The state made nearly $700,000 last week from auctioning off its farm equipment at London Correctional Institution, according to figures released Monday.
There were 444 lots sold at the auction, which took place about four months after prison leaders unexpectedly announced their intent to shut down all of Ohio’s prison farms.
Total proceeds from the Aug. 24 sale were $686,347, according to Grant Doepel, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The auction was attended by 214 register bidders, he said in an email.
Among the items for sale were choppers, pick up heads, pasteurizer parts, milking parlors, hay rakes, balers, wagons, skid steers, track hoes, box spreaders, corn planters, feed pushers, cow slings, milk bails, calf feeding tubs, fans, wheelbarrows, bailing twine and miscellaneous tools.
Hay bales were sold in a variety of ways for different prices, Doepel said. The state began by distributing written requests for bids. Some farms successfully sold their hay using that method.
Last week the state posted the remaining hay on Craigslist “to reach a broader audience,” he said.
Some equipment and supplies were sold at the previous London auction. An additional auction of equipment and cattle has been scheduled to take place Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 at Mansfield Correctional Institution.
“There will likely be one or more additional auctions which have not yet been scheduled for any remaining equipment after Mansfield,” Doepel stated.
State officials said again on Monday that there has been no announcement of whether the farm property will be sold or leased and when that transaction will take place.
One of the farm buildings at Chillicothe Correctional Institution will be reused by Ohio Penal Industries to construct Sherman Cabins for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Doepel said.
“Inmates will learn carpentry and construction skills serving DNR and will be eligible for U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship certifications,” he said. “Other buildings will be reused but no plans have been finalized yet.”
The Ohio prison system made roughly $1.3 million this spring selling off its dairy cows. The cattle auctions began in May.
It remains unclear to many why prison officials decided to shut down its farm operations in the first place.
Prison officials have said the program is being shut down because farm work is no longer relevant in today’s economy — less than one tenth of one percent of Ohio’s inmates participate in job training in the farm programs and “few — if any” inmates have pursued farming careers, according to a statement released when the closure was announced.
As well as funneling money into a more relevant program, the move is expected to reduce opportunity to transport illegal contraband into the prisons, the release continued.
No layoffs were planned.
But the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing prison workers, is suing state leaders in an effort to halt the closure.
Union leaders say prison officials have not offered any information on how employees currently working in the prison farm program will be affected.
Prison leaders were actually expanding dairy and cattle production when the closure of the programs was announced in April, union leaders contend.
The expansion included $9 million in new construction, which included two new state-of-the-art barns at LoCI.
London Correctional Institution, originally known as the London Prison Farm, is steeped in agricultural history. The facility, which boasts 2,950 acres, opened in 1924.
Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.