Thursday, September 26, 2013

Special needs students find hope at Shepherd's Field

Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City, is hosting an open house Oct. 7. PROVIDED PHOTOS
Students with special needs and their families are invited to attend next month's open house at Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City.

Shepherd’s Field provides a university-accredited, two-year college education and diploma in landscaping and horticulture through South Florida State College. There are currently 12 students, ages 18-22, in the program, which launched last month. Enrollment is open for the upcoming spring semester starting in January 2014. Scholarships are available for students needing transportation from Sarasota and Bradenton.

Ave Maria Prep already helps students in grades kindergarten through 12th who are dealing with autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger's syndrome, Tourette syndrome, anxiety and bipolar disorders. Shepherd's Field will allow graduates of Ave Maria Prep and others to continue their education, gain employability and social skills and transition to college and independent living.

"They look so dignified," said Sister Gilchrist Cottrill, the school's director, of the program's first class. "Some of these kids I have known for a long time."

Ave Maria Prep was recently the beneficiary of a $25,000 donation by Paul and Frankie Amato, owners of Paul's Pizza by the Foot in Bradenton.

The Shepherd's Field open house will be Monday, Oct. 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the school's campus, 6289 Verna Rd., Myakka City. For more information about the open house or the program, call 941-322-1601.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SMR Farms named Tropicana Grower of the Year

For a fifth straight year, SMR Farms has been selected as a Tropicana Grower of the Year for the 2012-13 citrus harvesting season.
The award from Tropicana Products, Inc. is based on "fruit quality, load quality, fruit variety mix and agribusiness management," according to a media release from SMR. Also considered are harvesting methods, grove practices, labor programs and commitment to agricultural sustainability.
“It’s a great feeling to see our citrus operations recognized in this way," said SMR Farms President, Mac Carraway in the release. "In spite of the very real and difficult challenges we face in the citrus industry, our production team continues to do a great job.”
Steve John, SMR Farms’ citrus production manager added that “we have a great relationship with Tropicana, and working with a top-line company like Tropicana certainly keeps us on our toes.”
SMR Farms and Tropicana are partnering on a multi-year citrus fertilization project aimed at comparing traditional fertilizers with low-carbon-footprint products as part of Tropicana’s global sustainability efforts.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rowing fever in Parrish

A group of Parrish residents is starting a masters rowing team. HERALD FILE PHOTO

Rowing fever has apparently caught on in Parrish.

Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association, says there's been great interest in the formation of a masters rowing team that would train at the nearby Fort Hamer Park and compete at the new rowing Nathan Benderson Park rowing facility down off University Parkway at Interstate 75.

"A lot of people are excited," said Jordan - so much so that the Y had to order new rowing machines and station them upstairs in what used to be just the teen room.

Sounds like the news of the 2017 World Rowing Championship coming to Manatee-Sarasota has some folks fired up.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Make a wish on Main Street

Next time you pass by the fountain at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, drop in some spare change and you'll be helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation. HERALD FILE PHOTO

Ever drop some spare change into a fountain and make a wish?

Next time you do so at the fountain at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, you'll also be granting the wishes of kids with life-threatening medical conditions. Change collected at the fountain will go toward the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Donations will be taken through Feb. 1, according to Main Street property manager Julia DeCastro, so there's plenty of time to empty out your couch cushions, your pockets and the center console in your car and help make a kid's day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time to eat at University Town Center mall

Seasons 52 is coming to the new Mall at University Town Center. Excited? PHOTO PROVIDED

We've known for a while now that Macy's, Dillard's and Saks Fifth Avenue will be tenants at the new Mall at University Town Center, coming in the fall of 2014.

What everyone's really been wondering: Which restaurants are coming?

There's been plenty of rumors, speculation and innuendo. Bradenton Herald readers had lots of suggestions, too, when business reporter Charles Schelle asked in his "Up In Your Business" blog back in May what they'd like to see.

Well, on Friday, we got our first official announcement: Seasons 52 will be one of the dining options at the new mall.


The folks at Taubman, one of the developing partners at the mall, sure are. 

