Former prisoner uses Ypsilanti Township farm to break cycle of incarceration

Nestled in a neighborhood in Ypsilanti Township is a farm you may miss if you don't know it's there.

We The People Opportunity Farm (WTPOF) provides people getting out of prison with a nine-month paid internship. When they are done, they get help continuing their education and finding work.

"Our motto is to come alongside formerly incarcerated folks in our internship and help them change the soil in their lives in a way that puts them in a position not only not to go back to jail or prison, but to thrive and become productive and be engaged in their famines, and in their community as a whole," said Melvin Parson, who started the farm in 2015. "It's not just about saying, 'Hey, thanks a lot for being with us, see ya later, bye,' but no, we stick with them and stay alongside them and build family and build community for as long as they allow us to." 

He had the idea to use a farm to break the cycle of incarceration while at a farmers market in Ann Arbor. Parson had spent more than a dozen years in prison before forming the internship program.

"The heavens opened up and yelled down to me and said, ‘Hey Melvin this is where I want you to sit at,’ because I didn't see anyone selling me the food at that market that looked like me," he said.

Of the 12 people who have graduated from the program, only one has returned to prison.

Check out the farm this weekend at its annual Harvest Festival. The fest is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1301 S. Harris Rd. in Ypsilanti Township.