SICI garden biggest yet

A field with plants popping up next to irrigation line
SICI's Foodbank garden

The Idaho Foodbank garden at South Idaho Correctional Institution is in for what could be its best crop yet.

This year, the garden has nearly doubled in size to 11 acres. It has two acres of sweet corn, eight acres of potatoes and one-and-half acres of beans. All of the produce will be given to the Idaho Foodbank for distribution to hungry families around the state.

"We have a wonderful partnership with the Foodbank," says Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke. "This year, if all goes well, we'll provide many hungry Idaho families with fresh corn on the cob for the first time since this project began."

The expansion of the garden was made possible by the acquisition of several pieces of farm equipment. Last year, IDOC sold a 1967 Caterpillar D-6 Dozer and used the proceeds to buy a used tractor that is better suited for farming. The Foodbank also acquired through donations a two-row potato digger and a 2002 Ford, three-quarter ton truck. Inmates were also able to use a potato planter for the first time this year. 

Community volunteers have helped improve the garden's irrigation system. They replaced a three-horsepower pump with a ten-horsepower pump and brought in an additional 400 feet of aluminum irrigation line. Some of the irrigation line has been elevated so the spray of water will remain above the corn as the stalks grow.

The garden is already proving to be popular with the neighbors - deer, cattle, birds and rabbits. Insects have also started moving in. But SICI Deputy Warden Jay Christensen is hopeful they can manage to keep the pests at bay and growing conditions remain favorable.

"So far, with the mild temperatures, new ground and improved irrigation, we are anticipating another record-breaking year," Christensen says.

This is the fourth year IDOC has teamed up with the Idaho Foodbank to grow produce at SICI with help from inmates and community volunteers. For the Foodbank, the garden offers a predictable, sustainable supply of fresh produce, which is typically difficult to procure. For the inmates, the garden provides an opportunity to get outside of the compound and do meaningful work on a project that gives them a sense of satisfaction.

"We're very proud of this project," Director Reinke says.  "It benefits so many people and costs taxpayers virtually nothing."

Story published: 06/27/2013
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