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Maine Jail Raises Pigs to Feed Prisoners, Expands Organic Farm

Maine Jail Raises Pigs to Feed Prisoners, Expands Organic Farm

The slop at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, Maine is quite popular, at least among the jail’s porcine residents.

To help feed the facility’s prisoners and cultivate the New England soil, officials decided to raise eight Yorkshire pigs on land behind the jail. A handful of the prisoners, meanwhile, will receive some hands-on vocational training – slopping the pigs with cow’s milk and leftovers from the jail’s dining hall mixed with corn silage from a local farm – as well as much-needed outdoor activity.

“The cow’s milk really packs on the weight,” said guard Ryan Moore, who came up with the idea to raise pigs. Grain isn’t needed, he added, since the swine will be used exclusively for producing sausage.

“We’re not making ham,” he said. “We’re not making pork chops.”

The pigs reside in a 12-by-8-foot mobile pen, built by prisoners, that was modeled on a “pig tractor” developed by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. The pen is moved from spot to spot while the pigs turn over the soil with their snouts, tilling the land while fertilizing it.

Since 2009, when prisoners started growing a three-acre garden of potatoes, onions, beans and peppers to supplement the jail’s $260,000 food budget, fertilization has become important so “we can expand on our garden and put the minerals back into the land,” said Chief Deputy Dale Lancaster. “If we can do farming organically, everyone is better off.”

According to one news report, the jail’s garden, which has expanded to five acres, has resulted in cost savings of “around $2,500 dollars in salad vegetables and $3,000 of potatoes.”

Once the pigs start maturing, four or five prisoners will work in the program, helping to raise them to a weight of 250-300 pounds before they are butchered, according to Lancaster. Jail officials spent around $2,400 on the pigs and construction materials for the mobile pen; they have since purchased another eight pigs and plan to breed them.




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