The Brightside: Healthy Somerset Garden Project

SOMERSET CO., Md. – There’s a program in Somerset County that’s all about getting fresh produce to local families in need, but the group that’s growing it isn’t exactly who you’d expect.

“This is the ECI garden, this garden produces anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 lbs of vegetables,” says Eastern Correctional Institution Asst. Warden Walter Holmes

It’s fresh produce that goes right back into the local community.

Sharon Lynch of Somerset County Health Dept. explains, “Both ends of the county are getting these fresh vegetables and in turn distributing them to their clients, their partners, their neighbors, their friends and so everybody in the community and we can’t feed enough are getting fresh veggies.”

It’s called the Healthy Somerset Garden Project¬† that’s giving Eastern Correctional inmates a chance to do a little good for those that need it most.

One inmate says, “It makes you feel good it kind of gives me a sense of purpose.”

But getting these seemingly endless fruits and vegetables isn’t so easy.

ECI Correctional Officer Cindy Dodson explains, “They grow them from the seed they have a greenhouse that’s right over there. And they grow them inside of there and then when they get big enough, they plant them out here and then they weed and pick and clean it up and they just go all day. We just give them what they need shovels, tillers, and they just go to town.”

“It’s a lot of watering upkeep, keeping a schedule putting new plants in the ground you know so there’s not a lot of downtime,” adds one inmate.

And since it started back in 2014, the inmates have been able to give away over 22 tons of fresh vegetables that are helping with food insecurity as well as childhood obesity in Somerset County.

Lynch adds, “Somerset County as in several counties on the Eastern Shore is what they consider a food desert. They lack access to affordable and fresh vegetables so this was a way to address that and it also helps with getting education of the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.”

It’s an eye opening experience not just for the families receiving the fresh veggies, but for those at ECI helping out.

“I personally didn’t realize how many people were had food issues in our county, so this is a tremendous help to those who need to be able to eat better,” explains Holmes.

“It’s been a nice thing to know that people are getting what they need and kids and families need the vegetables the nutrients they need that they can’t get on their own and you know it’s a good feeling,” says Dodson.

It’s a program that’s supplying endless produce and priceless benefits.

“It feels good to kind of give back you know a little bit, you know any way possible.”

Categories: Check It Out, Maryland