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13 plots up for lease at Guilford prison farm

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Guilford County held a walk-through for people, mostly farmers, interested in leasing land at the Guilford County Prison Farm, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, in Elon, N.C. (JERRY WOLFORD/News & Record)

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Prospective farmers have until 10 a.m. Monday to submit bids to lease parcels of land at the Guilford County Prison Farm, county staff said at a walk-through Tuesday at the facility.

“We want to do a bid process to make it available to as many people as possible, in order to not get accused of various things,” Robert McNiece, the county’s director of facilities, told several dozen farmers gathered at the farm. “Favoritism and whatever else.”

The 806-acre farm has operated in eastern Guilford County since 1935, with Sheriff BJ Barnes at the helm since 1997. In the past, inmates ran the farm, learning marketable skills — woodworking, upholstery, plant-tending and crop maintenance, among other things — that could boost their chances of finding work after serving their jail terms.

But inmate involvement on the farm has dwindled in recent years, the result of changes in state law that send fewer prisoners to Guilford County facilities. That leaves the bulk of the farming work to paid deputies and hourly workers, according to a farm transition plan presented to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners last week.

Read more: Greensboro News & Record