Because the incarceration rate in the U.S. is at its lowest level in more than two decades—with imprisonment among black Americans down by 34% since 2006—North Carolina is shuttering prisons and correctional facilities across the state, with dozens of such facilities already closed.

Along with offering a collection of buildings to be repurposed into education and art centers, prisons are ideal for conversion into farms because of their sturdy, gopher-and-sheep-proof fences, and large open spaces. With the properties belonging to the state in decay, officials are more than happy to consign the land to such projects.

The prison kitchen has been converted into a commercial-grade community kitchen where the county will provide training on preparing and preserving food, while also serving as a classroom for students receiving training in foodservice and culinary arts, and to offer Farm-to-Classroom trips to educate children on nutritious foods.

The crops produced by GrowingChange farm are also sold to local restaurants, a business enterprise aspect of the project that allows the program be self-sustaining for years, fertilizing entrepreneurship into the hearts of all who work here.

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