Tag Archive: Haystack Mountain

Prison labor’s new frontier: Artisanal foods

Colorado inmates milk cows at a CCI facility.

Colorado inmates milk cows at a CCI facility.

It ain’t just license plates anymore. Inmates are making a surprising array of products for small businesses. You can even find some in your local Whole Foods.

From Corporate Media

Some years back, a small Colorado goat-cheese maker called Haystack Mountain faced its version of a classic growth challenge: National demand was growing for its chèvres and other cheeses, and the company was struggling to find enough local goat farmers to produce milk. The solution came from a surprising source: Colorado Corrections Industries (CCI). Today six inmates milk 1,000 goats twice a day on a prison-run farm. After non-inmate employees cultivate the cheese at a company facility, it’s sold in Whole Foods WFM -0.50% outlets, among other stores.

Prison labor has gone artisanal. Sure, plenty of inmates still churn out government office furniture and the like, and incarcerated workers have occasionally been used by large companies since the late 1970s. Nationwide 63,032 inmates produce more than $2 billion worth of products a year, most of them sold to government entities.

But in recent years a new wave has begun, driven primarily by small businesses that need workers for boutique-size production. These days inmates can be found making everything from redwood canoes to specialty motorcycles, fishing poles, and saddles. They produce apple juice, raise tilapia, milk cows and goats, grow flowers, and manage vineyards. (more…)