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The New Old Fashion Way

Detention Center Garden Teaches Inmates New Skills and Reduces Costs

Harlan County, Kentucky

Harlan County Garden2.jpegThe year of 2008 marked the beginning of change at the Harlan County Detention Center; this change came in the form of a seed.  When people consider a field they notice many things, but when Harlan County Jailer, Curt Stallard, gazed out over the fertile river bottoms of the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River surrounding the Harlan County Detention Center, he saw an opportunity.  It didn’t take long before he began making plans to start a vegetable garden at the Detention Center to help feed the inmates.

Each year since then, the garden has grown in size and production.  An orchard was added in 2009 with fruit trees that were purchased by the Harlan County Conservation District.  In 2010, the inmates planted two tons of seed potatoes yielding more than twelve tons of potatoes which were consumed by inmates before the end of winter.  This ultimately led to a four ton potato planting in 2011 and a subsequent yield of more than 25 tons.  The inmates also picked, cleaned, and froze over 1,000 gallons of bush beans in 2010 and 2011.  In addition to the potatoes and beans, the inmates also raise and consumed fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, broccoli, and cabbage.  The garden has produced more than 150 gallons of cooked turnip greens, as well as fresh greens and turnips.

In managing a garden of this magnitude having enough moisture at the appropriate time is essential.  Until the end of the 2011 growing season, the Detention Center relied entirely on rainfall.  That all changed at the end of the 2010 growing season when the Harlan County Conservation District assisted the Detention Center in applying for an environmental grant that allowed them to purchase and install a drip irrigation system.  In addition to the grant funds, profits from the inmate purchases at the facility’s canteen were used to purchase several utilities; a plastic layer/raised bed maker, a water wheel setter with 2 sets of wheels, a plow to remove the plastic mulch in the fall, plastic mulch, drip line, in-line filter, fertilizer injector, pump, and couplings for the drip irrigation system.

On March 28, 2012, Stallard and garden manager Nobe Baker, installed 5 rows of plastic mulch with trickle irrigation tape under the mulch to begin the new growing season, with the assistance of District Conservationist Chuck Gibson and Knox County Conservation District Technician Brian Hacker.

On Monday, May 7, 2012, Resource Conservationists Glen Abney and Jimmy Lyons as well as District Conservation Chuck Harlan County Drip Irrigation.jpegGibson assisted Nobe Baker in assembling the fertilizer injector and in-line filter and also demonstrated how to connect the drip tape to the supply line.  The Clover Fork of the Cumberland River will be the water source for the irrigation system. 

Joyce Kiogora, Water Management Coordinator with the Cumberland Valley Area Development District, has been watching the project from the inception and would like to see the drip irrigation system modeled in her home country of Kenya.