Travis Co. inmates investing time, energy into new aquaponics garden

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Urban farming. It’s becoming more commonplace in Austin and throughout cities across the country. But an urban farm located in the confines of guards and gates? That is what’s happening at the Travis County Correctional Complex.

Inmates at the facility are busy tending to the jail’s new aquaponic garden. The tilapia need feeding, which in turn provide nutrients for the wide array of vegetables and herbs being grown at the jail.

Richard De Hoyos is an inmate at the jail and says he’s been working on the aquaponic garden for the past five months.

“It’s easier to maintain and take care of the fish, so it’s an all encompassed system whereas in the field you’re kind of bringing things from different areas and try to consolidate whereas it’s here and ready to go,” says De Hoyos.

The food grown is used in the jail’s kitchen but if there is an excess of produce, Sheriff Gregg Hamilton says they plan on giving some of the food to the food bank.

“The folks that are in it are hurting for skill labor,” says Pete Trotman, the Marketable Skills Program Manager at the Travis County Correctional Complex. “We’re providing that, or attempting to provide that skilled labor.”

Jail officials are hoping this garden will have a lasting effect on the inmates.

“I’m really grateful,” explains De Hoyos. “I wasn’t expecting that at all when I came here jail. I learned a lot. I’m getting my certificate for the bee class and I’m still learning about aquaculture. It’s really a blessing. It’s tough situation but I’ll take the blessings as I can get them.”

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