Cooperative Extension Partners with FCC Butner for Horticulture Training

Posted March 15, 2023



For the last six years, NC Cooperative Extension has partnered with the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Butner to offer horticulture classes to inmates. The program gives participants the opportunity to earn a college accredited certification in horticulture training and gives participating inmates at FCC Butner the chance to prepare for employment and successful reintegration upon release.


The horticulture training program has three levels of classes, each lasting a total of twelve weeks. Inmates must successfully complete the previous level to continue their advancement in the program. The curriculum is based on the NC State Extension Master Gardener program and allows inmates to participate in classroom style learning along with coursework completed independently. The Master Gardener program includes topics such as Botany, Soil and Plant Nutrients, Composting, Insect and Disease ID/Control, Weed ID/Control/ Propagation, and Lawn Care. Jeffrey Drowns is the primary instructor and he is assisted by Granville/Person Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent Johnny Coley who provides instruction for the program on a monthly basis. Students also receive instruction from Extension specialists periodically.


Since 2017, a total of thirty-two inmates have completed both levels of classes and received their certification. Twenty-Five participants have also successfully completed their pesticide applicator license exams which were administered by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Director of NC State Extension, Dr. Richard Bonano, has presented certifications to inmates that have successfully completed the horticulture program.


Another benefit of this program is collaboration between FCC Butner and community organizations like Area Congregations in Ministry (ACIM). Inmates participating in the horticulture program plant, maintain, and harvest food from their community garden for delivery to ACIM. The Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association Granville/Person (EMVAGP) also provides financial support for the prison horticulture program to purchase seeds and plants for the community garden initiative. Over the last two years, the community garden has produced and distributed 2,100 pounds of produce to ACIM. This program has given inmates the opportunity to put classroom concepts into practice and give back to the local community.


“The horticulture program at FCC Butner has been hugely successful,” said Johnny Coley. “This exciting partnership has so much potential for growth and will prove to be impactful for so many years in many communities as these participants reintegrate and use these skills to help themselves and others.”


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