Growth Products, Ltd: Horticulture

Roosevelt Farms: Cultivating Students and Growing Produce  

April 2017

Roosevelt Farms is an impressive farm in Lake Wales, Florida. The farm has over 5,000 plants in row crops and hydroponic systems, and its vegetables and herbs are coveted by local chefs. What makes Roosevelt Farms remarkable is that it is operated by special needs students. The students attend Roosevelt Academy, a public school for students with unique learning requirements. By providing hands-on job training, the farm bolsters students’ sense of self-worth and accomplishment, and prepares students for real-world jobs.

The student farmers are supervised by Roosevelt Academy’s two agricultural teachers and FFA advisors, Ray Cruze and Tim Bean.

Growth Products Fits the Bill

Both Cruze and Bean have long subscribed to the principle of increasing the organic content of the soils or media in which they farm. As they explain, higher levels of organic matter leads to improved nutrient uptake, which in turn leads to better plant growth, flowering, and fruiting.

For the last 22 years, Roosevelt Farms has used products such as humic acid, kelp and fish emulsion. But recently Roosevelt Farms began using several items from the Growth Products’ line-up, and Cruze and Bean have seen measurable benefits. The farm is currently using Essential® Plus 1-0-1 100% Natural Organic Root and Plant Stimulant, Companion® Biological Fungicide, 0-0-25 Liquid Potassium, and SiTKO SA 0-7-17.

“We start a lot of annuals, vegetables and culinary herbs from seeds and cuttings and have great success with consistency and uniformity using a combination of the Companion and Essential,” Cruze says. “The same can be said for our tomato and pepper transplants grown in coir grow bags.” They also make weekly or as-needed foliar applications of Essential and Companion on row crops and in six commercial hydroponic greenhouses where lettuce, kale, mustards, grape tomatoes, peppers, bush beans, and more are grown.

Because farms are a perfect classroom, ripe for demonstrating scientific methods of discovery and analysis, the students are often encouraged to run comparison trials. Recently, 5-week old pepper plants were transplanted into six 4" pots. Three pots were fertilized with the farm’s standard liquid nutrient solution. The three other pots were fertilized with a blend of Essential® and the farm’s regular nutrient solution. After 4 weeks, students determined that the pepper plants fertilized with Essential® had larger root systems and larger leaves and stems. “You could definitely tell the difference between the plants treated with Essential® and those that were not,” Cruze said.

Positive results were also seen with the application of SiTKO SA 0-7-17, a liquid solution combining Silicate, Phosphite, and Salicylic Acid. Use of SiTKO SA 0-7-17 lead to overall increases in plant health plus increased fruiting and fruit size on the tested peppers and tomatoes. Now SiTKO SA 0-7-17 is widely used on many of the farm’s crops, which are harvested and sold to several restaurants, the community care center, and individual customers

Effective, Safe, and Environmentally Friendly

The efficacy of the Growth Products solutions used on the farm is a big draw, but there are additional reasons why Cruze and Bean like working with Growth Products.

“Growth Products’ philosophy is similar to ours,” explains Cruze. “We believe in working with nature and not against it. The products are safe to use with students in our educational setting, and also provide the desired results we need from our crops. We use hydroponics and also have a 10,000 gallon aquaponic system in which we grow a herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, chard and cucumbers. The products are safe to use with our hydroponic and aquaponic systems, without the worry of how they will impact our fish or the beneficial insects we rely on.” True to their word, Cruze and Bean have never used any synthetic pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on their crops since Roosevelt Farms was started 22 years ago.

Growing People & Opportunities

Everyone involved with Roosevelt Farms – the teachers, school administrators, the local community, and the companies and individuals who support the program – are motivated by the opportunity for the Roosevelt students to develop their job skills, academic skills and social skills. Students who felt inadequate and out of place in traditional classrooms become actively and intellectually engaged in the Roosevelt program, and go on to careers in farming. Roosevelt Farms is truly a special place that celebrates agriculture and brings the community together to create success for everyone