We followed Miami’s local breadcrumbs right into its agricultural heart and found ourselves in Homestead, Florida. The Redlands agricultural area is tucked between two National Parks and is grounds for dozens of farmers and their impressive acreage of luscious fruits and vibrant flowers. We discovered for ourselves what many local Floridians already know: that Robert is here.
Robert is Here is a family farm and fruit stand that’s been in business for over 55 years. It started when Robert Moehling, Sr., owner of the farm, was stuck out on the street by his father to sell cucumbers. After an unsuccessful first day he spray-painted Robert is Here on a big sign and went out to the street again. This time, he sold out and walked home. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Robert, Sr., his sons, and their wives are all integral in the Robert is Here operation.
“This is the best, coolest place I’ve ever seen… and it’s local also.”
According to Justin Ramirez, a current employee of the Robert is Here Fruit Stand, if “you wanna try something unique, you gotta come here.” At Robert is Here, most of the produce is grown on-site. The farm has local fruit in season, like mangoes, jackfruit, and guanabana, and also has a vegetable garden where greens grow. You can buy these things on their own, or get them blended into one of Robert is Here’s famous milkshakes. They even have an animal farm, and “if you have an animal you wanna drop off, [they] take it in for free.”
And thereby, Robert Jr. told us, almost nothing on the farm goes to waste. Like the family who owns it, every part of the farm works together for the greatest outcome.
“Rather than throwing away that strawberry that has a bad spot on it, you cut the bad spot out and you make a milkshake out of it. Rather than throwing that bad spot away you feed animals with it to attract customers.”
Robert Sr. has done a remarkable job creating a name for the Moehling family and reinventing as times change. Robert is Here is a household name in Homestead, and many people travel from neighboring cities to check out the famous farm.
“…there’s only 3 rules to any business. It’s very easy: honesty, integrity, and hard work. You’re done.”
But like he said, the work is hard, and it’s also long. The fruit stand is in operation 7 days a week. For the first 41 years it was open year-round, and although now it closes during September and October, the work doesn’t stop. The Moehlings and their 60 employees use that time to fix the place up, doing repairs, repainting, and replanting. They regularly face 16 hour work days, sometimes closer to 20. “Me and my boys… we’re artists with food, food professionals. And we never really realized that.” It’s not a life for everyone, and Robert Sr. doesn’t think Miami or any metropolitan area can have an operation as successful as his because no one will work as hard.
Robert Sr.’s outlook for local farmers is grim. The United States government has a slew of rules and regulations in place for domestic farming operations. While he says the rules hold farmers to an impeccable standard, they make it almost impossible to run a family farm. Imported goods, however, have little to no regulation and enter the country by truckload with prices that local producers simply cannot compete with.
“Local agriculture’s gonna die very quickly. It’s just gonna be really tough.”
Robert Jr., on the other hand, sees an opportunity for local farms to urbanize as the health food craze in America gains traction. There have been requests for Robert is Here to expand, and as more and more people demand local food, he thinks more mom and pop shops will start opening up everywhere.