Growing Change is a nonprofit organization that’s working to turn an abandoned and decommissioned prison in Wagram, North Carolina, into a working farm. They’re making it happen with the hard work of at-risk youth and unemployed veterans. The group brings together young men on the edge of the criminal justice system who have lots of community service hours to fulfill and wounded veterans returning from deployment who serve as leaders while everyone learns sustainable farming techniques.
The project teaches life skills and training while providing them with clinical support therapy in a real-life environment. Since 2011, Growing Change has been working to flip the Scotland Correctional Center into a sustainable farm and education center. During its first few years, the program worked with young men who were on intensive juvenile probation, but after 2016, they expanded to welcome those failing at school, dealing with chaos at home and those with mental health or substance abuse issues.
“At the core level, we are instilling hope,” explains Growing Change founder Noran Sanford.