Charlevoix Jail’s inmate garden to get upgrade

The inmate garden at the Charlevoix County Jail is scheduled to be enhanced for the 2018 growing season.

Charlevoix County Sheriff Chuck Vondra is installing a new well and irrigation system to help the garden grow better.


This major accomplishment has been made possible by a grant from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation.

The produce harvested at the Charlevoix County Jail Garden has steadily increased over the past couple of years.

However, inefficient irrigation prevented the garden from producing its full potential.

“With the addition of the well we will be better able to properly irrigate,” Vondra said. “With the drip irrigation process that we will have we will focus the irrigation on the plant rows to conserve water and maximize plant growth.”

The garden has been a mainstay at the jail since 2010 and has produced a very respectable amount of produce for the past six years.

2017 saw a harvest in excess of seventeen thousand pounds.

The value of produce harvested is determined by assigning each item and market price.

The 2017 value of produce harvested was just over $32,000 worth of produce that the taxpayer will not have to pay for when feeding prisoners at the jail.

The Garden has experienced steady growth (as indicated on the chart below) but this new irrigation system should greatly enhance production.

The purpose for the Jail Garden has always been to relieve some of the taxpayer burden on the jail’s food service program and because of that, taxpayer dollars are not allocated to the Jail Garden.

“The support that we’ve received from the community, and now the financial support from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation has been crucial to our success and, hopefully, our growth,” stated Sheriff Vondra.

The jail garden has proved its importance since its inception.

According to Sheriff Vondra, “The cost savings to the taxpayers has been increasing over the years. With the installation of the well and irrigation system, in time, we should be able to anticipate the amount of product harvested and budget for it.”

The garden is tended by inmates and the preservation and/or use of the produce is also done by inmates.

The Charlevoix County Jail offers a Food Service Program to qualified inmates which consists of 23 courses encompassing all manner of food safety and preparation.

The benefits of the Food Service Program for inmates is it allows inmates to become more involved with daily garden activities and kitchen operations.

This program teaches them the knowledge and skill to start working in the food service field once released.

“Support from The Charlevoix County Community Foundation is huge,” said Vondra. “It gives our program validation and we appreciate that.”


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