Home Grown Down on the Farm

Posted by Ed Prindle on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 in Association News
Home Grown Down on the Farm

Whitley County inmates plant potatoes as part of jail farm program

CORBIN — By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer

A pair of Whitley County inmates got to spend some time down on the farm on Wednesday. It’s all part of the new jail farm program, which is currently in the process of spring planting potatoes.

“It’s better than sitting in jail,” said Chris Bottoms, a Whitley County inmate who hails from Nicholasville. Bottoms said he felt right at home planting potatoes on the tobacco setter, as he had grown up helping his father plant tobacco on a farm.

“It brings back memories, I’ve rode a tobacco setter most of my life; it ain’t no different than being at home,” Bottoms said.

He and fellow inmate Leslie Simpson, of Harrodsburg, spent Wednesday afternoon planting two acres of potatoes on the jail farm, which is located on the back side of the Whitley County Industrial Park.

 Simpson also agreed that it was better to be out planting than sitting at the jail and that in the end the food would probably “taste better” and be healthier.

 “I’m glad to be here and look forward to the home-grown food,” Simpson said.

Jail Farm Manager Jimmy Siler drove the tractor on Wednesday, pulling the tobacco setter that had been modified slightly to plant the approximate two tons of potatoes. Siler has 30 years of local farming experience, along with an agriculture degree from the University of Kentucky. For this year, he is supplying all the farming equipment and providing the farm expertise to help get the jail farm up and running.

“We’ve already set 2,000 cabbage plants and will plant some summer squash, zucchini, green beans, sweet bell peppers and stake tomatoes,” Siler said. He clarified that they would have to wait until the danger of frost was over before planting anything else.

 The jail farm program was originally started in Harlan County and had been a popular idea with short-time jailer Les Moses, according to current Whitley County Jailer Ken Mobley.

The program will help Whitley County save a significant amount of money, according to Whitley County Judge Executive Pat White Jr.

 “This program is a great opportunity for the county to not only cut costs, but to improve the health of the inmates,” White said.

He also added that programs such as this had been very successful in other counties.

“We hope to have the same success here,” White said.

By growing a significant portion of its own food, the jail should end up saving 25 to 30-percent of food costs, according to Whitley County Fiscal Court Project Development Director Amber Owens.

She said she hopes that eventually the farm could cut jail food costs by as much as 50-percent, much like it has in Harlan County. Plus, there’s always the benefits of eating healthier.

 “Eating food that is grown locally is just better for you,” Owens said. Mobley agreed.

“Not only do I think the program is great because it is going to save money, but I believe it is going to be very good for the inmates to get out and work in the garden and especially to eat the fresh vegetables,” Mobley said. He said he had made several trips to the Harlan Jail Farm to learn from its process.

“We’ve learned firsthand how to store the vegetables and what to do and not to do,” Mobley said.

The jail  recently acquired two large truck freezer boxes that have been placed behind the jail to use as food storage.

“We’re going to put the potatoes in one and use the other to freeze the rest of the vegetables,” Mobley said.

 The inmates will have a hand in all aspects of the farm, they will plant, take care of and harvest the crops themselves, according to Owens.

“Hopefully this will give them a sense of pride in the food that is going on the table. And by growing their own food, the cost per meal at the jail will decrease,” Owens said.



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