Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Serving Time Garden

*In the next few weeks i'll be blogging about beautiful local gardens and the people who tend them. If you would like to suggest a garden to visit please comment!

Gardeners: Utah County Jail inmates
Size: 5.25 acres
Location: Utah County Justice Garden

I met Adrian Hinton, Horticulture Agent and jail garden guide, in his downtown Provo office. When he asked what kind of info I was after I said, "Just tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly."
And he protested "There is no ugly in gardening!"
I countered, "What about really rank compost?"
Adrian insisted "Compost is always beautiful!"
"What about slug infestations?" I pressed.
"Slugs are beautiful!"
I thought it humorous that his words weren't coming out of my mouth. Because when have I ever thought there was anything ugly about gardening? Hmmm?

Well...by the end of this post you will see that there is indeed "ugly" in gardening.

When we arrived I was...surprised. I thought we'd have to be searched, turn our pockets inside out, stick out our tongues to make sure we weren't doing the old smuggling-contraband-in-the-gullet trick...I don't know, I thought I would be "checked", you know, like last time I went to jail.*for the full incarceration story see me. oh and never give your child a legal name that they forget they have because they've never gone by it and their good friends don't even know it so when a pal goes to pay your seat belt ticket that you got in their ill equipped truck and they can't find a ticket under your name so you think you got off easy-freezy but really there is a warrant out for your arrest, well, just give your kids a name they're actually called. p.s.Momma Mia I really like my legal name just fine. bygones. Remember how this post was about gardening?


But we drove up and it was just fields of gardens, not a barbed wire fence in sight. Not a weed in sight either. With 6,000 people hours looking after this garden, it's breathtakingly perfect.

Adrian was showing me the flowers that edge the crops and explaining the generosity of local nurseries that donate seeds when...i was embraced by an inmate.

i was so startled.
so was Adrian
and the deputy.

But it was my young friend PF. And after I got over my delight at seeing him and asking him his story, I was suddenly nervous that maybe it would be thought I was faking an interview for mischief's sake.

(but I wasn't.)

YOU GUYS, the justice garden is a great thing. It started when some of the inmates complained about the jail food, and a wonderful visionary named Lieutenant Dennis Hart had an idea. Let's turn those fields into a garden and use the fresh produce in the kitchen. The gardens became part of the Utah County Jail's Job Industry Program which is now the #1 job industries program in the entire nation.

Did you read that? #1 in the country.

Last year the garden produced 82,000 lbs of food. They use it in the jail kitchen, and donate the rest to the Food & Care Coalition; the Share the Harvest program (in Orem where they sprayed for the japanese beetle and residents couldn't grow gardens); Meals on Wheels for senior citizens; and to others in need. They also stocked me up.
I would have invited them to be part of Provo's Farmers Market but they're not allowed to compete with local growers. This garden is not for money, as Deputy Baldwin said, "Its for good organic food, service to the community, for therapeutic time in the sun and fresh air, and for getting your hands in the dirt." Deputy Barney said she used to hate cantaloupe but now that she's had properly ripe cantaloupe from the garden she eats is all the time and can't believe the taste difference between these and the grocery store. She also eats the ambrosia corn and says its delicious raw. Deputy Barney said that some of the inmates start out having no idea what a weed looks like but every day they learn more about plant identification and all the other things you need to learn to grow food.

PF told me that as soon as he's out of jail he's going to start his own garden.

This year the jail started an orchard. Deputy Barney opened a peach and handed me half. Yum.

I agree with Deputy Baldwin when he said there's "Something so rewarding about planting a seed and watching it grow." They grow everything at the jail. Including this beautiful broccoli.

And all this.
Adrian is demonstrating that this is good organic stuff. Straight from the field into the mouth.

A very useful tip from Adrian about zuchs.

And the ugly thing about gardening? Adrian took back what he said about there being no ugly when he mournfully remembered the damage a recent hailstorm did to the squash.

Special thanks to Sheriff James O. Tracy, Director Jo Murphy, Deputies Baldwin and Barney, and to Adrian Hinton. What a wonderful garden! Thanks also goes to Carpenter Seeds and other local nurseries who generously support the garden!

Are you inspired and want to help? Donations of packing tape are requested. The jail is in need of packing tape to reinforce the boxes that they load with food donations. You can drop off the tape at the Utah County Jail.


james said...

Wow...I had no Idea Utah County could be so progressive. Great reporting.

Geo said...

This is excellent, and God bless Dennis Hart!

sue-donym said...

Not a clue this went on. Fabulous.

isa said...

What a fabulous field trip!!

( are you organizing a valleywide tour-of-gardens to rival the historic homes tour? you tour will be yummier. when is it?)

Cheli said...

What a great example for the rest of the country. Hopefully they will follow it.

pamo said...

very very cool.

somebody's mother said...

I'm so glad you made it out there! It's such a great program. Thanks for the report.

The Fam said...

Wow--is Utah County becoming progressive? Do they have culinary certifications? This is inspiring!


Lois said...

Wow! Thanks for letting us know about this. I had no idea. Great post.

djinn said...

This is so beautiful. There is so much to love about Utah. And you.

Becky said...

That is incredible! That is A LOT of food!

Eva said...

such a great story and program!

luminainfinite said...

YES! GREAT REPORTING!!!!!! Oh! I was having a very bad day until I read this and now I feel all cheered up! Leave it to a garden and picture of Raquel and a watermelon to make me feel the sun again. Muah! thank you!