The Mansfield Correctional Institution (ManCI) Farm not only aims to be as self-sufficient as possible while aiding in the rehabilitation of the inmates in the program, but the facility also strives to be a good neighbor and to work with the community.
“We have a good rapport with the community,” said David Clouser, ManCI Farm Manager. “We try to be a good neighbor to everyone in the area.”
In the interest of being neighborly, Clouser said the facility has assisted in farming nearby fields, and even worked with Malabar Farm for fifteen years. The farm is considerate in keeping smells to a minimum, and even donates large amounts of produce to Ohio food banks.
The farm is one of ten under the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Farm Operations. Statewide, the operation includes 19,000 acres of land owned or used through partnership at ten prison locations and two Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) shops.
ManCI Farm raises Angus cattle in addition to farming approximately 1,200 acres for crops, including corn, soybeans, hay, and sorghum. The sorghum is used for “green chop” to feed the cattle. The hay and corn are also used as feed, and the soybeans are sold as a cash crop to help cover operating expenses. Other grain crops offer a combination of cash and feed crops.
Once the cattle reach approximately 1,300 pounds, they are sent for processing to a centralized location. The meat is used to feed inmates throughout the state. The prime cuts, however, are traded for fish and chicken, helping to lower the overall meal cost for inmates.
Additionally, the farm serves as a test herd for Select Sires, a semen company in southern Ohio. This requires extensive record keeping. “We do a little more work with our cattle than a normal farmer would; we weigh them every 45 days,” said Clouser.
The farm includes a seven acre garden dedicated to production for Ohio food banks. Clouser noted that 270,000 pounds of produce were donated in one year from the garden. The inmates receive community service hours for time spent in this particular area of the farm.
“We try to teach the inmates the fundamentals of farming,” said Clouser. “We try to get them back into the swing of things and back on the farm for when they are getting ready to be released, so they can get back into good work ethics, do what they say they are going to do, and honor their word.”
“It works out real well,” he added.
The inmates are trained in soil management. Clouser stressed that good farming practices are important to the farm, as well as to the area. “We work with the soil and water conservation group, and try to keep a good institution and a real good farm for the people in the area. We try to be one of the leaders in the community,” he explained.
In addition to farming skills, the inmates learn to repair and maintain equipment, and even build their own cattle carts and grooming chutes.
Janet Tobin, ManCI Labor Relations Officer, said that the farm is staffed by inmates from the ManCI Camp, which consists of Level 1 and Level 2 offenders. “Those are classification levels based on their offense, their escape risk, and other factors,” she explained. Inmates are paid a minimal amount for working on the farm, approximately $25 per month.
“They get the satisfaction of working out here, they get the freedom of coming out and making something better of their time,” said Clouser.
David Bogert, a ManCI inmate, said he’d been working on the farm since July. “I love it,” he said.
As any farmer knows, animals must be tended no matter the weather. Bogert noted that ManCI makes sure the farm workers are prepared for inclement weather. “They provide us a lot of clothes: boots, long johns, socks, sweatshirts.”
Clouser said that heat housing is added to the tractor for the winter to help keep workers protected from the elements.
William Woodruff, ManCI inmate and member of the cattle crew, said he’d been on the crew about two years and he’d like to pursue a job in the agricultural industry once released.
“I’m from Holmes County. There’s a lot of farm work to be had around there. That’s what I’m shooting for,” he said.
“He and Mr. Bogert both are very good employees,” said Clouser. “We appreciate what they do for the farm, their dedication to it.”