Best U-Pick Miami 2006 - Knauss Berry Farm
Once upon a time, the lands just northwest of Homestead promised agricultural bounty. Fields of tomatoes, strawberries, and tropical fruits stretched along Krome Avenue as far as the eye could see. The times certainly are a-changing. A recent tour of the Redland, west of South Dixie Highway, revealed a sad, startling dearth of U-pick farms and an influx of new development. Where farms once flourished stand plant nurseries, new buildings, and definite signs that urban sprawl is quickly taking root in the southland's fertile soil. Robert Moehling, proprietor of Robert Is Here, a bustling produce stand farther south, presents one theory. "The U-Picks are closing because the insurance rates are too high. Farmers just can't afford to let customers pick on their property anymore," he says while busily stacking tomatoes. Rachel Grafe, one of the friendly German Baptist women who work at Knauss Berry Farm, offers her own reasoning. "Farming is going out in South Florida. A lot of the farmers here are selling out to developers, and the farmland is just kind of disappearing," she says. Thankfully there's still Knauss Berry Farm, with its sweetly old-fashioned red-and-white structure that defies the drumbeat of progress. Urbanites with a hankering to pluck produce off the stalk are welcome during the season -- mid-November through April 30, Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. -- to pick plump tomatoes for $1 per pound and sweet strawberries for $2 per pound. Although the shop also sells lettuce and juicy onions, the real lure of Knauss is the wafting scent of baked goods. No visit is complete without a purchase of sticky cinnamon buns. A mere $6.30 buys a dozen, or shell out $8.50 for twelve pecan rolls instead. A succulent strawberry rhubarb pie costs $7.30, and the fresh-baked honey wheat bread is $2.70 a loaf. The traditionally dressed German Baptists greet every customer with a friendly smile and a helpful attitude that is just as refreshing as the fruity milkshakes they sell.