The harvest is well underway at the South Idaho Correctional Institution (SICI) near Boise. Twenty chosen inmates rotate through the work group that is harvesting potatoes at a 10-acre prison farm that grows fresh produce for hungry Idaho families. The beans and corn they grew are already moving out The Idaho Foodbank’s doors.
The total yield is expected to exceed 310,000 pounds compared to the 184,000 harvested last year. This year the inmates and the volunteer farmers who have provided the expertise grew 10,480 pounds of green beans, 18,768 pounds of corn and several varieties of potatoes that are currently being harvested. The potato yield is expected to be about 280,000 pounds.
This is the fourth year for the prison farm, which this year was expanded from six acres to 10.
The agricultural experts behind the farm are Boyd Anderson, who volunteered to guide the efforts this year and last. Lavar Thornton supplied the bean-growing knowledge, and Sonny McCray has worked the ground for the past four years. Jerry Steele, a retired potato farmer from eastern Idaho, also worked with the inmates this year.
Thanks to some mechanical upgrades, this year’s effort is also a little more automated. For the first two years, inmates dug the potatoes by hand. Last year, Anderson brought out an antique digger that belonged to his wife’s grandfather during the Depression. This year, they had a donated potato harvester, and officials allowed them to use one of the prison’s gravel trucks to capture the harvested spuds.
“The Idaho Foodbank is interested in every opportunity to provide fresh, locally grown produce to our partners in the statewide charitable hunger-relief network,” said Jenifer Johnson, the Foodbank’s Vice President of Development. “The collaboration with Idaho farmers, seed companies, truckers and the staff and inmates at the South Idaho Correctional Institution is rewarding on many levels, but it is especially appreciated by the hungry families who are already enjoying these healthy vegetables.”
This project would never have been possible without the generosity of many volunteers and donors. In addition to the time and effort the volunteer farmers have given, Walters Farms in Newdale donated red potato seed, Parkinson Seed of St. Anthony donated russet seed, Interwest Supply of Nampa donated irrigation pipe, the Idaho Trucking Association donated the use of refrigerated trailers and J.R. Simplot Co. donated fertilizer.