Installation of an irrigation system should help offset the lack of rain at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office’s inmate garden.
MTSU agriculture students joined inmates at the Garden of Hope Wednesday to add a drip irrigation system under the direction of Dr. Nate Phillips. All of the materials were donated.
The drip irrigation system slowly drips water every 12 inches, Phillips explained. The water will run without someone being present and waters deep.
“It gives good targeted water where it’s needed,” Phillips said.
Sheriff Robert Arnold started the Garden of Hope last summer where inmates learn how to plant seeds and cultivate vegetables. The sheriff hopes inmates will use the skills learned to feed their families after release from the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center. The garden is coordinated by Deputy Arthal Minter.
“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day,” Arnold quoted. “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
Phillips accompanied students from his vegetable class to work side by side with the inmates.
“We just love what they’ve done out here,” Phillips said. “It’s inspiring. They are passionate about what they’re doing. Mrs. Minter is a critical part of the whole thing.
“The guys here have done a great job,” Phillips said. “I’m happy to come and hang out with them.”
Minter said Valley Growers Too donated all the seed for the garden. Most of the garden started from seed. Other vegetable plants were donated from Rutherford County high schools, SouthBranch Nursery and the Rutherford County 4-H clubs. More than 300 tomato plants were donated. Sheriff Arnold donated cantaloupe seeds.
Besides those crops, inmates planted red, yellow, green, orange and hot peppers, silver, kandy and sweet corn, pumpkins, beans and cucumbers.
Because the jail kitchen remains under construction, produce from the jail is being donated to nonprofit agencies such as Room in the Inn, Circle of Love Sisters, Journey Home and Salvation Army.
Marcia Houze, food services director at Journey Home at 308 W. Castle St., received tomatoes, squash, green beans and hot peppers last week. The produce was used to feet more than 100 people a day who are homeless and underprivileged.
Circle of Love Sisters Rosie Perkins and Margaret Smith brought two young sisters, A’lexus and Jasmine, who learned how to pick the produce and take it home to cook.
Inmate Zachary Mathis said he and another inmate are assigned to take care of the corn crop.
“We really have got to get in water every few days,” Mathis said.
The biggest problem he faces is weeds. He has thinned out the corn so the plants will get more nutrients.
Before being incarcerated, Mathis helped his father cultivate tomatoes at home. He hopes to garden when released.
“I’d like to plant strawberries,” Mathis said. “I love strawberries.”