QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Warren County’s probation program for area youth has turned to the outdoors and the world of agriculture to get kids involved in constructive pursuits as they progress through the program. The Warren County Probation Department is taking its juvenile probationers gardening.

A new garden is being operated entirely by youth in the county probation program. In late July, students harvested their first tomato there. Zucchini, peppers, sunflowers, and other plants and produce are growing there, too. The garden was founded as a way for kids in the program to build new skills – and find peace.

“I go to the garden, let out my stress, with all of these plants, I am feeling blessed,” said 16-year-old Caleb, a probationer and Lake George native who frequents the garden. “I look forward to coming to the garden. Our garden has helped me learn how to take care of plants, and be part of a team that is responsible for them.”

Six youth have been tending to the garden, located at Warren County Municipal Center, over the course of the spring and summer. Each visit is accompanied by Warren County Probation Department staff, and the groups go through the full growing process, from planting and weeding to tilling and harvesting.

For the county, the program is a great way to instill mental health and wellness in the kids moving through the program. The hope is that everyone planting and growing will leave the program with skills that can follow them throughout their lives.

 “When we have juveniles who are put on probation, we do an initial assessment that includes learning their interests,” said Probation Department Juvenile Unit Supervisor Amy Secor. “During a recent assessment, a number of them said gardening was an interest. We did some research and found there are mental health benefits to gardening, and life skills that our youth will gain from this as well. Our probation officers have been relentless in attending to the garden and ensuring that our youth are building skills through creative alternatives to supervision.”

The garden was started and is still supported thanks to grant assistance from the Warren County Soil and Water District. The department checks in on the garden, and the youth who keep it alive, on a regular basis.