"One of the things we've been talking about is having unique concepts to bring to this area and I think Seasons 52 is one of those concepts," new general manager Octavio "Taz" Ortiz said Friday. "We're very happy to have them and to have something that's going to be unique to the market."

There are about 40 Seasons 52 locations nationwide, the closest being in Tampa, and several more planned in the next year. The restaurant's fresh grill and wine bar concept and nothing-over-475-calories menu should be a hit, as well as its promise of live music every night at its piano bar.

Developers are especially banking on attracting families from burgeoning Lakewood Ranch. They said as much in a meeting with Herald staffers earlier this week, noting the growth in single-family homes in the Ranch as one of the driving factors for going forward with the mall project. (Ortiz, the new manager, is relocating his family to Lakewood Ranch, too.)

Another dining option for Ranch residents, and the new mall itself, only adds to the attraction.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

East Manatee resident opens up about his 9/11 experience

East Manatee resident and 9/11 survivor Garrett Lindgren says speaking publicly about that day has been his way of dealing with the emotional toll it took on him. JASON BARTOLONE/Bradenton Herald
Lots of people had a personal connection to 9/11.

Not everyone can say they lost 62 people they knew personally that day.

Garrett Lindgren can.

The 55-year-old East Manatee resident was a New York City firefighter back in 2001. He had just gotten off duty the morning of Sept. 11 when the first plane struck the Twin Towers.

"Everyone I had coffee with that morning was killed," Lindgren told me.

Now retired, Lindgren has advocated on behalf of first responders suffering health effects since 9/11. He's done speaking engagements at Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies, including this week's "Lakewood Ranch Remembers 9-11" program at Manatee Technical Institute's East Campus in Lakewood Ranch. And through it all, he's battled his own health problems and the same post-traumatic stress disorder many 9/11 survivors face.

Speaking at events like Wednesday's MTI ceremony can be "extremely emotional," Lindgren said. In fact, he went about five years, from 2002 to 2007, not even speaking publicly about 9/11, until he was talked into being the guest speaker at a "Tribute to Heroes" luncheon in Bradenton on the anniversary.

"It's therapeutic," said Lindgren, who lives in GreyHawk Landing. He admits he had become disconnected from his wife and two children for years, and it wasn't until he started opening up about 9/11 that he began to return to his old self.

His message is sobering and powerful, especially for those MTI students and future first responders who might someday face a traumatic event the way Lindgren did 12 years ago. And if they do, he advises they find a way to talk about it.

"Physically it's really tough. Emotionally it's really tough. You deal with children trapped in fires and things like that and it tears your heart out," he said. "And then you get slammed with something like (9/11), it's more than somebody can take in. I guess folks look at firefighters and they figure, 'Oh, that's a pillar of strength, that's who comes when you dial 9-1-1, that's the cavalry.' But inside you're a person, you're human being. You put that aside and you do your job. but at some point it's got to come out. It just has to."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hello, East Manatee!

Hello East Manatee!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name's Jason Bartolone, and I'm the new East Manatee Editor for the Bradenton Herald and the Lakewood Ranch Herald. That means you'll be seeing me out and about in Parrish, Lakewood Ranch, Myakka City, the University Park area and the rest of East Manatee County, getting to know this amazing community and sharing your stories in the pages of the Herald and online at

This new job is a homecoming of sorts — I previously worked at the Herald for five years, from 2005-10, first in the sports department as a copy editor and page designer, then as the Page 1A editor. I'm excited to be outside the confines of the newsroom now, along with the rest of the Herald's talented team of journalists, talking with the people who make East Manatee come to life.

I'm also no stranger to this community: My wife and I have been Lakewood Ranch residents for almost a year and a half now. We live here, work here, shop here and are raising our 9-month-old son, Zack, here. In short, we love living out east, and I look forward to getting to know the rest of my neighbors even better.

Have a story idea or a news tip? You can reach me in the office at 941-745-7011 or by email at Follow me on Twitter, too, @JasonBartolone, where I'll try to bring you the best of the Herald's East Manatee coverage as well as an up-to-the-minute look at what we're covering. And check back here in the East Word blog, yet another way for us to connect about the news that matters most to you.

Talk to you soon!