We recently came across your website lettucegrow. org, and wanted to let you know about the garden at the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI). Over the past two years OSCI, located in Salem, has operated an organic garden and is planning its 3rd organic garden in 2010.
OSCI’s Garden Project has created opportunities for inmates and benefited the department. OSCI has two main gardens located inside the fence; a greenhouse and three-fourths of an acre supplying a variety of fruits and vegetables. Outside the fence perimeter is a two acre garden producing thousands of pounds of potatoes.
The greenhouse garden has produced cherry and regular tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, and jalapeno pepper plants. Other plants are: onion, snow peas, golden jade beans, leaf lettuce, carrots, and radishes. In 2009 almost 17,633 lbs. of fresh produce was harvested, of which OSCI donated over 650 to Mill Creek Correctional Facility and over 1,500 lbs. to earl Boyles Community Garden. An additional 36,000 plus pounds of potatoes was also harvested.
The Garden Project has given job opportunities to inmates. Currently five inmates tend to the greenhouse, two inmates tend to the garden, and there are 14 inmate volunteers that are ready and willing to help out when needed.
The New Horizon, OSCI’s Lifers Club, met and decided to start the garden. The seeds were purchased out of the Inmate Welfare Fund. With under $1,000 spent on the seeds, the garden grew beyond the allotted area, causing an expansion of the garden in 2009.
The Garden provides inmates with fresh produce, new options for their menu, and a chance to learn how to garden. Some of the new menu items are fresh spaghetti sauce, coleslaw, fried green tomatoes, zucchini bread, French fries, salsa, herbs and spices.
The department has also benefited; produce orders dramatically decreased in 2009 compared to previous years. With the garden producing the majority of vegetables orders, the remaining purchases are decreased. Of course gardening is a learned skill and with one year of the garden providing the majority of the fresh produce, next year will show the true test of just how much can be saved.
A by-product of gardening is composting. Composting the left over rinds from the fruits and vegetables saves on garbage costs and the compost is used in the garden as fertilizer. Donations to help with composting have come from a local dairy.
Executive Assistant / Public Information Officer
Oregon State Correctional Institution
Tel: (503) 373-0135
Cell: (503) 339-6569