Updated: Nov 29
With over ten years of dedicated service, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Organic Farm Program has been an innovative way to inspire incarcerated individuals and serve the community.
At its core, the program is all about giving back—thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce have been distributed to more than 50 community organizations including senior centers, veteran groups, and food pantries.
“The Sheriff’s Office’s Organic Farm is a tremendously positive program,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. “The farm allows our office to give back to the communities we work to keep safe every day.”
The 15-acre farm in West Boylston produces roughly 500 pounds of fresh produce daily and approximately 40,000 pounds in a growing season. This program continues to expand, now growing fruit such as cantaloupe. As autumn approaches, the farm is also gearing up to offer pumpkins to the community, with an estimated one to two dump truckloads of pumpkins expected.
This generous outreach extends not only to external organizations but also to the inmate population within the correctional facility. Thousands of pounds of produce have been processed and prepared by the Sheriff’s Office’s kitchen, helping to feed the inmate population.
“I’ve been told repeatedly by recipients that these fresh organic vegetables are like nature’s medicine,” said Sheriff Evangelidis. “In addition to community distributions, we’re fortunate enough to use some of the produce we harvest in our kitchens inside the jail. This allows our culinary team to prepare healthy meals for the inmate populations while also saving our organization and taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in food costs.”
A fundamental aspect of the organic farm program is the active involvement of the incarcerated individuals. Over the past decade, low-risk offenders residing in the jail’s work release building have been given the opportunity to participate.
“Working on the farm program and knowing that I am able to use my time to give back to the community is truly a gift,” said Justin, an inmate in the Work Release Program at the Worcester House of Correction. “The Farm gives my time incarcerated meaning and purpose, and I am grateful each and every day for the opportunity.”
These individuals typically dedicate 10 to 25 hours a week to various farming activities, including planting, harvesting, and maintenance. In addition to the tangible benefits of cultivating crops, participants earn “good time” credits each month, incentivizing positive behavior and contributing to their rehabilitation.
“The integration of the work release program teaches select incarcerated individuals a structured lifestyle, the importance of constructive community involvement, and the dignity that comes along with a steady job or purpose,” said Sheriff Evangelidis.
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office organic farm program exemplifies how correctional institutions can positively impact their communities and offer inmates opportunities for personal transformation. As the program continues to grow, it simultaneously cultivates hope and a path toward a brighter future among its participants.