Waldo County farm recognized for entrepreneurial excellence

SWANVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Over the years, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Energy has made it their mission to recognize thriving businesses.

On Friday, they honored one in Waldo County that's helping grow Maine's natural resource economy while getting inmates back on their feet.

"This really is learning a skill and taking care of the land and demonstrating to others that there is a lot involved in making the food acceptable for your table," explained Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Energy Commissioner, Walter Whitcomb.

Growing crops while enriching the lives of inmates. That's the goal of the Garden Project at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center Farm in Swanville.

Re-entry offenders serving their last few months of their sentence work on the farm, developing skills and engaging in community service.

"Many of them tell me this is the first time they've done something for someone else, and they feel really good about it," said Waldo County Commissioner, William Shorey.

After years of hard labor on the farm, the program is now being recognized for their efforts by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Energy.

"People recommend to us some unique examples of doing it well, and so, we're pleased to be here and say job well done," said Whitcomb.

Last year, more than 100-thousand pounds of produce was distributed to are food pantries and churches.

For the inmates currently working on the 63-acre farm, it's an opportunity to get their lives back on track.

"We really feel like this will give them a head start on having a better life so that when they come out of prison, they won't be angry, ex-cons. They'll be productive members of society," explained Waldo County Sheriff, Jeff Trafton.

"We know as farmers, those who produce food and those who provide food to others, it will take all your time, energy, and your thoughts. So, if they can get focused, it will be a turning point in their life."

For Waldo County Commissioner, William Shorey, seeing the residents of the facility grow into better citizens is what makes it all worth it.

"I never imagined in my lifetime that I would be, you know, out here picking vegetables at 78, but that's the way life goes, and you have to volunteer to set an example for these guys. That's what we try to do," said Shorey.