Therapeutic Community to start selling produce and pallets

James Master

The Therapeutic Community at the Starke County Justice Center will start selling the produce harvested from the garden and decorated wooden pallets this Saturday. They plan to continue the sale each Saturday throughout August.

In the past, the center used the harvested vegetables in the Justice Center’s cafeteria as well as donating some to the various local organizations in need. Due to the increased size of the garden, it’s grown four to five times larger since its creation three years ago, the Justice Center is able to feed its inmates, donate, and have enough to sell.

“We’re trying to put some money back in for some more programming and just for supplies,” said Therapeutic Community Coordinator and Jail Warden Phil Cherry.

This Saturday the sale will be located at the Starke County Justice Center, 5435 E IN-8 in Knox. The following Saturday, July 28, the sale will be located in Bass Lake for the Bass Lake Festival. The rest of the time it will be located at the Justice Center. When it’s located at the Justice Center, the sale will be from 9 a.m. till 12 p.m. When it’s during the Bass Lake Festival, it will be from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m.
The wooden pallets can be purchased for around $15 to $20 each. Pallets also can be personalized with names or dates if desired for an additional cost. Custom orders are also being taken.
According to the warden, there will be three different types of squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, red and white potatoes, zucchini, and more.

In the fall, they will hopefully be selling pumpkins. About 10 inmates work the garden. “We’ll be there supervising, but they’re the ones going to be out there doing the work. They’ve done the work all spring. It’s pretty rewarding. They’ll tell you it’s very therapeutic going out there and working in the garden,” said Warden Cherry. 90 percent of the plants were grown in the greenhouse from seeds. All the produce is organic and non-GMO. The only fertilizer that is used comes from the aquaponics program. Aquaponics is where waste from fish is used to feed the plants. Fish excrete nutrients into the tank water which is then used to water the plants. Then the plants absorb the nutrients.

Last year, the garden produced about 4,000 pounds of produce. Warden Cherry stated that so far this year, it has produced about 1,500 pounds.
The inmates that participate in the garden have to also be in either the Nurturing Fathers class or substance abuse classes. The Warden states that being involved in these programs helps keep inmates from returning after they have been released. “We’ve probably run close to 200 people through that program in the last two years. Less than 20 percent have come back.”

Daniel Hooker, an inmate at the Justice Center, is one of the artists painting the pallets that will be sold. He stated that the project allowed him to be creative. “We feel like we’re at home. All the staff in here is really nice so, for me, the thing I like about it (the palette sale) is giving back to the community. Because the jail does a lot for us. I’m from South Bend and we don’t get to do anything like this.”
Hooker has been through the horticulture class, the Nurturing Father class, and other classes and knows the benefits gained from the program first hand.
“Everything in the program, we have a wide range of curriculum, everything from better communication, fathering, ways to deal with addiction,” he said. “I definitely feel like if I would’ve went somewhere else, statistically, this place is definitely going to help out better than anywhere else.”

The Therapeutic Community offers more than just gardening to the inmates. There are classes in therapy, anger management, communication, moral judgement, relapse prevention, horticulture, bee keeping, mothering classes, fathering classes, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Indiana High School Equivalency Test (formerly the GED) prep classes.
“It’s a worthwhile program,” said Warden Cherry about the Therapeutic Community.