Stillwater News Press

August 3, 2013

Harvest time at inmate garden

By Megan Sando
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Inmates and jail officials at the Payne County Jail’s garden are going to need a bigger vegetable basket.

The garden has grown to approximately two acres and is producing hundreds of pounds of onions, squash, green beans, potatoes and other vegetables.

Mark Hall, with nearly 30 years experience at the sheriff’s office, oversees the two, sometimes four, inmates who work in the garden.

“We’ve been experimenting this year, as far as what grows the best,” Nixon said. “The growth has been substantial and will continue.”

This season, the garden contains rows expanded to 200 feet, with 1,800 feet of potatoes, 6,000 feet of onions and more rows with beets, carrots, cabbage, green beans, cantaloupe, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, okra and squash.

The garden has seen upgrades of a shed, picnic tables, electric fencing and expanded square footage.

Jail Administrator Reese Lane said they are just beginning to harvest this season’s produce. The jail expects to harvest hundreds of pounds of okra, potatoes and tomatoes.

Lane said the sheriff’s office has no agenda for need — surplus may go to the homeless, and in the past, to the Payne County Youth Shelter.

“This season we have yet to calculate savings but last year’s was $6,000 a month,” he said.

The savings are an added bonus, but the garden would be functioning regardless.

 “The inmates take pride in their work. It is their garden,” he said.

Only nonviolent offenders and inmates in good standing with staff are allowed to work, Hall said. Eighty percent of the work was done by two inmates.

Hall said they built an 11,000-foot drip irrigation system, which allows water to reach the roots and not the tops of the plants. The irrigation is efficient and the most cost-effective, he said.

“Nothing goes to waste, because we are mindful about storing what is grown,” he said.