Lawrence's newest community garden is sprouting up in an unlikely place - Douglas County Jail.
The location makes sense to volunteer and Kansas University student Jason Hering, who’s been working with jail staff to get the garden going.
“Where better to put a community garden,” Hering said. “You get good quality, local food out here.”
Mike Caron, the jail’s programs director, said the new garden, a 50-by-40-foot fenced-in plot behind the jail, has several benefits.
All of the food grown on the site will be used at the jail, providing healthy fruits and vegetables for inmates, as well as lowering food costs.
Caron said the garden will also be used as a reward for inmates, who can earn privileges to work outside on the site.
Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and apple trees are being planted by inmates and volunteers in what has been a communitywide effort, Caron said.
Many of the plants were donated by Henry’s Plant Farm, 248 N. 1700 Road, Lecompton. Various community groups, such as KU EcoJustice and the local group, Support for Local Urban Gardeners, have helped with the planning and preparations for the garden.
Hering, a senior in environmental science who is president of KU EcoJustice, has been recruiting students at KU to help in the project, and he sees the benefit of matching students with inmates.
“Many of the students didn’t even know we had a correctional facility out here,” he said. “It’s a good way to challenge the volunteers. There’s a large stigma. To break that is good.”
Fellow KU student and volunteer Evan McCormick said the program is a win-win.
“I think it’s really a benefit for everyone,” he said. “We’re all one community.”