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Inmates learn skills by growing food for food bank

<i>WSMV</i><br/>At the Davidson County Detention Center in South Nashville
At the Davidson County Detention Center in South Nashville

By Ryan Breslin

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — At the Davidson County Detention Center in South Nashville, the green areas don’t go unused.

There are two fields with rows of crops, a demonstration garden, a tree nursery, and greenhouse all inside the barbed wire fencing.

Right now, they’re harvesting sweet potatoes there and sending all of the produce to Second Harvest Food Bank.

“Like this week, we’ll harvest one row, then next week we’ll harvest one or two rows,” said Paul Mulloy, the Director of Programs with the Davidson County Sheriffs Office.

The farming is part of the horticulture program the inmates can sign up for with their case managers.

In it they learn the master gardener course, growing everything from tomatoes to okra, and even trees.

“It benefits the individuals who are locked up, giving them employable skills, it benefits the community by producing produce that some people don’t have access to,” said Mulloy.

The program is fairly new, growing from the ground up.

“It’s improvement over the last five years. All the staff, myself, and the offenders, we all take what is the master of gardener course so we know kind of what we’re doing and the last five years we’ve gotten a lot better at it,” Mulloy said. “So we produced hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, and onions, and sweet potatoes, and turnips.”

This year they’ve also given 2000 trees to the city, which have been planted mostly around East Nashville where storms have damaged the area.

Their goal is to produce 5000 pounds of produce this year alone.

Mulloy said, “Sheriff Hall says you know the police arrest the person, we arrest the problem. We don’t make license plates here because there’s not an employable resource for that so he’s trying to make it where there’s an employable skill that individuals who come here do not have and when they leave here they do.”

A donated greenhouse from Mid-Tenn Ford has been especially helpful to them this year. Program Coordinator Garland Pulley takes pride in running it.

“It’s been a great asset to the program. We save a lot of money on plants because we can grow them and we can also teach the inmates that skill too,” he said.

It also will eventually allow them to donate to Second Harvest year round.

Pulley continued, “I think it’s important to understand where your food comes from and understand how it grows and I think it’s also important for them to have a positive impact on the community.”

A positive impact while learning employable skills. Mulloy added, “if you can change the mindset sometimes that there’s more options for them than the option that brought them here in the first place, that’s a big deal.”

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