Prison Programs

The MMGA’s Prison Horticulture Program provides an opportunity to dedicated Master Gardeners to make a difference in the lives of incarcerated individuals. We partner with the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) in providing successful horticulture programs in four DOC prisons (Pondville, Northeastern Correctional Center (Concord), MCI Shirley and MCI Concord).

The program provides training and development to incarcerated individuals while they are in prison to ready them for work in the green industry upon release.

What we provide:

Photos of the NECC Gardens by MG Tony Bonnano

Here is a little bit about MMGA’s Prison Programs:

MCI Concord

Master Gardeners participate in the Brave Unit at Concord MCI. This unit is dedicated to male inmates with children to teach successful parenting skills as well as improve their overall education through a variety of programs including our horticulture program.

This year we created a butterfly garden in the shape of a butterfly (designed and managed by Master Gardener and Prison Program Manager Barb McIntosh). The garden is jam-packed with butterfly-loving plants donated by Massachusetts Master Gardeners and annuals from the Northeastern Correctional Center. This garden has provided beauty and training to many inmates and continues to be a source of pride for all those who participated in its development.

MCI Shirley

The program at MCI Shirley serves approximately 10 men who plant and maintain vegetable and flower gardens of approximately 500 square feet. Each week during the growing season, learning experiences are created based on the tasks at hand. During the winter months, in-person classes are held weekly on a wide variety of topics including apical dominance and how it informs pinching and pruning, cover crops, succession sowing, calculating sowing windows from seed packets, and soil testing interpretation to name a few classes. The emphasis is on practical topics.

Northeastern Correctional Center

Northeastern Correctional Center (NECC) has an active gardening program that includes two large greenhouses, three large vegetable gardens (over 30,000 square feet), landscaping responsibilities, and classroom experiences.


The men are provided with 12 instructional classes during the winter months and on rain days which include: basic plant education, propagation methods, disease and pest control, soil structure, composting, brambles, water conservancy, pruning and pinching and harvesting and storage and more.


The greenhouse operation has provided plants for NECC, Pondville, MCI Concord, and the Veterans Administration Victory Garden in Lowell. The produce is given to three food pantries in the area as well as the NECC culinary program and restaurant (Fife and Drum which is open to the public) and the main DOC facility in Milford.


The men provide landscaping and garden maintenance that allow the facility and grounds to be appreciated for its beauty and produce to all who visit.


NECC is considered the prototype for horticulture programs for the DOC mostly due to the efforts and instruction of Master Gardener Tony Bonanno.


Pondville’s horticulture program was a first-time start-up in 2023. We started with nothing and ended up with several beautiful garden areas and a new greenhouse area.

Once again, master gardeners came to our rescue. Many plants were donated to beautify the entrance area of the administration building. The back of the facility was transformed into flower beds, an herb garden, and a raspberry patch. The greenhouse area housed the vegetable garden in new raised beds. We planted lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, onions, garlic, beets, and sweet potatoes.

Twelve horticulture classes were given in the winter time and were interspersed during the gardening season. The men have taken ownership and maintain the plants in pristine condition.

MCI Framingham

We have opened the opportunity to be an outreach volunteer at MCI Framingham (the only women's prison in Massachusetts).

Master gardeners provide training on vegetable and flower growing, maintaining and harvesting. This program makes a huge difference to an underserved population.