SHERIFF SHARES HARVEST

 

9/12/2014 7:09:00 AM

Gives inmate grown crops to CAC

Damien Fisher
News Staff Writer

News Staff Photo by DAMIEN FISHERGARDNER — Sheriff Lew Evangelidis wheeled a shopping cart loaded with pumpkins and various types of squash to the Pleasant Street offices of Gardner’s Community Action Committee on Thursday morning.

“We have about 400 or 500 pounds of vegetables,” he said.

Inmates at the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston have been running a small farm on land at the jail site for the past three years. Recently, Sheriff Evangelidis expanded the program from 10 acres to 12 acres.

“The inmates get a lot out of it,” he said.

With more than 300 acres of land at the jail site, it isSheriff Lew Evangelidis wheeled a shopping cart loaded with pumpkins and various types of squash to the Pleasant Street offices of Gardner’s Community Action Committee on Thursday morning. a low cost way for the Sheriff’s office to offer a new opportunity to the inmates. The program allows 10 inmates a chance to work outdoors and pick up valuable work and life skills while spending time on the farm throughout the year.

“We started this with about $900 in seeds,” he said.

The farm program produces all organic crops of corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins.  

This year’s harvest has yielded over 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 pounds of additional vegetables providing inmates with a better alternative to the usual canned vegetables with the added benefit of a significant savings of over $20,000 in inmate food costs at the jail. 

The inmates who work on the farm are screened for any behavioral concerns before they are allowed to work on the project outside the jail facility, he said.

It is similar to the work program Sheriff Evangelidis operates, allowing inmates the chance to perform work for municipalities or non-profit groups throughout the county.

While the project is good for the inmates themselves, it is also good for the many communities receiving bounty from their labor at the farm. The Sheriff said he makes sure that the ample produce from that farm gets to people who need it most, such as the families who rely on Gardner’s Community Action Committee for help with obtaining groceries.

Gardner CAC Executive Director Julie Meehan said her organization assists more than 10,000 families every year from Gardner and the greater Gardner area.

“We can see 30 to 40 families a day,” she said.

The Gardner CAC has dry goods and meat donated from agencies and private businesses boxed and ready to be given to people in need. 

Fresh produce, however, is hard to come by, Ms. Meehan said.

“It’s a lot of canned and processed stuff,” she said.

The fresh vegetables brought by Sheriff Evangelidis and his staff will be handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Ms. Meehan said whenever fresh food comes in, many of the Gardner Community Action Committee clients will share recipes for the produce.

Sheriff Evangelidis is also already preparing for the annual coat drive his office runs in the winter, ensuring disadvantaged children have outerwear to keep warm. 

The coat drive is set to kick off in December.