Offenders provide for food pantries
Jul 22, 2010
People sentenced to probation are working in a community garden that provides fresh produce to food pantries in Somerset County.
“This is a learning experience and is part of BARJ — Balanced and Restorative Justice — that teaches offenders that they need to work to benefit the community,” said Michael Sopich, community service coordinator. “This is good for the community — people who may not be able to afford produce can get it. Those who work in the garden learn where produce comes from and they can then put in gardens at home.”
A community garden had been in Somerset years ago, but was stopped. The probation department restarted the garden last year. Robert and Tomalee Will donated about one acre for the garden. They use their farm equipment and fertilizer to prepare the soil. Will also planted 24 rows of corn.
Rick Walters, community service crew leader who supervises the workers, said in addition to the corn, the crews planted 40 tomato plants, 30 rows of onions, 36 cabbage plants, green beans and zucchini this year. About 30 to 40 people on juvenile or adult probation work in the garden.
“They are working hard today,” Walters said. “They’ve been here since 8 a.m. rototilling and weeding.”
By participating in the planting, weeding, harvesting or delivering of produce from the garden, the crew members complete court-ordered community service requirements and work off restitution and fines. Three people on juvenile probation were working in the garden on Tuesday. Their names cannot be released because of their ages.
“I’ve been doing community service for a year,” said the young woman. “I don’t like it. I have only 20 hours more to pay my fines off.”
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