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Lewis County jail garden program growing in second year

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County’s jail garden has grown to about double its initial size from last year.

“We went bigger,” said Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli. “And we did a much bigger variety this time.”

Along with staples like carrots, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and squash, this year’s garden — planted within a fenced-off area behind the county Public Safety Building off outer Stowe Street — also includes potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkins and even Swiss chard, all of which are fed to inmates at the county jail.

“We’re feeding them Swiss chard, and they seem to like it,” Sheriff Carpinelli said.

The garden is again being tended by a rotation of four trusted inmates, but a pair of corrections officers, rather than the sheriff, now are overseeing the program and supervising the workers.

“They’re doing a great job with it,” Sheriff Carpinelli said.

While most of the garden has again been planted along a fence on the west end of the jail yard, pumpkins have been added in the middle of the yard, with old tires placed around the plants to keep them warmer at night.

“That’s what one of the farmers told me, and it’s been working,” said the second-year sheriff, who established the plot in June 2012 after hearing that the jail had a garden in the past.

Nearly all the plants and seeds for the garden were donated by Deborah Earl from Blossoms ‘N’ Blooms Etc. in Constableville, he said.

Fresh produce from the garden has again been served in the jail cafeteria throughout the summer, and the excess is donated to the Lowville Food Pantry, Sheriff Carpinelli said.

About 150 pounds of tomatoes and other vegetables were donated to the pantry from last year’s harvest.

Aside from the health and budgetary benefits, the program also is valuable for the trusties, who must already be sentenced to serve as a volunteer gardener, the sheriff said.

“It’s a great program just for their mental well-being and their self-esteem,” he said. “I think if you work for what you have to eat, you appreciate it more.”

Jail trusties also handle mowing duties in the yard and in front of the Public Safety Building, and Sheriff Carpinelli said that he would like to eventually expand the work program to include picking up trash along selected roads and even at the Lewis County Fairgrounds, so long as enough supervisory manpower is available.

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