A Garden for Special-Needs Kids Grows in Florida

Herb and vegetable gardens tended by special-needs students are sprouting at Bob Roth’s New River Groves

At Bob Roth's New River Groves in Davie, Florida, volunteer Steven Wain oversees a food gardening program for special needs kids.

The banana peels come from the pie shop. The carrot pulp comes from the juice bar. Food remnants at Bob Roth’s New River Groves in Davie, Florida, do not go in the garbage. They head for compost containers out back, 5-gallon paint buckets where scraps are turned into gardening gold by students with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The vegetable and herb gardens that have sprouted the past two years behind the landmark food stand on Griffin Road provide a hands-on lesson for kids, teachers and Steven Wain, the volunteer who started the program. They have learned to look beneath the surface, and to understand there is value in things society is quick to discard.

The kids work the land, laying down “lasagna bed” layers of cardboard, peat moss, compost, crushed eggshells and leaves as a foundation for their crops. They use “worm tea” — nutrient-rich liquid waste produced by worms — to grow mangoes, papayas, tomatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, oregano and mint. They sell the herbs and produce at fundraisers, and also bring some home.

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