Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Don’t you dare call this a garden. It’s more of a working farm. And a productive one at that.
“We could potentially feed over 20,000 people. That’s a small city. That is a small city.”
There are more than 100 acres of fruits and vegetables growing here in the Cockrill Bend area of Davidson County.
David Cook (UT Extension - Davidson County)
“A lot of cabbage, onions, and there will be tomatoes and corn. There will be squash. There will be cucumbers. There’s watermelon.”
But here’s the real surprise growing on here. This is prison property – part of the Riverbend facility operated by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Everything here is planted by hand, harvested and eaten by the people at Riverbend. David Cook with UT Extension serves as a consultant to the prison farm, advising them on crop varieties, pest and weed control and how to increase yields.
“The food produced here actually goes back to feed inmates and it can feed staff. So they have a long term plan, a very aggressive plan to feed thousands. The food grown on this facility here is feeding actually the inmates, and the inmates are actually doing all the work too. They’re doing all the hard work out here.”
Labor is optional for these inmates. No one is forced to work this garden. But many like that it gets them outside, and they learn new skills too. Corrections officials believe this farm is a great training ground for inmates who may pursue agricultural work after their release. Also between crop production and a composting project, this facility saves taxpayers about 400 thousand dollars a year. Next summer, corrections officials will plant even more produce here.
Sgt. Doug Griffin (Tennessee Department of Corrections)
“A lot of things we’re doing as a trial basis this year because we’re increasing starting next year. This will be double its size next year. So just looking at a better way to use our land and produce more food.”
This area is flat – river bottom land with deep, rich top soil. With an increasing number of acres taken out of agricultural production these days, farm leaders say it’s good to see this land used to grow food.
Sgt. Doug Griffin
“It’s very good land. You can pretty much just throw the seeds down and away they go.”
“Once we’ve built roads and parking lots and buildings, that land never goes back into production again. This is like going into a virgin forest.”
We need prisons. After all, there are people who will break society’s rules. But in some instances, these correctional facilities may be located next to productive ground. And with an available work force, there’s no reason why the prison can’t feed itself.
NOTE: ension has future plans to teach educational courses on agricultural production at the River Bend farm.