Inmates plant orchard as part of gardening program

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Associated Press

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 12:01 PM

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A western Kentucky jailer has taken a gardening program for inmates to a new level by adding a small orchard.

Hopkins County Jailer Joe Blue said inmates enrolled in a Master Gardener program have planted 30 apple trees on a quarter-acre site near the jail.

Blue told The Messenger (http://bit.ly/1352u34) that he decided to try the orchard after a vegetable garden that he started for inmates in 2006 showed so much success.

He says produce from the garden is used to offset the cost of feeding inmates; anything extra is donated to local charities.

Blue says he hopes the job skills the inmates learn in planting and caring for the trees will help them find employment after they are released.

Under the direction of county extension agent for horticulture Andy Rideout, inmates reset some trees after they were damaged by animals.

"I would have never thought rabbits would be a problem," he said, scratching his head. "We put cages around them to protect them from deer."

Inmates were instructed to add plastic collars around the base of the trees to protect them from smaller animals.

"It's a great long-term project, and these guys will have some skills," Rideout said. "That's the main reason we get involved — it plays right up our alley for the extension service to be involved in this."

Blue said there's room for expansion if things go well.

"Not a lot of jails have a product. It's neat to have, and the guys enjoy it," Blue said. "If this is successful, we might try peaches and pears."

Inmate Matthew Brown, who recently completed the Master Gardener program, said it offered him a wealth of experience and knowledge in landscaping, etymology and botany.

"It's very hands-on work," he said. "I really like growing vegetables — especially tomatoes and cucumbers."

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Information from: The Messenger, http://www.the-messenger.com

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