WORCESTER, Mass. — A program implemented by Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction is yielding bountiful results.
The Inmate Agricultural Training Program, initiated by the sheriff last spring and in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, has grown into a 10-acre-plus success story that is feeding both inmates and the community.
"With over 7,000 ears of corn and 9,000 pounds of fresh organic produce grown at the jail, we are saving money while teaching inmates new skills and a sense of self-worth and dignity that comes from a hard day’s work at the same time local food banks and those in need in our community benefit as well," said Evangelidis. "So many good things have sprouted as a result of our new farming and agriculture program there are already plans to significantly expand it next year.”
The sheriff’s farming program uses an existing 10-acre parcel of Sheriff's Office land appropriated by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and is tended to during the week by inmate labor.
The crops — which are all organic — consist of sweet corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash and pumpkins.This year’s harvest has been providing inmates with an alternative to the usual canned vegetables with a savings of more than $15,000 in inmate food costs.
Also, Evangelidis recently delivered more than 375 pounds of vegetables to the Worcester County Food Bank in Shrewsbury.
“I am very proud to be part of the sheriff’s new agriculture program," said Worcester County House of Correction inmate Brazile Ledgister. "I now have new farming and planting skills and a great sense of accomplishment. And knowing these vegetables are helping other people in the community, that is very important to me.”