JANESVILLE (WKOW) – A Rock County program is helping inmates help the community. People in Rock County toured a community garden that donates thousands of pounds of produce to local food pantries each year.
Timothy Barnes is in the Rock County Education and Criminal Addictions Program at the county jail. He says he has six weeks until he is out of jail after a second OWI charge. For now, the garden is his escape.
"Coming out here in the garden, it gives you peace of mind," Barnes said.
Forty-five inmates are part of the five-month RECAP program that addresses substance abuse, anger management and domestic violence.
Inmates gave others a taste of life at the garden at an open house on Monday.
"We give a lot of the produce away so they are actually helping people they know in the county," said Jim Haseman, a master gardener volunteer.
It started in 2005 with some tomatoes. From tomatoes to grapes, the garden has kept on growing. Volunteers were able to donate more than 13,000 pounds of produce in 2010 to local food pantries.
"We won't make that poundage this year but we will next year," Haseman said.
He says the weather was rough this time around, but he has new plans for next year.
"With money being tight everywhere, we need to make money to make our seed money and do things we like to do," Haseman said.
He plans to sell excess produce to be self-sufficient—something many of the inmates aim to be when they are released.
"My goal is to get a job and take care of my family," Barnes said.
He said he is most looking forward to bringing his seven grandchildren to the garden when he gets out of jail.
"I can bring them here in nature and let them know what it's really all about."
Barnes also said he plans to continue volunteering in the community.