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Shiawassee County Jail garden program awarded state grant to expand operations, publish book

Close to $125,000 in the form of a grant has been awarded to the Shiawassee County Jail garden...
Close to $125,000 in the form of a grant has been awarded to the Shiawassee County Jail garden program through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.(WJRT)
Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 11:30 PM EST
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Close to $125,000 in the form of a grant has been awarded to the Shiawassee County Jail garden program through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

That’s a hefty chunk of change, that will bring new and welcome change to the program.

“Right now we’re at about 2-3 acres -- we will be at a minimum of 5 acres so we’ll be more than doubling our population,” said Shiawassee County Commissioner Dan McMaster.

The program was launched just a couple years ago yielding tomatoes, squash, onions, lettuce, cucumbers and many other different vegetables.

13,000 pounds in its first year and 60,000 pounds were yielded in the program’s second year. Though we don’t know this year’s numbers, McMaster said it is well over 100,000 pounds cumulatively.

“Three years ago, I never thought we were going to get to this scale. Certainly this is expanding quicker than what we thought,” he said.

And that’s a good thing. The grant money will not only allow the acreage of the garden to expand, but it also allows for the publishing of a book highlighting the program’s success to all 83 Michigan county sheriffs.

“It’s really a win win for the community. You have inmates that aren’t staring at a cement wall all day. They’re learning skills.”

Like managing and growing a garden -- all while affording a sense of pride and ownership that extends well beyond the garden itself.

The produce benefits over two dozen organizations, the county jail and several food pantries in at least 4 counties.

“When you take an inmate to deliver food to a pantry and his family is there getting food, that’s kind of an emotional and rewarding thing.”

It was this summer the patch of land was producing literally tons of fresh produce like a well oiled machine.

Though the garden is just bare fields now, next year’s harvest will be even bigger.

“A lot of folks in the community that are supportive of this, a lot of people helped apply for this grant.”

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