State inmates producing produce in Casey

July 30, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Tons of potatoes, 125 bushels of beans, three pickup loads of cabbage plus tomatoes from 1,000 plants and three acres of corn makes a lot of produce from one garden. And that's not all, there are zucchini, squash, pepper, cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupe.

That's how much produce that has been harvested this summer by Casey County Detention Center state inmates from a five-acre plot at the Central Kentucky Ag/Expo Center. Not only do they harvest it, they preserve it for future meals at the jail.

And that's what the 158 inmates are being fed to cut down on expenses. Jailer Tommy Miller estimates it will save between $4,000 and $5,000 annually.

Miller said the garden project is not only to provide a work program for state inmates that include 13 women, but it is also an educational project that will be helpful when the inmates leave the jail.


"Inmates really like fresh vegetables. It's healthy for them," said Miller. "The community likes it, too," knowing the project is worthwhile.

"One of the biggest things is that inmates are learning a trade," said Miller. "It also teaches them how to drive tillers, tractors and how to use a hoe," he said.

Miller wants to expand the garden project next year by erecting a greenhouse to raise plants and flowers that can be used for beautification in the city and county. He wants to conduct a horticulture class with the help of retired teacher Marion Murphy.

"Marion is overseer of the garden," said Miller. "Without his expertise, we wouldn't know what to do."

Murphy says he's just there to instruct

Murphy, a recently retired agriculture teacher in the county, doesn't take credit for the work, and says he's just there to instruct. He only stops in every now and then to check on the progress.

"The ladies have done the work. I've done the mouth work," he said.

"A truck loaded with corn and cabbage has just been harvested," Murphy said Thursday afternoon. "Twenty bushels of potatoes will go out next," he said. "The yield has been fantastic."

Murphy is not looking for another job, he retired a month ago. "I don't want to take on another job, but I will do whatever I can and be happy to help out."

The only problem he has with the project is the lack of tools. He hopes for better equipment next spring.

This year the garden was hit and miss. But next year, Miller expects the garden project to be run more smoothly. By then, a new crew of inmates will be ready for the job.

"We didn't know how much yield we would get, and we're overflowing with it, the jailer said. "Everything has been positive. The inmates enjoy the work, they learn something and it helps provide food."

Miller said the women needed something to do. The male inmates keep the highways cleared of trash and do chores around the courthouse, but he thinks the women do better in the garden. He said they weed the garden about three days a week and take pride in their work. After harvest time begins, the workers are busy gathering the produce. They also prepare the food for the freezer or canner.

The Casey jail currently houses 11 inmates from the county, 51 from Indiana and the remainder are transferred in from Kentucky prisons.

Some of the overflow from the garden has been given to the local senior citizens center and through commodity distribution. The jail is not allowed to sell the produce, Miller said.

"We've got enough vegetables here to feed a small army," he said.

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