Walton County inmates learn to grow in more ways than one

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In Walton County, being in jail is not just about serving time.

"I cannot stand jail, you know? I don't like jail at all," Inmate Corey Atchinson said.

For a small group of inmates, class was in session as they learned to grow, in more ways than one.

"I like doing agricultural work and stuff like that. Ever since I've been out here I've learned about turnips and carrots. I really don't eat them but it's easy to farm them," Inmate Dermarcus Taylor said.

"I think it gives them a self worth, you know? They come out and they see their rewards from their hard work and some of them brag about wanting to take some of the knowledge that they've learned and take it to their families," Walton County Detention Deputy Frank Araneo said.

"It's pretty cool to have them on your trey. The things you've planted, cut and prepared," Atchinson said. "At first, I was dreading it but actually getting out there, it's been really rewarding so far."

The Walton County Sheriff's Office partnered with the University of Florida Extension office to teach the inmates some important aspects of farming and agriculture.

"This class that they are holding [Friday] is just one of the parts of farming or gardening. The weather condition can be right, your soil samples can be great. And next thing you know, you have issues with pests," Araneo said.

But more than the knowledge they gain, it helps takes some of the financial burden off of the community and gives the inmates something to be proud of.

"It allows the inmates to not just sit in jail all day. It allows them to get out and work and it saves tax dollars. It cuts our cost of food expenses, so I think that's a huge benefit to the taxpayers and the community," Araneo said.

"[It] keeps my mind off of being locked up. You know, we all make mistakes but sometimes you can learn in the situation like this and that's one of the benefits of it," Taylor said. "A lot of people wouldn't. They think just taking a small class like this will help you realize something about the food, but it helps me understand more about the stuff that I'm eating."

"I actually, I was cutting them up, I ate a carrots. This one single carrot was the single best carrot I've ever had in my entire life. It was sweeter than any other carrot I've ever had anywhere and it was pretty cool," Atchinson proudly said. "I feel really accomplished. I mean there is nothing really better than planting something in the ground and pulling it, cleaning it and eating it. Its a nice experience."
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In Friday's class, inmates learned about pesticides and the difference between good and bad bugs for their garden.