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8/6/2017 5:15:00 PM
State prison helping stock Wabash Valley community pantries with fresh produce
Inmate Mark Taylor tosses a cucumber to another inmte on Friday morning at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Staff photo by Austen Leake
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Inmate Mark Taylor tosses a cucumber to another inmte on Friday morning at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Staff photo by Austen Leake

Austen Leake, Tribune-Star

Know of a food pantry that could use some fresh produce?

If so, get those folks in touch with the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, where they're literally producing tons of fresh vegetables and would love to share.

The state prison's community garden is already working with six not-for-profits in Sullivan, Vigo, Greene and Knox Counties, but the harvest has been so abundant they're looking for other pantries who could use tomatoes, corn, onions, cabbage, peppers, potatoes and more.

“We are picking every day and have way more than they can handle,” said Breanna Trimble, community service director. “If your church or charity has a food pantry and needs fresh produce, give us a call, we are ready to help.”

Churches or food banks can give the facility a call at 812-398-5050, extensions 3115 or 3117. And, Trimble said, the facility can sometimes deliver.

Garden manager Bill Spurlin said the harvest will continue through the end of next month. Produce, like carrots, beets and turnips will be on the vine through October.

Scott Shipman, director of Helping His Hands Disaster Response out of Vincennes, was picking up produce Friday. 

"This is a huge blessing for us and the families we help," he said. "We want to be able to give healthy food out to the families, so this partnership is an amazing blessing for us."

The inmates who work the garden say they enjoy the gardening and knowing they're helping people.

"There are about 17 of us on this garden," said inmate Ryan Osowski. "I try to come out three days a week so, no matter what, we have about eight or nine guys on it. ... It’s not just working out for us, it's doing something for the people out there, and that makes me feel good about working out here."

Said inmate David McQueen, who's had some produce growing experience, "It’s good to know you’re helping out a lot of people."

Correctional Capt. Eric Brewer said he's been involved in the program for four years and especially enjoys watching the prisoners learn.

"It gives these men an opportunity to give back to the community and also to learn a valuable skill," Brewer said. "Most of the time, these guys have no idea how to grow anything when they start.

"Some of them have never done anything like this and they take a lot of pride in it. I like to watch the guys get better at gardening over the years. It’s just a good thing all around."

Mark Fitton of the Tribune-Star also contributed to this report. 

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