Grower Profile

Growth Products Talks One-On-One With Innovative Grower

Tell us about Lake Catherine Blueberries:
My father, Clinton Lowe, and I started Lake Catherine Blueberries three years ago, when we planted our first five acres of highbush berries. The land itself is next to my great-grandparents' homestead and I'm the fifth generation to farm the property.

What types of blueberries do you grow? Any other crops?
We grow Southern Highbush blueberries, both ‘Emerald’ and ‘Jewel.’ And we still have 12 acres of citrus that we tend.

How do you market your blueberries?
We mainly ship through a marketer, but we have a 'U-Pick' market as well. We are always surprised by the popularity of the U- Pick, and surprised by how interested most of the people are in our farming. Amazingly, some people do not realize that blueberries grow in Florida until they happen upon our farm.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Dad always said, "If you don't wake up every morning excited about your work that day, you've chosen the wrong job." After I earned a degree in Finance at the University of Florida, I went into the corporate world for several years. I realized I wasn't waking up excited about the suit-and-tie world, and came back Groveland to go into farming. I like being outdoors, and enjoy living on the family farm.

What's your mantra of the moment?
I've always liked what Thomas Jefferson wrote, "He who knows best knows how little he knows."

How do you apply the quotation in your career?
Especially with starting Lake Catherine Blueberries, I've taken every bit of advice I could get from experienced blueberry farmers, who tend to be very open, honest and willing to share. I read research studies from University of Florida and University of Georgia, and tried to apply all of this to our location. But I've learned that every farm has site-specific challenges and every location is unique. There are some things you need to figure out by yourself by trial and error.

What are the biggest challenges for the industry today?
Uncertainty about immigration laws as they pertain to migrant workers. Dad and I think that politicians from both parties have failed to take a responsible, reasoned position on this.

What’s your secret weapon when it comes to blueberry farming?
My son likes to help as much as he can around the farm. He’s only five years old, but he’s got the best eye in the county for spotting leaf fungus.

What is your experience with Essential® and Companion® Biological Fungicide?
When my dad and I recently set out 12 acres of blueberries, I experimented with dipping the blueberry plants in solution of Essential and Companion prior to planting. For a side-by-side comparison, I created a control group of plants that were not dipped in the Essential and Companion solution. In the first week, when we had good rains and the weather was perfect, there was little difference between the control group and the undipped plants. But when the rains stopped and I turned to irrigation, the proof was in the pudding. The plants dipped in Essential and Companion did really well, growing aggressively and showing great color, but the undipped plants showed all the signs of transplant shock. It was eye-opening to see how in the next few weeks and months the dipped plants continued to flourish and show exceptionally robust growth, while the undipped plants continued to struggle. It was good proof to me.

Planting Dip or Drench
A quick pre-planting dip or post-planting drench that reduces transplant shock and results in healthier robust plants for all crops including berries, grapes, stone fruit, citrus and vegetables.
Product 100 Gallons Water Application Timing
Essential Plus® 2 Quarts Completely immerse the containerized plants, leaving them in the mixture for 3 or 4 seconds, and place the plants - container and all - in the planting hole for 30 minutes prior to planting.
Companion® Biological Fungicide 1 Quart

Essential® Plus 1-0-1 is an OMRI – certified organic soil amendment and natural root stimulant.  A rich mixture of 100% natural ingredients, Essential Plus is effective and safe at every stage of plant growth from seed germination to plug production to pre-harvest. Essential's soluble organic nutrients, sugars, L-amino acids and enzymes are easily absorbed through a plant's root system and leaves, and boost the plant's metabolic activities at critical points in plant development.

Companion® Liquid Biological Fungicide is a broad-spectrum biofungicide for the prevention, suppression and control of soil-borne and foliar diseases, including Phytophthora, Pythium, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia and Sclerotinia. Unlike chemical fungicides, Companion triggers a plant's natural immune system, producing an Induced Systemic Resistance (ISR) and Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR) to ward off disease. Companion also produces auxin-like metabolites that promote increased root mass and branching, ultimately resulting in better roots, better crop quality, and higher yields. Approved for use on all agricultural crops, Companion is safe, easy-to-use, and environmentally friendly.