Banner year for SICI's Foodbank garden

Inmates use buckets to collect red potatoes
Inmates collect potatoes

BOISE, Idaho, October 15, 2012 -- With help from three retired farmers and an antique piece of farm equipment, this year’s Foodbank garden at South Idaho Correctional Institution has produced a banner crop of vegetables for hungry Idaho families.

The Idaho Foodbank predicts this year’s harvest will be bigger than the past two years together. The six-acre garden has already produced more than 4,300 pounds of green beans and it’s expected to produce more than 150,000 of red potatoes. 

SICI Deputy Warden Jay Christensen credits one of the retired farmers in particular, Boyd Anderson, for this year’s success. Of the three, he was the only one who had significant experience growing potatoes.

“He was out here almost daily directing how we planted, spaced things, how we run the equipment, how we watered, when we weren’t supposed to water,”  Christensen says. 

This year’s effort was also aided by the addition of several key pieces of used farm equipment. In one case, very used. Anderson loaned a family heirloom to the project — a 1920s-era potato digger. He also brought in a potato bagger.

There was still plenty of work for the inmates. They used plastic buckets  to collect the potatoes and load them in the dump bed of a utility vehicle, which was obtained for $125 through federal surplus.   

“I enjoy it, it’s relaxing,” said SICI inmate Noel Ramos, #36511. “It’s good to get out of the compound and be out and helping with the garden.”

IDOC Director Brent Reinke says the garden is an example of the department’s efforts to fulfill its mission by building partnerships with individuals and organizations in the community.

“We’re able to take land that hasn’t been used and put that land to good use with all of the volunteers, working closely with the Idaho Foodbank and benefit many, many folks outside through the entire state of Idaho,” Reinke said.

The Foodbank’s president and CEO, Karen Vauk, says her organization appreciates the partnership because the garden provides fresh produce, which can be difficult for food banks to obtain.

“To have projects like this that give us the predictable, sustainable supply of highly nutritious food means we’re going to reach a few more people,” Vauk said.

Other individuals and organizations that helped with this year’s garden are:

  • Monsanto, which donated Round-up.
  • Sonny McCray, Powerage Custom Farming, who prepped the field. 
  • Simplot Grower Solutions, which donated fertilizer and soil testing.
  • Kevin Boggs, GSI Watersystems, who did an evaluation of the water supply.
  • Betsy Roberts, CH2M HILL, who helped redesign the road to the farm.
  • Idaho Sand and Gravel, which is providing material to do some of the work.
  • Walters Produce in Newdale, Idaho, which donated the potato seed.

IDOC and the Foodbank are already looking forward to next year.  Organizers will meet in November to start the planning process.









Story published: 10/15/2012
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