In 2009, Somerset County Jail in East Madison, Maine, started a 3 acre garden project with two goals:
A reserve corrections officer was hired who had extensive experience with farming in Maine. Seeds and seed potatoes were solicited from the community and along with government surplus tractors (former air force runway sweepers/snowplows) the land was prepared and planted. The land utilized for the garden is in the public eye, right next to a county thoroughfare, and had been under cultivation prior to the jail being built on the site in 2007-2008. Assistance from the local Cooperative agent was solicited and soil testing was performed. The soil needed augmentation via basic fertilizer which was delivered and applied the same day in 2 iterations so as to minimize storage of hazardous materials on-site. Inmates were selected via classification, not skills, and a 3 inmate work crew was put together. In 2009, the garden resulted in a small savings to the jail’s food service budget of $400. This has increased steadily to around $2500 dollars in salad vegetables and $3000 of potatoes from a 5 acre garden.
In 2013 eight (8) pigs were added to the garden with the goals of:
- Provide work for community trustee inmates.
- Augment the Jail’s food budget with salad vegetables and potatoes.
The jail’s farmer augmented by security staff on the weekends and holiday supervised an inmate pig farmer for the seven month growth season. The inmate “pig farmer” remained disciplinary free and was able to cut his sentence by 2 months under Maine’s 2 for 1 law (work two days receive 1 day off of the sentence) The Yorkshire pigs were bought locally and raised in pig tractor system (movable pig sty) constructed by inmates on site. These pigs were gelded and had received their iron shots prior to purchase. Primary feed of the pigs was waste food from the Jail’s kitchen i.e. tray waste. This previously had been offered to local pig farmers with some success. The entire operation was inspected by the local Cooperative agent as well as the state’s FDA inspector. With an original investment in pigs and construction materials of $2400 the resulting 1235 pounds of ground meat (100 % of the meat was turned into unseasoned ground meat) will provide a savings of $1369 over ground beef or turkey. The use of the pig tractor fertilized 1 acre of land which will be farmed next season. The project was so successful that the jail purchased an addition eight pigs to raise, through the winter. 2014 will see a second pig tractor constructed along with a breeder shed and the pigs will not be gelded.
- Provide work for minimum security inmates that due to charges (domestic violence) could not work off of jail grounds.
- Improve the exposed mineral soil (sand pit) left over from construction.
- Utilize the jail’s waste food on-site rather than put the waste into the county’s waste stream.
- Augment the Jail’s food budget with ground meat.
Somerset County Jail houses federal inmates as well as our own county inmates which include inmates that have religious restrictions from eating pork. The cycle menu is annotated with those menu items that have the ground pork in the recipe.
Corrections.com author, Sean Maguire, is the Compliance Manager, Somerset County Jail in East Madison Maine.