In Redland, visitors will find Miami’s “tropical landscape” and locals like the tranquility
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The new Miami: a series of villages
Not so long ago, Miami-Dade was a story of the east – the expansive beach – and a mainland of undifferentiated suburbs centered by a central business district that closed at 5 p.m. Today the county is increasingly merging around a series of urban villages or centers – compact, pedestrian-friendly places where people can live, shop, eat, even work or go to school with few or amiably short drives. Here you can see some of the district’s up-and-coming neighborhoods.
If you drive the two lane country roads on 50,000 square kilometers of unregulated Redland farmland, you will be forgiven for not being anywhere near Miami-Dade County. Groves of pink and yellow dragon fruit line the streets. Handwritten signs promising rare orchids and fruits from lychee to longan lure you over unpaved driveways. A tangle of bougainvillea and plumeria – the hallmark of this urban antidote – peer over walls made of local oolite limestone.
Behind these walls beckons large and small farms – part of a thriving agrotourism industry. The region’s selling point has been the same for years.
“It’s still rural,” said Sidney Robinson, a third generation farmer in Redland, as he sped his golf cart through a mango grove dripping with green fruits. “And we want to keep it that way,” he added for future generations.
In recent years, attempts to develop this southwestern part of Dade east of the urban development line have skyrocketed, creating a tug-of-war between those who want to keep Redland rural and developers who see an opportunity to keep building. Farmers and residents like Robinson want to set the record straight: the urban development boundary, which protects arable land and environmental areas from development disruptions, is not an imaginary line. Known as UDB, it is encrypted in the books and maps. The line, along with a zoning that allows no more than one single family home on each five hectare property, preserves the rural lifestyle of the region. Locals often struggle against rededication efforts that would turn quiet fields into high density homes.
But already a few mega-expansion-style haciendas have crept between the huts and ranch houses, between tree nurseries filled with foliage, row crops, tropical fruits and a variety of other agricultural products. Over the past five years, property prices in ZIP Code 33031 have increased nearly 34%. The median sales price in March was $ 565,000 compared to $ 422,500 in 2016.
Sidney Robinson, a third generation farmer and owner of Sandy Acre Avocado-Mango Farms, on his farm in Miami’s Redland neighborhood on Saturday, May 15, 2021. MATIAS J. OCNER [email protected]
“Redland has really exploded in its growth and it seems to fuel the way we live,” said Fred Hubbard, director of Patch of Heaven Sanctuary, a 20-acre nonprofit nature reserve in Redland. The site is set in a restored tropical hardwood forest unique to the region and features gardens carved into the limestone with sunken water. According to Hubbard, it is not only a hidden place where locals can reconnect with nature, but also an enclave for the preservation of the natural ecosystem that is under threat from development. A deal to expand the reserve by buying more land from a neighboring company failed after the seller decided to campaign for a higher bidder.
If development sprouts freely, it means less acreage for growing tropical fruits and flowers that thrive on the region’s fertile, red-colored soil (hence the name). In short, less of what makes Redland a regional asset, says researcher Martin Motes. In a steamy greenhouse where he runs Motes Orchids, Vanda spikes swing from perches and spill into shapes and color combinations hard to find in the supermarket.
“Nowhere else in the continental US can you grow the stuff we grow here year-round,” Motes said.
Popular Redland attractions include the family-run Knaus Berry Farm, which sells local strawberries and tomatoes, as well as famous cinnamon buns, which are generally worth the long drive from downtown Miami. Others venture south to the 18-hole golf course at Redland Golf & Country Club or Cauley Square Historic Village, a small strip of shops and restaurants – including a tea room – under a canopy of trees.
Nowhere is the diversity of local plants more evident than in County Fruit & Spice Park. More than 500 types of fruit, tree and herbs bloom on 37 hectares. Shady jackfruit trees pregnant with massive smallpox fruits grow alongside wild, sown baby bananas. You can even find bushes of wonder berries – the red fruits that make even the crunchiest of lemons taste sweet.
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The best part is that you can eat whatever falls to the ground. Free tram tours take visitors through the five regions that divide the park, showing off edible plants from around the world.
“We have a lot of immigrants in Miami. When they walk around and see a tree they saw in their home country, they get excited, ”said Jhyna Arauco, Interim Park Manager.
Before the pandemic, tourists outside the city were the largest group of visitors. But COVID turned things around. According to Arauco, more locals are now flocking to the park as people crave fresh air after so many months in the house.
Schnebly Redlands Winery & Brewery in Redland, Florida on Saturday, May 8, 2021. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]
“Many of them have never been here,” she added. She had never visited Fruit & Spice before starting work there, even though she lived near Homestead. The Miami New Times named the park the “best kept secret” on their annual “Best of Miami” list for 2020.
The secret has been revealed for some time at the nearby Schnebly Redland Winery and Brewery, which was founded in 2005. The business has more than doubled in recent years, said owner Peter Schnebly. The recently completed extension to Krome Avenue has attracted more diners curious about the wines made from local guavas, lychees, coconuts and even avocados.
The hotel’s own brewery in the background with a well-stocked bar, pool tables, and a giant screen makes the place a popular spot for game nights. The local limestone tiki huts and waterfalls also put the winery on the menu for weddings and other receptions. The charm of the Redlands has drawn more and more brides and grooms over the years. The area has become a hot spot for weddings near Miamians who prefer a rural setting to a beach setting.
The celebration of the ceremonies of life when a local farmer dies is probably the most-attended event at the winery, Schnebly said, a testament to how close Redland locals can be.
When the self-described “transplanted Yankee” from New York’s wine country landed here, he could quickly see that the area was something special.
“We want to say that we are in Miami’s countryside,” Schnebly said. “What we grow here, like mangoes, lychees and guavas, can’t even be grown north of Palm Beach.”
He was part of a group of local business owners who teamed up 15 years ago to create the Redland Tropical Trail. The signs direct tourists to a number of area attractions and shops, such as Coral Castle and RF Orchids, a local orchid farm and shop with its own scenic landscape.
Alicia del Aguila and her partner Martina Gonzalez opened Aloha Redland three years ago to operate holistic agriculture on half a hectare of land. The couple grow bok choy and other vegetables alongside flowers using homemade compost and organic methods. During the harvest season, they sell farm-share boxes that can be delivered to pick-up locations north of Redland.
“Escaping the traffic madness was a big push to come here and being in nature was another push,” said del Aguila.
Although relatively new, they have seen a surge in development over the past two years. “People come here because they like the peace and quiet of being surrounded by nature and the sky. If you put a number of complexes in a small one-way street, it is not sustainable, ”said del Aguila.
She has seen firsthand the growing interest of a younger generation in agriculture. Last summer, she and Gonzalez helped the South Florida chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition. The group is committed to the future of agriculture. Around 30 people gathered under a tiki hut on the aloha farms for the group’s opening meeting.
Lighting this fire is necessary to sustain Redland, says orchid grower Motes.
“This land doesn’t just belong to the people who live here,” he said. “It belongs to the nation as a whole and to future generations.”
REDLAND AT A GLANCE
Demographics: mean age 37 years
Average household salary: $ 66,972
Main work / industry: Agriculture
Median property value: $ 321,500
School grades: B.
Personal crime: 1.2
Property crime: 3.7
Source: Data USA, Florida Department of Education, and Esri, who rate crime on a national basis of 100.