Growing it forward- Inmates' garden sends produce to area food pantries
BERRYVILLE -- Families in need will be eating better again this year, thanks to some hard work at the Carroll County Detention Center.
This year is the second year of food production for the newly expanded garden at the jail. The garden now provides fresh produce to Bethel Food Pantry in Green Forest, Loaves and Fishes in Berryville and Flint Street Food Bank in Eureka Springs.
There are two plots in the garden at the detention center. Outside the fence on the jail property there is an area that measures about 70 by 120 feet.
That section was begun about six years ago by maintenance supervisor Walt Noftsger to provide fresh produce to the inmates, which lowered food costs for the county.
Later, under Sheriff Bob Grudek, the project was expanded with a 40 by 60 foot plot inside the inmate fence so that inmates who weren't able to work outside the fence could take part in the project as well.
Grudek eventually took the excess produce and began giving it to the area food pantries.
"It is a good opportunity for these people to feel the pride that can come from helping others, while learning skills that can help them later in life," said Grudek.
Troy Lewis, who is part of the Arkansas 309 program that assigns state inmates to counties and cities for work detail, has been the jail's gardener now for three years.
He said he really loves being able to work in the garden and loves knowing that his hard work is feeding moms, dads and kids in the area when they need it the most.
"I gardened at home when I was a kid, but then I kind of got into other things," the inmate explained. "When I get out, I hope to find a place where I can garden again. I really love it."
Lewis said they planted in late March and hopes to have a harvest in June. He has planted tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, squash, cantaloupe, corn, watermelon and cucumbers.
One benefit to a jail garden is not having to worry about deer getting over the tall fence with barbed wire on it. "No, that hasn't been a problem," said Lewis.