Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin says the Starke County F.A.R.M. (Foster a Recovery Mentality) program was started in 2016 to address addiction issues and also start the recovery process for substance abusers in Starke County.
“We started our program about four and a half years ago in our new Starke County Justice Center as a way to put our inmates to work on something positive,” Dulin says. “We have 23 acres of land where the inmates can grow vegetable plants and flowers that can be sold later.”
The F.A.R.M. Program also gives the inmates a goal to work towards.
“It helps the inmates pass the time, helps them be productive and it also helps them with a lot of behavior issues,” Dulin says.
Dulin adds that the size of the garden has continued to grow substantially.
“A lot of our jail staff have also been able to get the garden into the great shape it is in now,” Dulin says. “Our Therapeutic Community Coordinator and Jail Warden Phil Cherry have really worked hard to make the program a success. He started it and has really made it grow with the inmates and our staff.”
Dulin notes that the F.A.R.M. program consists of gated and un-gated gardens plus a nearby greenhouse.
The inmates use the gardens and the greenhouse to grow a large variety of items.
“They include flowers, spices, potatoes and strawberries,” Dulin says. “The inmates also grow a lot of vegetables, including radishes, cabbages, onions and pumpkins.”
Much of the produce is used for meals at the jail.
Dulin stresses that inmates earn the right to work in the garden.
“We choose inmates who have demonstrated good behavior,” Dulin says. “It’s just one of the behavior-based programs we have here. We also have an in-custody substance class.”
Dulin says inmates with the F.A.R.M. program started a farm stand last year in front of the jail to sell the produce and goods that trustees grew.
“The inmates also have a wood shop where they are able to make furniture and wood pallet art to sell,” Dulin adds. “The pallets have different designs on them such as cartoon characters and flowers.”
During the summer the farm stand is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Funds raised from the farm stand go back into the Justice Center to fund other Therapeutic Community programs, such as the Nurturing Fathers class, and substance abuse recovery program,” Dulin says.
The inmates also stay busy during the colder months.
“They make Christmas wreaths in November and December,” Dulin says. “The wreaths go to veterans, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)s.”
Cold weather items such as onions and potatoes can also be planted. The greenhouse is also used more in the winter.
“Tomatoes, strawberries, spices, cabbage and some flowers can also be grown during the winter,” Dulin adds.
Dulin says the greenhouse uses an aquaponics system that utilizes fish waste as fertilizer. The system speeds up the growing process.
During the winter, there is also a lot of cold weather and holiday-themed art that is created by the inmates.
Dulin believes the best part of the program is that it gives inmates the opportunity to get outside and work in a garden.
“The inmates are doing something active and productive that has beneficial results,” Dulin says.
It has also led to other good things such as community events, painting projects and vocational programs. Some of the programs teach basic woodworking and math skills.
“There is also a substance abuse class that is offered,” Dulin says. “This whole program gives people work they can get involved with that benefits other people. It helps people who have struggled with substance abuse and gives them a way to be outside as part of their recovery process.”
It also gives inmates the chance to use what they have learned to help them find a job after they are released.
“Our goal with all of the programs is to give the inmates the chance to learn skills they can use to help them get back in the community and be productive,” Dulin says.
The Starke County F.A.R.M is located at 5435 E. State Road 8 in Knox, Indiana.