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Institutional Farming

This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1943

Institutional Farming

By James W. Russell

Superintendent, Division of Correction


     Farming has been one of our most important occupations throughout history and today, more than ever before, civilization depends on farmers and their produce to feed our Armed Forces, our families, our allies and even our enemies after surrender. Victory gardens, private farms, and farms operated by Institutions are all producing food to help win in our all-out struggle for Victory.

     Here in Dayton at the Workhouse Farm, the garden produce grown consisted of stringless green pod beans, soup beans, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, pole lima beans, onions, radishes, lettuce, cabbage, sweet corn, red beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, mangoes, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, Irish cobbler and Katahdin potatoes, squash, Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard, asparagus, pumpkin, sugar cane for sorghum, wheat for flour, corn, oats, clover hay, alfalfa hay, corn fodder and straw.

     Hogs were raised on the farm and cattle were purchased and fattened.  This supplies pork and beef which were butchered and used in accordance with rationing regulations.  The surplus of pure hog lard was sold and ration points were collected and turned in to the local Rationing Board.

     The increase in yield of various garden crops was attained by planting at intervals of two to three weeks apart.  One planting may fail or be cut short because of lack of rain, blight or insects, while earlier or later plantings will hit a good growing season and produce abundant crops.  This system insures fresh vegetables over a longer period of time and also lengthens the canning season so that vegetables may be properly canned when ready.

     The business of farming requires constant attention from early planting to the late harvesting of crops. It provides gainful employment for the prisoners, healthful exercise, and fresh air under proper supervision.  During the year a shortage of male prisoners developed and The Farm Guard was faced with the task of making tractor drivers, teamsters and farm laborers out of prisoners who had no previous farming experience.  Even though handicapped with fewer and inexperienced prisoners, farm guards supervised the plowing of 3,923 Victory gardens for Dayton residents in addition to the Workhouse Farm and garden program.

     In the effort to produce more food, the preservation of Workhouse Farm land was not neglected.  Lime and manure were spread on fields.  Winter cover crops were planted and clover and alfalfa seed were sown to keep up crop rotation.  The never ending fight against weeds was continued and no weeds were permitted to grow up and go to seed.

     Prior to 1943 the canning of vegetables was carried on by male prisoners.  This year a new cannery was built and female prisoners were assigned the work of canning garden produce with very satisfactory results.  More than 12,000 gallons of beans, tomatoes, beets, mangoes, turnip greens, corn, pumpkin, kraut, and pickles were stored away for use until fresh vegetables can be raised again.

     In addition to Workhouse requirements, fresh vegetables, in season, were furnished for the Quarantine Hospital and Hillview Home.  Also the surplus of beans, squash and turnips was sold at wholesale.  The money derived from this surplus exceeded the cost of all farm and garden seeds and fertilizer purchased.  The Workhouse Farm was operated not for profit, but to provide employment and food for prisoners.  1943 was truly a successful year.