From Violators to Cultivators

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At the entrance of the garden inside the jail

I used to be afraid to visit a jail. This perception has been formed by the movies that I saw where the jail is portrayed as a place of chaos. But since we at ATI Northern Mindanao conducted a Season-long Training on Urban Vegetable Gardening inside the El Salvador City Jail, that fear has ebbed a little.
When Mariel Dacapias, a friend and colleague at ATI Region 1 invited us to visit the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail (ISPJ) in Vigan City citing that it is an ATI-Accredited Learning Site, I was more excited than fearful. I wanted to learn from them so that we can apply it in Region 10. When I entered the premises, my eye was caught by a sign in the second gate. The sign says ” From Violators to Cultivators, The Organic Way.” And when I looked around, their garden just took my breath away. Our visit was unscheduled but we were graciously entertained. We were even served the famous Royal Bibingka.
The place is not like any other jail that I have seen. The surroundings are clean and free of litter. The people seemed happy and content. The buildings are well-maintained and clean, a tribute to the strong support of Gov. Ryan Singson. The amenities are commendable with shower rooms inside the compound. While the population has increased tremendously due to drug-related cases, the cells were spacious and the inmates have decent (double-decked) beds.
One side of the compound and even at the back are gardens planted to various vegetables that are organically grown. The young and amiable Warden, Raymond Tabios said that the inmates were trained by the Agricultural Training institute and the Provincial Agriculture offices. They make concoctions which they use in their garden. They even produce mushroom. We were told that buyers are flocking the jail because they are assured of the quality of the vegetables.
The inmates were very friendly. They even showed us one of their famous Income Generating projects- making flowers from beads. They proudly informed us that their products are already being displayed in trade fairs in Manila. Of course, I brought with me some of their products. It would have been nice to buy a lot since their prices are affordable (ranging from P 100 to more than a Thousand) but I still have a long way to go.
As an Ilocano, I am proud of the ISPJ in Vigan and the officials who support/ manage it. I am also proud to be with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) as it continues to develop inspiring Learning Sites. . Congratulations TCS II Roger Evangelista and staff. I would have loved to show pictures of the visit, but alas, cameras are not allowed. You just have to visit them and see for yourselves.

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.