Pat Kincaid poses for a portrait in Kingston, Ont., on Friday July 8, 2016. Kincaid served 4 1/2 years at the Frontenac Institution where he cared for 120 animals as part of the prison farm. (Photo: Lars Hagberg/CP)
"The cows taught me patience and how to control my anger, and how to deal with being upset."A town hall is also planned in Kingston at a yet-to-be-determined date, to allow local residents and other stakeholders to share their thoughts. "If they could save another guy like me, they should keep that barn open," Kincaid said of the dairy farm where he once cleaned stalls, milked cows and helped birth calves. "It made my time go quick. I didn't even realize I was doing time when I was in the barn." Inmates who worked on the farms — which had operated in Canada since the 1880s — were employed in farm maintenance, feeding cattle, operating milking machinery, cleaning barns, raking and bailing hay, plowing and harvesting corn, operating grain mills and trucks, tilling the land and planting crops, Correctional Services Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Protests after farms were shutteredIn the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 716 inmates were employed in the prison farm program, Corrections said. The decision to shutter the farms drew protests, particularly in Kingston, where a farm with a large dairy herd and several thousand hens, and another with an abattoir were closed. A group of farmers and others protesting the closures banded together and bought some of the prison farm cattle auctioned off by the federal government. The cows, and the calves they've since borne, are now hosted at farms in the area. "We're eager to have them taken back to prison and start the heard back up again," said Jeff Peters, chairman of the Pen Farm Herd Co-op. "The animals are what they call bred for docility, they're friendly, they won't kick you. And that's what the inmates needed."
Food was used to feed prison populationIn addition to helping the inmates develop a good work ethic, the farms produced food that was used to feed the prison population as well as supply local food banks, and also helped the local economy as it generated the need for fertilizer, equipment and other supplies, said Peters. "It was a real economic engine for the farm community," he said. "There's so many reasons why the farms were a good idea." The land the Kingston prison farms sat on is now rented out to local farmers by the federal government. Peters and his colleagues have ideas for how to modernize any reopened farms, with suggestions of green energy use and artisan cheese production. But before that happens, while happy the government is conducting consultations, Peters worries many people — like Kincaid — whose input is important, may not have access to a computer to take the online survey, or would prefer mailing in a letter instead. "Consultation is great, we just want to be still part of it," he said. "The land is there, and we're determined to restore the prison farm."
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