WILMINGTON — Some minors who find themselves in a Clinton County Juvenile Courtroom may in the future grow food in a greenhouse as part of the judge’s disposition order for the youth.
Clinton County Juvenile Court Judge Chad L. Carey and Clinton County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Deanne Whalen met Wednesday with county commissioners about the greenhouse idea.
Whalen said some juvenile courts elsewhere have greenhouses they utilize for juvenile probation purposes including community service work that juvenile offenders sometimes are required to do.
So having a greenhouse for juveniles on probation will not involve reinventing the wheel nor will it be doing something that’s untried, said Whalen. It’s an idea Whalen has had for years and which she would really like to see happen in the near future.
For at-risk young people, a couple potential benefits in planting and growing vegetables and other produce while working in a greenhouse are getting some exposure to healthy living activity and learning business-type concepts.
Clinton County Commissioners President Mike McCarty, who formerly operated McCarty Gardens in Sabina which includes a greenhouse, said he thinks there is a value in growing something and seeing that there’s an alternative to a bag of chips. He added a lot of business skills can be built into a Juvenile Probation’s greenhouse operations.
Whalen followed up by saying that nurturing can also be sown into the plant-growing work.
Think of the tough decisions the judge has to make because many of the children basically haven’t been fostered in their growth, remarked Whalen. That situation can be equated, she said, as a direct parallel to plants.
“You have to nurture them; you have to water them; you have to take care of them; you’ve got to provide shelter. We’ll draw those parallels. And I think that’s a real-life lesson that our kids could use, and the more I think about it, I get excited,” said Whalen.
She also noted there is a local 4-H club that’s comprised of at-risk youths or minors who have been formally involved with the juvenile court system. Some club members have chosen cuisine projects and one is doing a program called grill master.
“So there are some things that really tie in [with a greenhouse] … The kids could take it from seed all the way to sales,” Whalen said.
The juvenile judge is on board with the proposed project.
Carey said his first thought was that not only would a greenhouse provide a chance for at-risk youths to gain life skills, but a portion of what they grow could be given as food to the county jail and in the process help offset greenhouse expenses like water or utilities.
The judge said with a greenhouse, there would be endless ways to coordinate programming with juveniles on probation.
Carey commented the youths will have the pride from learning how to grow things for food, “and it’s all part of their therapy and rehabilitation. I think it would be a win-win-win.”
The plans are to apply for a grant to cover the cost of building a greenhouse, and to save money by siting it on county-owned land.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.