Permission to Thrive

Baton Rouge, LA - Through the USDA/NIFA grant, Using Agriculture as a Vehicle for Change through Experiential Learning (Fast Track), the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SU Ag Center) provides agricultural training to incarcerated and adjudicated youth. 

The SU Ag Center currently works with two sites in Baton Rouge, Louisiana through the Fast Track program. Thrive Academy has had a campus garden for the past seven years. Over this time, research has been conducted to differentiate behavioral patterns between garden participants and non – participants. Results indicate a significant difference in the rate of behavioral write-ups of 2.8 for garden program participants vs. a rate of 7.8 for non-garden participants (Elwood, 2019). These outcomes support the known benefits of therapeutic horticulture positively affecting mental health. These results can be attained through gardening, or by simply being in nature.

Our newest site is AMI Kids. This site provides GED/Hi Set and vocational classes to youth ages 18-24.  The SU Ag Center’s partnership with AMI Kids not only exposes them to the horticultural therapy benefits of gardening but also the workforce development component of it. Through this program, students learn how to grow their own food and how to work in the landscape industry, providing many opportunities for the youth to join the workforce or become entrepreneurs.

For additional information about the SU Ag Center’s Using Agriculture as a Vehicle for Change through Experiential Learning (Fast Track) program, contact Stephanie Elwood, SU Ag Center Extension Associate, at


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