Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco jail's agricultural program makes work — and food — for inmates

The jail harvests about 500 heads of lettuce a day to feed inmates and deputies. The new greenhouse unveiled Thursday replaces this one, which was destroyed by a tornado in 2007.

Times (2004)

The jail harvests about 500 heads of lettuce a day to feed inmates and deputies. The new greenhouse unveiled Thursday replaces this one, which was destroyed by a tornado in 2007.

LAND O'LAKES — Chad Free has been in jail since February, after he turned himself in for violating his probation on grand theft charges. He had been on the lam for six months.

"I got tired of running and always looking over my shoulder," he said. "I wanted to get on with my life."

On Thursday morning, the 21-year-old felt closer to normal than he has since his arrest. He began his first day working in the county jail's agricultural program, which saves money and gives some inmates confidence.

"They get a sense of achievement," said Sheriff Bob White at a dedication ceremony for the jail's new hydroponic greenhouse. The previous one was destroyed by a tornado in 2007.

"It's starting something and seeing it to fruition," White said. "Many of our inmates have not had that experience."

Every day at the jail, nearly 500 heads of lettuce — rex, romaine, bib — are harvested from the greenhouse, which goes to the jail's kitchen and feeds inmates and deputies. The crew also grows beefsteak tomatoes, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, cucumbers, collard greens, eggplant, thyme, basil, parsley, garlic and sage. There is a traditional in-ground garden that grows potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. There is another hydroponic garden just for ornamental plants, which are used for landscaping at the jail and for horticultural training for the inmates. There is a plan to possibly sell the plants to the public in the future.

In addition to gardening, inmates care for pigs — right now they have 120 — which are sent off to Manatee County, where there is an inmate slaughterhouse program. The meat comes back to the jail.

According to the Sheriff's Office, last year 67 pigs were processed into 10,244 pounds of pork, saving the jail $13,113.

Last month, the jail began a cattle program. Once the herd gets bigger, some will be slaughtered to provide meat.

Vegetables that can't be eaten are fed to the pigs.

"We don't waste anything," said Major Brian Head.

The money for the program comes from federal grants. The new hydroponic greenhouse came in pieces and was built by the inmates, from pouring the concrete floor to installing the irrigation system. They finished the work eight weeks ago.

Inmates don't get paid, but they do earn time off their sentences — one and a half days for every 40 hours worked. Those able to join the program must have been sentenced for nonviolent crimes.

"We can't always teach them a trade, but we can teach them to get out of bed and work," Head said.

Free is scheduled to get out of jail in August. As he watered squash and peppers in the garden Thursday, he said he now thinks of being outside as a privilege.

"I love it," he said. "It feels better than to be trapped inside like an animal."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com.

Pasco jail's agricultural program makes work — and food — for inmates 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Marriott opening new hotel on Clearwater Beach

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER BEACH — A dual-branded Marriott hotel with a tongue-twister name is opening on Clearwater Beach in August. The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will have 255 suites total, connected by a lobby.

    A dual-branded Marriott hotel called the Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will open in August in Clearwater Beach. Pictured is a rendering.
[Courtesy of Hayworth PR]
  2. AARP study explores the role 50-plus moviegoers play at the box office

    Life Times

    A new study shows that seniors have a much larger impact on the success — or failure — of a film than previously realized, even films that might seem aimed at a much younger audience.

    According to the study, more than 30 percent of all cinema visits were made by 50-plus adults.
  3. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay

    Blogs

    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  4. A heart-shaped box containing Katie Golden's ashes sits next to her picture at her family's South Tampa home. Katie died from a drug overdose in April 2017. She was only 17-years-old. Read about her parents' journey at tampabay.com. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times]
  5. Hillsong Young and Free's worship music is a lot like pop. That's no accident.

    Music & Concerts

    Press play on Hillsong Young and Free's Youth Revival, and everything you hear might sound familiar.

    Hillsong Young and Free are performing at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Credit: Rogers and Cowan