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Jail inmates host open house at community garden

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Ted Sullivan
August 27, 2009
— If it weren’t for Rock County Jail inmates, many low-income families would be short on produce.

“It helps us a lot because it ensures our clients are getting fresh vegetables they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Marge Sell, an Everyone Cooperating to Help Others volunteer.


Sell was one of several people who attended Wednesday’s open house at the community garden east of the jail along Highway 14, where RECAP and unemployed Huber inmates grow food for local pantries.


Inmates wearing jail uniforms served samples of fruit and veggies they picked from their crop. They also offered tours of the garden.


Inmates grow everything from tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes to peppers, asparagus and strawberries in their half-acre plot in the garden.


The food inmates produce helps ECHO feed about 200 families a week, Sell said, while eating an ear of corn cooked by the inmates.


“I don’t know how they did it, but it is absolutely great,” she said.


Forty-four inmates grew and donated 4,300 pounds of produce to pantries in 2008.


Rock County UW Extension and the master gardener program teach inmates about gardening.


Barb Guse, a master gardener, works with inmates in the garden. She said they teach inmates about a variety of foods.


“They’re phenomenal. This garden would not exist without them,” he said. “They put in long, hard days.”


Josh Dahl, a RECAP inmate, regularly helps in the garden.


It’s a pleasure to plant produce, watch it grow and then help feed the hungry, he said. And it beats sitting behind bars.


“It’s good to actually do something positive with my life,” Dahl said. “It has showed me there is a lot more to life than drugs.”



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