Words that make you think of the Stow Municipal Court: judge, offense, violation, summons, justice, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes ...
Last year Judge Kim Hoover started a gardening project where non-violent offenders helped build a raised garden bed and helped grow produce to distribute to needy people in the area.
The project was to allow cash-poor defendants to work off fines while learning skills and get a lesson in work ethic. "It was highly successful in the harvesting of 20 bushels of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and onions," according to a press release.
This year the court has added some “new wrinkles” to increase production and to build on last year’s success.
“We will double our crop this year,” said Judge Lisa Coates.
Hoover said when marijuana cultivators are convicted, the state will seize thousands of dollars of grow lights and agricultural products used in producing the illegal crop.
He requested narcotics officers to inform him of the result of a prosecution of a substantial operation that was seized after a search warrant authorized by the judge.
When the defendant was convicted and sent to prison, Hoover applied to Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, who handled the felony case, to forfeit the agricultural products to the court.
This winter, in the basement of the courthouse, Court Administrator Rick Klinger set up a seed nursery.
He, with community service volunteers, grew tomato, pepper, cucumber and various flower plants. After nurturing the young plants through the early spring, they were planted in the courthouse gardens.
Today these plants fill the raised beds and are producing a crop.
“The cost of producing our plants was less than $20, compared to 10 times that amount last year,” said Klinger. “Additionally, we added flowers to the operation which have been planted on the courthouse grounds.”
Another big change to the mini-farm was the addition of a potato crop. Community Service workers became “sod busters” by turning over an area of grass 20-feet by 80-feet and then the soil was enriched.
Specifically, retired Stow Police Officer Mike Barker, who now works for the court as part of the security staff, donated and brought truckloads of manure gathered from his Brimfield farm.
This composted material along with compost produced from the court’s own lawncare, also done by community service workers, was worked into the soil.
“My family grew potatoes on a farm near Marietta, Ohio a generation ago so we had some guidance from my father,” said Mr. Klinger.
The crop produced was spectacular. More than 50 bags of Yukon Gold and Red Russet potatoes were given to Good Neighbors and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, in addition to 20 bags of white onions, and bushels of cucumbers, banana and green bell peppers and tomatoes.
Also, the court began a garlic crop this year.
City of Twinsburg prosecutor Dave Maistros, whose wife started a successful garlic farm on their property in Chagrin Falls, donated enough cloves to plant this year’s crop.
“We hope to produce enough to plant an area similar to our potato patch next year,” stated Judge Lisa Coates.
Hoover’s idea has literally grown and grown.
The court has provided healthy and fresh produce for people that might otherwise go without as a result of this joint effort of community service workers and the court staff.
“We hope to teach work ethic as well as making workers feel that they have done something productive instead of something less noble. That is our mission: to rehabilitate and give people a fresh start,” said Judge Hoover. “We encourage everyone to share from their gardens to help others.”
The volunteers from Good Neighbors have come to the courthouse, loaded up their van and helped feed hundreds of local families.
“Next year we will be bigger and better,” said Mr. Klinger.