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​Hunter inmates digging their new winter crop

Issued: Monday, 24 July 2017

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Inmates at a Hunter correctional centre will soon see the vegetables of their labour after planting broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds in anticipation of a generous winter harvest of around 36,000 heads of leafy greens.

The 200-acre market garden at St Heliers Correctional Centre in Muswellbrook is managed by Corrective Services Industries senior overseers and two overseers, who supervise over 45 minimum-security inmates in vegetable growing and production.

St Heliers Correctional Centre Governor Bill Fittler said the produce collected during the upcoming cool-season harvest will land on the plates of NSW inmates across the state, saving dollars while providing offenders with agricultural skills.

“St Heliers is the biggest primary producer of beef and vegetables for Corrective Services Industries, contributing to the more than 39,500 meals made daily in the state’s prisons,” Mr Fittler said.

“Last financial year our self-sufficiency program saved the taxpayer over $220,000 and this figure grows annually in conjunction with our produce volume.

horse and cart

“Inmates have the opportunity to gain TAFE certificates in agriculture as well as undertake traineeships in food processing, which equips them with the skills and knowledge to be more employable when they are released.

“This rehabilitative program, and others like it, is vital for assisting offenders to reintegrate into the community and we have a number of success stories where our inmates have gone on to secure employment in food processing,” Mr Fittler said.

Some vegetable preparation requires outsourcing. An average 7.8 tonnes of vegetables are processed each week at St Heliers before they are sent to Goulburn, Dawn de Loas at Silverwater, the Mid North Coast and Cessnock correctional centres where inmates’ meals are produced.

In the past financial year, the following volumes of vegetables have been harvested:

  • Pumpkin: 10,496 kg.
  • Cabbage: 13,850 kg.
  • Capsicum: 6,803 kg.
  • Cauliflower: 11,800 kg.

St Heliers is also expecting a bumper summer vegetable harvest with an estimated 40 tonnes of pumpkin, the equivalent of five African elephants and the highest volume ever produced at the correctional facility.