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Local, Farm-Fresh Food at the Blue Palmetto Café

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Cory Reynolds and Ray Cruze at Roosevelt Farms

One of my biggest pleasures since coming to work at Bok Tower Gardens has been building relationships with local farmers and growers. My grandparents grew their own produce, introducing me to the joy of picking vegetables and preparing them the same day. I still remember how delicious that fresh food tasted.

Those memories have continued throughout my culinary career, working for farm-to-table restaurants and searching for creative ways to bring our Blue Palmetto Café customers those same fresh and delicious flavors. There’s still nothing like going to the farm and picking your own produce. Our Sous Chef Matt Fulwood says we’re like kids in a candy store!

One of our sources for local produce is Roosevelt Farms in Lake Wales, a student-run working farm on the Roosevelt Academy campus under the supervision of Ray Cruze. Ray’s zeal and passion for teaching and growing and has taught me much about growing vegetables in Florida.

Roosevelt Farms, started in 1995, is managed by Roosevelt Academy’s agriculture students. The students apply what they learn in the classroom to crop production. Math and science concepts are used to calculate fertilizer and pH levels.

“I am very fortunate for the support I receive from agricultural businesses that donate their time and products to our program,” Ray says. “Their support allows my students the opportunity to use the same technology and supplies that are used by commercial farmers and growers.”

Roosevelt Farms currently has more than 5,200 vegetable and herb plants, including 3,000 onions, 1,000 bean plants, 800 tomato and pepper plants, and 400 squash and cucumber plants. Roosevelt Farms houses the largest vegetable production farm in Lake Wales city limits.

“Our crops are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fungicides or herbicides, and our soils are improved by using organic fertilizers and supplements. Students also scout for insects, relying on beneficial insects to control plant pests,” Ray adds.

It’s so wonderful to see the passion that our local growers have, and our partnership with Roosevelt Farms helps us make delicious, fresh food for our Café customers… and keep living like kids in a candy store!

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