortega mulches and re-pots nursery plants, which are sourced as cuttings from Planting Justice’s “mom” farm in El Sobrante. (Courtesy of Birhon Quizhpe, Planting Justice)

Walking into Planting Justice’s East Oakland nursery seems like strolling into a metropolitan sanctuary.

Its premises, in the Sobrante Park area, are a patchwork of various colored plants. Rows of fruit trees– apples, figs, Asian pears, European pears, Japanese plums, pomegranates, jujube, quince, loquat and more– fill the area. It’s tough to even stroll in a straight line. From this 2-acre lot, Planting Justice offers more than 1,100 ranges of plants– a lot of them hard to discover, and appropriate for a variety of environment zones– and ships them throughout the continental United States. Often need has actually even overtaken the nursery’s capability. Beyond the growing plant company, Planting Justice utilizes its nursery as a tool for social modification– to end the cycle of imprisonment.

” Nobody’s got our sort of re-entry program that blends soil, reentry, recovery, and excellent pay,” states operations director Lynn Vidal. The not-for-profit, established in 2009, has actually used more than 40 individuals transitioning from jail up until now, numerous at the nursery. Far, the company has actually seen a 2 percent recidivism rate, compared to 50 percent statewide, according to Vidal.

Clockwise from leading left: Planting Justice’s Sobrante Park nursery; the flags embellishing its premises; Sol Mercado tends plants. (Courtesy of Sol Mercado)

Near the entryway hang cyanotype flags, some made with orange jail one-piece suits– all printed with messages like “develop gardens, not jails” and “hawthorne, not handcuffs.” A greenhouse looks out from the corner, and a gray feline lurks in between garden beds. Team member graft, plant, tend, and harvest, and the nursery thrums with energy and action. The majority of the plant cuttings are sourced at Planting Justice’s 4-acre “mom” farm in El Sobrante; then they come here to be and develop shipped to their brand-new lives.

Sol Mercado, the re-entry organizer, states the company satisfies the requirements of previously incarcerated individuals throughout “a really important time” of shift. She experienced it firsthand. Mercado initially experienced Planting Justice through a jail gardening program. “I was weeding, and I was pruning and watering,” Mercado states, “and I had the ability to have that time to actually process and believe what caused me dedicating my criminal offense, and how do I wish to recover– and how I never ever wish to be the very same individual once again when I leave here.”

Mercado was launched 3 years back at age 35, after 16 years in jail, and began operating at Planting Justice nearly right away. “Being here, working, and feeling the stability, has actually assisted me a lot to get my life in order,” Mercado states; Planting Justice has actually “provided me the chance to be the individual that I wished to be.”

From left: Yennifer Copto and Adela Flores transplant trees; Simone Robinson is amongst the team member who tend, transplant, and deliver more than 1,100 ranges of plants. (Courtesy of Planting Justice)

In addition to the nursery company, Planting Justice teaches gardening and food sovereignty to youths, and disperses fresh fruit and vegetables and complimentary trees to regional neighborhoods. It has actually likewise assisted regional communities established more than 450 neighborhood gardens, and previously dealt with a jail gardening program. It’s likewise constructing an East Oakland aquaponics incubation farm and a pay-what-you-can coffee shop.

For numerous team member, this work is individual. “I matured here, I’ve been here permanently, I’m 5th or 4th generation right here,” states Covonne Page, aquaponics incubation farm supervisor. His wish for the company: “For this location to work on its own and have the ability to continue to use individuals from this neighborhood and provide a wage where they can really live and not need to battle.”

Highway 880 sits simply south of the nursery, and the din of automobiles and the periodic helicopter is a consistent. “A great deal of criminal offense takes place back there, gunshots– it impacts us a lot,” states Page. The option, Mercado and others on personnel state, is discovering “long-term repairs” for resourcing the Sobrante Park neighborhood.

Planting Justice uses one course forward. The company brings resources and company to those in the neighborhood, states Vidal, and it’s a design that numerous on personnel hope can be duplicated in other locations. “Planting Justice is the future, in my estimate,” states Vidal, and “it begins one neighborhood at a time.”



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