JULY 17, 1996

Gatesville - Ride by Gates Correctional Center any day of the week and you'll likely find inmates working the prison's gardens. There are eight 100 x100 foot plots that inmates use to grow all types of vegetables. Inmates have grown 961 pounds of squash, 196 pounds of lettuce, 1,100 pounds of cucumbers, 526 pounds of snap beans, 94 pounds of onions, 100 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 pounds of corn and more. Gates will save about $5,600 in food costs this year.

"We've exceeded our expectations," said Gates superintendent Steve Muller. "We lost some of our corn to deer and hurricane Bertha but we still have enough crops to share with other prisons."

Gates sends food grown by inmates to Martin, Currituck, and Pasquotank, and Washington correctional centers. The inmates are responsible for cultivating the soil, planting, fertilizing, watering, chopping and harvesting the crops. Community volunteers provide the seeds. Inmates eat what they grow.

"Growing their own crops means prisons can spend less money on food," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "It's a good economical move and can make a difference in a prison's food budget. Inmates are learning work ethic values and gaining a sense of accomplishment and pride."

Inmates at 25 prisons across the state are working in gardens, providing food for themselves and fellow inmates. Prisoners should not expect to take a break once all the summer crop has been harvested.

"We're already getting started with our fall garden," said Muller. "We'll have cool weather crops including lettuce, onions, pumpkins, radish, rutabagas, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts and other crops.