The Salt Lake Farmer's Market just started up this past weekend and Malamute and I made a new (for us) discovery there: The Salt Lake County Jail Horticulture Program. Yes, you can go to the Farmer's Market and find inmates in blue jumpsuits with name tags selling you greens they grew themselves using organic growing practices.
And what greens! They had varieties of lettuce I had never even heard of like Mireille Quatre. According to an inmate named Doyle, they are growing 84 kinds of plants and even have blackberries coming later in the summer! They had some of the best looking greens there and they taste wonderful!
And they were the some of the least expensive greens there too! We got bags of lettuce and mustard greens and kale for $1.50 each! Wow! They had tennis ball lettuce two for a dollar (they weren't the best of the greens, but they were OK and extremely inexpensive). I love how they listed their prices right up front too. (For some reason, a lot of booths don't list their prices. Most of the time, I pass those booths right by.) But you can't beat the free labor they're getting at the jail, and those savings are passed on to the citizens of Salt Lake County. We love this because greens are the staple of our diet. We have three green smoothies and one or two salads a day, plus kale chips, so we go through a lot of greens. We've made a number of wrong turns that have gotten us into trouble financially and having affordable, healthy food is incredibly helpful to us.
The best part though was seeing what a difference this was making in these men's lives. They were able to hold their heads up with dignity that they had done work that was beneficial to others. They were so excited when we got a big bag and started filling it full of greens. They kept thanking us over and over, but I was the one who felt grateful that I could feed my family good food at an affordable price. In most prisons, inmates just sit around all day with nothing to do and little in the way of structured activity. (This dates back to the Quakers and their idea that silence, solitude, and a lack of things to do would turn criminals' minds to meditation and penitence, thus the term "penitentary".) All this does is make the inmates bored and keep their minds coming up with more new ways to screw up. One inmate named Matt said, "When I was in jail before, all I would do is think up more stupid things to do. Now I have something to fill my day. This is the first good thing I've done in three years." Wow. I want to be a part of that! These guys just lit up when they were talking about their garden.
Matt also said that since he has started eating the greens from the greenhouse, he has developed a love of vegetables and doesn't want to touch the stuff they serve at the cafeteria. So those of you transitioning to a healthy diet, take heart, your tastebuds will adjust.
The Salt Lake County Jail Horticulture Program is administered in partnership with Utah State University's Extension Program so that inmates can learn trade skills for when they are released. We really need more programs like this in our prisons and I am so glad that the SL County Jail is doing this! So if you're in the SLC metro area, mosy on over to the Farmer's Market and help support this program by buying some tasty and inexpensive greens.
One thing to remember if you go- get there early and buy what you can right away, because the prison horticulture greens go FAST!