Every ounce of me is meant to be a country gal. I can certainly hold my own in major cities as New York, London, Paris, and Bangkok, but even then, I’m seeking the most authentic, off-beat experiences. People who follow my adventures through Florida often ask, how do I find them?
Here’s a secret, I do no rely on one source but multiple sources including friends; social media channels of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; TripAdvisor; Roadside America; and most recently, the website visitfloridafarms.com which is published by the Florida Agritourism Association and has the tagline, “the ultimate field trip.”
Before I share more about the Florida Agritourism Association, I’d like to introduce you to someone.
The Boy Entrepreneur
I have one person to thank for my appreciation of exotic fruits, ones that taste like chocolate pudding (black sapote) or have intimidating outer skins with delightful flavors underneath (such as guanabana and lychee). That person is Robert Moehling, founder of Robert Is Here, a popular roadside fruit stand in Homestead, near the main entrance of Everglades National Park.
Robert was a six-year-old entrepreneur when he started his produce stand in 1959. It began because his father instructed him to sell cucumbers along the roadside and to attract customers, the business-minded boy displayed signs reading “Robert Is Here.” Decades later, the fruit stand has grown and has become an internationally-known attraction.
Stopping at Robert Is Here is a must and ordering a sweet, creamy tropical fruit milkshake is a ritual either before entering or leaving the park. My favorite is a combination of key lime and strawberry, a tart and sweet combination. While waiting for your milkshake, browse the collection of exotic fruits, farm-fresh vegetables, preserves, honey, and sauces. Or, walk among the resident animals including goats, pigs, and emus.
I first met Robert when working in Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park in the late 1990s. In addition to delicious tropical fruit shakes and exotic fruits, I remember how there was not a single calculator in sight and everyone who worked at the fruit stand had to calculate what a customer owed by tallying up the cost for each item on a brown paper bag. He told me it was a way for the staff, which included his wife and children, to use their brains.
In the ’90s, the Redlands area of Homestead and Florida City was working hard to promote agritourism. The area is rich in agriculture, especially when it comes to producing greenhouse and nursery foliage (such as plants you purchase from big box retailers), orchids, and vegetables such as tomatoes. There’s also a winery, brewery, and alligator farm. The agritourism trail is called the Historic Redland Tropical Trail.
The Sunshine States Tourism + Agriculture = Florida Agritourism Association
On a larger scale, Robert Is Here was one of the founding members of the Florida Agritourism Association. This organization has combined two of the Sunshine State’s largest industries, tourism and agriculture, and is helping visitors understand the ecological and economical value of agriculture. It is also helping farms, ranches, nurseries, wineries, distilleries, and other agricultural businesses open their doors to visitors who are curious about their food and beverage sources.
Established in 2013, the Florida Agritourism Association maintains an informative website to help visitors plan their Florida agritourism experiences. Even better, a free smartphone application was made available earlier this year for iPhone and Android devices. Search for “Florida Agritourism” in either the App Store or Google Play.
The website, visitfloridafarms.com, and smartphone app have a map to help users find activities in a specific location. These range from farmer’s markets to trail riding and U-pick farms to crop mazes. Learn what fruits and vegetables are in season and find events happening near your or in a specific Florida destination. If you are planning a wedding, reunion, birthday, or any other special occasion, event venues are listed on the site, too.
I love Robert Moehling’s story and have enjoyed watching the success of Robert Is Here. Even when I stop in these days, Robert is there, sitting behind the counter, ringing up orders. He is an example of where hard work will lead you. The Florida Agritourism Association makes it easier to find and connect with others in the Sunshine State who have similar stories and who can enrich our lives.
Nuts & Bolts About…
Robert is Here
19200 SW. 344th St.
Homestead, Fla. 33034
Tel: (305) 246-1592
Open daily 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Historic Redland Tropical Trail
Florida Agritourism Association