Next to a chain-link fence topped with rings of barbed wire, some Georgia officials walked into a greenhouse Monday afternoon, hoping the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center's new addition can inspire teenagers on a hazardous path.
Funded by a federal grant, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an aquaponics garden. Boys and girls at the 30-bed center will manage the lab as part of their education. They will treat a 600-gallon, goldfish-filled tank and oversee herbs, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce in a grow bed and sump tank.
"This is a perfect opportunity," Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles said. "I hope we can do this in 25 other facilities."
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said gardens can teach children integrity and build a consistent work ethic. He added that aquaponics expertise leads to jobs. Pure Flavor, a Canadian company that grows tomatoes and cucumbers through aquaponics, broke ground on a 75-acre greenhouse in Fort Valley, Georgia, in 2017.
"There are job opportunities in this arena, way beyond what some here might understand," Black said.