Plant Manager: Student’s discovery gains national attention

COPEMISH – It all started over a girl. When he was sixteen years old, Jared Milarch needed money for a car to ask a girl out on a date and was searching for a way to make the trees at his family’s fourth-generation nursery business grow faster. Milarch family tradition dictates that each son, at age 13, start his own nursery by collecting 500 native sugar maples a year, all dug by hand.

“That’s how they pay for their college, cars, anything they want,” said his father, Dave. “At 18, they are pretty well set.”

Because Jared wanted to cash in on the trees earlier than the several years it would take for them to grow to market size, he began reading everything he could about horticulture.

His quest took him through every book at the Traverse City library on the subject, and led him to an out-of-print book from the 1940s on soil properties, with a chapter about Azomite. A fine rock powder mined in Utah and said to be the remnants of an ancient seabed, Azomite contains 67 minerals and trace elements. Many, Jared says, have been wrung out of the nation’s soil by decades of logging, acid rain, erosion and chemically-based agriculture. A few organic farmers were adding it to their soil, but its primary commercial use was as livestock feed.

Jared tracked down a supplier in Maine, convinced his dad to spend $100 for the “bags of rocks” and went to his 86-year-old grandfather to help him come up with the proper mixture to apply to his trees. He sprinkled two soup cans of Azomite, and a half-bushel of compost around 100 of his trees.

When Jared’s dad and grandfather saw the results after just a few months, they were amazed. The trees that Jared treated with the Azomite mixture were an average of three feet taller than the untreated ones.

“Those trees were a green glow in the nursery–they were bigger and healthier than all the rest,” Dave said. “It looked like the Jolly Green Giant touched them.”

They contacted Benzie County agriculture agent Andy Norman who came to inspect the trees. He noticed they did not have the pest infestation that the untreated trees nearby had.

More studies were done, including applying the mixture to other crops. Jared has pictures of 15-foot sunflowers and second-year rhubarb plants with three-foot-wide leaves. Neighbors and friends tried using Jared’s mixture, all with similar results. After some experimenting, Jared has come up with a combination of substances that make up his new product, “AdzumPlus,” which he says consistently works on all types of plants. Six months ago he started a company called EarthPlus Products, and has sold about 10,000 bags and 6,000 jars at a cost of $24.95 per bag and $9.95 per two-pound jar.

Coupled with his concerns over the environment, his natural curiosity and determination, Jared has created a product that is perched to make him a household name. For the past three years, the agriculture/horticulture world and the media have begun to take notice of AdzumPlus.

Now a college sophomore, Jared claims his product has the potential to liberate environmentally-conscious farmers from chemical fertilizers, or at least help them cut back. He is in negotiations for national distribution.

Since the Associated Press picked up Jared’s story in November, he is getting calls daily from all over the nation and some foreign countries inquiring about AdzumPlus. He has received hundreds of letters, his story has been printed in 14 national newspapers, and the Farm Bureau did a video about his accomplishments and sent it to their associates in three states.

He has appeared on local TV news shows and has a PBS special that is set to air in February. Jared has been featured in several magazines, including Audubon and American Nurseryman, and is being approached by businesses and organizations around the country.

The nation’s largest public relations firm, Rubenstein’s in New York, is now representing him.

So how does all this attention affect this modest 20-year-old?

“I never came at this from a business angle, that was never my motivation,” Jared explained. “I grew up in the country, I love to hunt and fish and I’ve seen over the years that the fish are gone, there are smog warnings in Frankfort, there are deer with TB–it’s obvious to me something’s got to be done. My generation has inherited a ton of environmental problems, and kids know it. No real action is being done to solve it. If I can inspire my friends and other people my age to do something, maybe I can lead by example.”

As for the girl, Jared did get the date, and they are still together. BIZNEWS