Nacogdoches County Jail inmates growing vegetables, self esteem in garden

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - We've told you how more counties are turning to jail inmate-operated gardens as a way to save on the grocery bills.

On Friday, East Texas news talked directly with Nacogdoches County inmates as they worked their garden. As it turns out, something other than vegetables are growing there.

"These are coming on, said Stephanie Diggles, a Nacogdoches County inmate. "I'm proud of us."

Diggles felt good about a mess of green beans grown in the Nacogdoches County jail garden.

"We're appreciated for what we've done," Diggles said. "I know I like to do it because I know we are going to be appreciated."

For a change, these women are able to reap the harvest of something good.

"Yes ma'am," said Savannah Lee, an inmate at the jail. "I did get to help plant all this and now to come out and pick it, it's great satisfaction to be able to reap the fruits of my labor, or rather in this case, the vegetables of my labor."

"We have beans, peas. Okra will be going in shortly," said Molly Brown, a jail administrator. We've got peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, just about anything a normal garden would contain."

A jail garden is different in that the sometimes backbreaking labor plants a seed in one's mind.

"You learn something. I've never had one of my own, but being I'm out here now, it's relaxing to the mind," said Daphne Waters, an inmate at the jail. "Feels good outside. Feels good to my hands also, so I may just try to do one when I get home, which shouldn't be long."

The outdoor air always conjures up memories of life on the outside. One inmate talked about how he worked in a garden with his parents. Back then, working in a garden was a chore. However, it's not any more.

"No it's nice," the inmate said. "You get to get out."

Eventually they'll all be out. Hopefully, the next garden they work will be in their own backyard.

"Oh, I'm proud of this garden," Diggles said. "For real. This makes me feel like I'm at home in the country."

The next step is to teach inmates how to process and preserve fresh vegetables and fruits. Another idea, is to establish neighborhood sustainable gardens. Donations from seed to fertilizers are helping.  The biggest need is a tractor.

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