Less than an hour's drive south from Miami lies a totally different world. The vehicle of choice more likely John Deere than Mercedes and instead of the ocean, you'll encounter miles of green farmland. A trip to the Redland is truly a trip back in time to old Florida.
The Redland, along with Kendall, used to have many fruit stands and U-Pick strawberry and tomato fields, where a family could spend the day. Most of the U-Pick stands in Kendall are gone, replaced by condos and strip malls. The Redland, too, has seen its share of roadside fruit stands succumb to financial or real estate woes. Luckily, a few remain standing - still selling produce, jams, milkshakes and baked good to city dwellers who drive out in droves on the weekend for a glimpse of the way things used to be.
Burr's Berry Farm
Burr's Berry Farm has been selling strawberries, fresh vegetables, jams and milkshakes since 1960. Not a lot has changed - a simple wooden shack, brightly painted with red and pink trim proclaims "Strawberries! Milkshakes!"
The first thing you notice are the strawberries - large, red and plump, neatly stacked into pyramids. Each perfect berry looks like it could star in a television commercial for some fruit council. Strawberry baskets are priced at $8.50, $10.50 and $12.50 and are sweeter, richer and more fragrant than the ones sold at the supermarket.
Mary Burr still works the stand as she did in 1960, with a little more help these days. In her heyday, she's shipped strawberries to England and Italy, but now you have to come to her to get the berries (though you can call in advance for bulk orders or to arrange a gift basket). Burr's Berry Farm also sells orchids and fresh vegetables that are either grown on the property or at a neighboring farm. Turnips, beets, cabbage are all oversized and beautiful. These vegetables make you want to cook them up and have a feast, with some strawberries and cream for dessert.
Open daily from Christmas through Mother's Day. 12741 SW 216th St, Miami; 305-251-0145
Knaus Berry Farm
Knaus Berry Farm is one of the few places left where you can pick your own tomatoes, as well as strawberries. This farm was started by the Knaus brothers, Ray & Russel, over 50 years ago. Some people think that Amish people own this stand, but they're actually Dunkers, a German Baptist sect that wear traditional clothing, though you'll just as likely spot more typical American dress these days.
The right side of the stand sells fresh produce including tomatoes, strawberries, jalapenos, squash, herbs and lettuce (all grown on property or locally). The left side of the stand is a bakery that sells fresh baked cookies, pies and cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls are in such demand, they often sell out well before the end of the day, especially on weekends. A guava cream cheese pie is a special treat. An adjacent shed sells fruit milkshakes.
Behind the stand are the U-Pick strawberry and tomato fields. Tom Blocher, co-owner of Knaus Berry Farm (he's married to a Knaus), says that on the weekend families come out and make a day of picking berries and tomatoes, bringing picnic blankets and chairs. "We like when the families come out. We just provide some grass and a tree to climb".
Open Christmas through Easter. Closed Sunday. 15980 SW 248th Street (Coconut Palm Drive) Homestead; 305-247-0668
Robert Is Here
Robert is Here has a roadside attraction vibe. Part fruit stand, part petting zoo, part antique car display, Robert's is all-show. The selection is overwhelming at Robert's - fruit and vegetables grown both locally and outsourced, honey, jams, jellies, dressings, chutneys and nuts - all bear the Robert is Here gold private label. A milkshake stand is so busy that a microphone announces the names of the people who's shakes are ready for pickup. Dozens of workers are as busy as the bees that gather around the honey sampling bar.
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At first glance, you might think that Robert is too commercial, that it's not the real deal...until you take a look at the man behind the counter wearing a smile and gun - both large. Robert Mohling has been here every day for 50 years, working the crowd alongside his sons. Ask him about his fruit and he'll be happy to tell you that a sopadilla tastes like a pear dipped in sugar or that the softer the guava, the sweeter the flesh. "Me and my boys have the most magnificent mangos", Robert says. "There's a passion in what we do".
Open daily. Closed September & October. 19200 SW 344th St. Homestead; 305-246-1592