Posted November 24, 2015
The following is an excerpt from a recent article by the Portland Press Herald. Photo courtesy of the Portland Press Herald, by Joe Phelan, Staff Photographer.
"The first frost of the season had already arrived as inmates from the Kennebec County Correctional Facility worked under a gray sky one day in late September to harvest the last of the year’s potatoes.
"As a cold wind blew across the soil, five men – wearing trademark orange T-shirts and sweatshirts printed with the facility’s name – bent over, scooped up potatoes and tossed aside any that were broken, split, brown or green. The good spuds went into bright orange buckets. Except for a few rows of potatoes at the edge of the five-acre field, located just a few miles from the jail, most of the vegetables had already been picked. As the men quietly worked, a corrections officer drove a tractor turning over the soil.
"In about two hours, the inmates filled three and a half crates of potatoes, each weighing 1,100 pounds. It was just a fraction of the 35,000 pounds of produce total that they grew this year through the Kennebec County Restorative Community Harvest. (Some years, they’ve raised as much as 50,000 pounds.) The program, which teaches inmates to farm, is run by the county department of corrections. But its real aim is charitable: The food the inmates raise – also tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins – is donated to more than 30 local schools, soup kitchens and other nonprofit community organizations."