2013-01-01 / Front Page

Prison Horticulture Grows Pumpkins For Reelsville Elementary Students


Front Row, seated left to right: Jason “Jo Jo” McCurdy, Denise Elliot, Keith Atkerson, Sami Knoy, Kaylie Polster. Back row left to right: Blake Atkerson, Payton Watkins, Chase Godsey, Sylvia Ford, Sawyer Smith, Charlie McNeal. 
(Courtesy photo) Front Row, seated left to right: Jason “Jo Jo” McCurdy, Denise Elliot, Keith Atkerson, Sami Knoy, Kaylie Polster. Back row left to right: Blake Atkerson, Payton Watkins, Chase Godsey, Sylvia Ford, Sawyer Smith, Charlie McNeal. (Courtesy photo) Offenders assigned to the Horticulture Department at the Putnamville Correctional Facility grew 150 pumpkins that were delivered to pre-school and first grade students at the Cloverdale and Central Elementary schools.

“There are two things that I think all children should have,” commented Superintendent Stan Knight, “a bicycle and a pumpkin.”

The previous year, after the delivery of 62 pumpkins to Reelsville Elementary students, Knight told Horticulture Instructor Jack Mitchell that the goal for the upcoming year was to enlarge the pumpkin patch. “At the time I thought, no problem,” said Mitchell. But unbeknown to him and 15-20 offenders assigned to his crew, there were challenges ahead.

“Everything started great,” Mitchell relayed. The pumpkins were started from seeds and grown in the facility’s greenhouse. When planting season arrived, they were transplanted to a garden. Then one morning, he said his crew were dismayed to find that the pumpkins had been eaten by groundhogs. Mitchell explained, “Because of the drought conditions, they couldn’t find anything else to eat so they ate our pumpkins.” It was late in the season but Mitch and the gang would not be deterred. They replanted gardens in several different areas throughout the facility in an attempt to thwart the groundhogs and it worked. By the end of the season they had more than doubled the number of pumpkins harvested.

Mitchell, Sergeant Gary Goss, and Officer Carie Hardman pulled into the schools’ parking lot with a trailer loaded with green and orange pumpkins weighing anywhere from 1-20 pounds. “I don’t know who was more excited,” said Hardman, “us as we watched the kids faces or the kids when they saw all of the pumpkins!”

Knight smiled as he looked at photos from the delivery, commended staff on a job well done and issued a friendly challenge, “Next year it will be 200, right!”

The horticulture department at the Putnamville Correctional Facility is a vocational training program designed to teach offenders the science and technology of plant cultivation. Offenders learn marketable skills that are beneficial to the Agency and community both during and after incarceration.

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