RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Corrections is leasing cutting-edge farm equipment from John Deere through an agreement that will greatly enhance the Department’s cost-saving farming operations and further the Commonwealth’s reentry efforts for inmates.
The Department (VADOC) has entered into a five-year lease with John Deere & Company for 14 tractors, one grain combine, one 12-row planter, and one self-propelled forage harvester. The equipment replaces worn or outdated machinery and implements.
VADOC grows and produces much of the food used to feed incarcerated offenders, including fruits, vegetables and milk. The Department’s agribusiness operation farms 1,800 acres of grain statewide, including corn, soybeans, wheat, and sorghum. The farming equipment is utilized by the Buckingham, Deerfield, Greensville, James River, and Pamunkey agribusiness operations.
“The offenders that work with this equipment will gain skills and knowledge that have become the industry standard in farming today,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. “This experience will prepare them for success if they seek a job in agriculture after release.”
The new equipment includes the latest in global positioning system (GPS) guidance technology. GPS technology saves fuel and maintenance costs – but most of all it saves time.
“We are using bigger equipment and using it very efficiently. One big change we have noticed is in our planting time. It has been cut nearly in half,” said Agribusiness Manager John “Kenny” Raiford.
“As the population grows, production of food over the coming decades is of increasing concern,” said Raiford. “Farmers will need to produce more per acre than ever, and qualified equipment operators will be part of the equation.”
Reentry preparation begins with an offender's first contact with the VADOC. More than 90 percent of all offenders eventually return to the community.
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.