North Carolina Department of Correction news release

APRIL 21, 1998

State prisoners grow lillies for DOT

TILLERY - Travelers along North Carolina’s highways should have a more enjoyable drive this spring and summer thanks to the green thumbs of inmates working at the Caledonia Prison Work Farm. Day lilies, raised and planted by the inmates, will be in full bloom along the state’s roadways, brightening the landscape with spectacular red, orange and yellow flowers.

More than 100 inmates have been working year-round at the prison work farm growing and potting thousands of day lilies to be used in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Beautification Program.

Phillip Sykes, farm manager at Caledonia, said the farm has been raising day lilies for DOT for several years. This year, inmates at the farm potted 90,000 day lilies to be used in the Highway Beautification Program. Last year, the inmates provided DOT with 200,000 day lilies.

"Day lilies are a very labor-intensive crop," Sykes said. "They take a lot of hands-on work involving more than 100 inmates."

The inmates first plant the bulbs in fields at the work farm during the fall and cover the ground with straw. The flowers are allowed to grow in the fields for two to three years before they are transferred to pots for DOT.

Each spring 50 to 60 inmates dig up the flowers and split them with a knife, returning half to the fields and transferring the others to be potted. More than 100 inmates work during the potting process, filling the pots with soil and fertilizing and watering the plants.

The potted day lilies are shipped out to DOT in the fall and planted along the roadsides with inmate labor provided through the Governor’s Community Work Program.

Come summer, the day lilies are in full bloom adding beauty to even the most routine drive.

"Most people driving along the state’s roadways have no idea that the day lilies were raised and planted with inmate labor," Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis said. "The day lily program not only beautifies the highways of North Carolina, but also saves the state money and puts hundreds of inmates to work."