Published: Aug 08, 2012 3:11 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 08, 2012 7:01 PM EDT

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office displayed its new expanded hydroponic lettuce growing facility at the County Jail this morning, and for the first time, introduced its new worm farm operation.

The new growing area provides Nevada lettuce for the inmate population in the jail.

Captain Bill Prummell said, “Our inmates used to get fresh lettuce for salads only a couple times a year. This new facility has expanded 10 times in size and now provides fresh lettuce on a year around basis. Inmates now are getting our lettuce at least once a week. New seedlings just started growing and soon will produce bell peppers. Providing our own vegetables for inmate’s meals is a savings to taxpayers. The hydroponic lettuce operation and worm farm is overseen by jail staff and tended to by several trustee inmates who are learning a new trade. We are getting inquiries for hiring purposes from employers in the hydroponic industry asking for references about former inmates trained in our hydroponics.”

The former smaller facility is now being used to experiment on what vegetables will grow best by hydroponics at the jail facility. Plans are coming together now for the next project to grow potatoes for our inmate population.

Also announced today was the Charlotte County Jail’s new worm farm operation, raised in eight large concrete vats. Good rich compost soil is mixed with lettuce scraps and recycled shredded paper jail documents that are used as the mixture that these African worms love and thrive in. The operation started out with 5,000 worms and has grown tremendously to an estimated 60,000 little crawlers. The worms make great nutrient soil for the plants. The enriched soil is additionally used around various plants on the grounds, and is also used for growing small Live Oak trees to be used by the County for plantings where needed.

So many worms have been raised that they are now being packaged and sold to local bait shops. Brand name for the worms is “Jail’s Bait.” All proceeds from sale of the worms go back into the inmate welfare fund for their benefit.