Special needs student learn farming at Lavoy Exceptional Center

- A talented gardener at Lavoy Exceptional Center is using his skills to helps students with special needs learn valuable life skills.

Allen Boatman is teaching the art of gardening to students between the ages of 14 and 22.

He started four years ago, after 13 years at the Hillsborough County Jail, where he taught gardening to inmates.

"We grew about 1,250 variety of peppers while we were there," Boatman recalled.

He and the inmates he mentored created a hot sauce called "Jail House Fire."

"It went worldwide. We hit the AP wire," Boatman said.

The energetic gardener said he loves digging into the minds of his students in the nursery.

"I'm really proud of the students that have passed though my classroom because they have shown enthusiasm that I didn't expect, and its been wonderful," he said.

Learning doesn't stop with gardening at the school. They also take care of goats and chickens, making it a farming operation.

"They get to see where their food comes from, and that's a big thing with agriculture," Boatman said."They can work some of the basic jobs in nurseries. They can also work in grocery stores and know what the difference produce is."

Boatman said he conformed his teaching style to help the students learn.

"It's a little more difficult, but it is also a lot more fun," he explained. "I love what I am doing right now. I really do. This is my favorite job that I have ever had."

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