A visit to Southern Hill Farms requires good tires as you have to drive several miles over a bumpy dirt road to get there. It seems like you’re driving in the boonies and heaven forbid you get a flat tire. But other cars are also rumbling along toward this popular location.
If it’s your first visit, you’ll be surprised by the crowd. There’s lots to do beside picking strawberries, blueberries or sunflowers. We saw these peach trees near the entrance.
But the fields of crops are only one of the attractions. You can see this big covered space where they hold farmer’s markets or other festivities on different occasions.
There’s a gift shop, food trucks, homemade strawberry donuts for sale, and a kids’ playground. A live band was playing while we were there.
If you’re in the area, watch their website for special events. I know next time I come, I want to try the peach cobbler.
Bekemeyer Family Farm is a hydroponic farm located in Winter Garden, FL off Colonial Drive near 429. In season, you can fill a white bucket with ripe strawberries as you trundle down aisles lined by plants reminiscent of The Land pavilion at EPCOT. You don’t have to bend as low as naturally grown strawberry patches, which is helpful. We could also pick oranges, but I’d given away our juicer so we passed on that opportunity. In a few more months, they’ll offer peaches.
Inside their small store, you can purchase honey and jams and a limited selected of homegrown vegetables. I bought bunches of dill that I needed for upcoming meals. They had small tomatoes, radishes and different kinds of greens including kale.
Our grandson had a good time enjoying the fresh air and picking the ripe berries. He had both sets of grandparents present to cheer him on and enjoy his company.
From there we went to the Winter Garden Farmers Market. It gets crowded on Saturday mornings. We strolled around in the sunshine, enjoying the sights like this cat in sunglasses and the multitude of booths.
We took a brief stroll down the main street of the historic district. Then it was back home to attend the Zoom meeting for Florida Chapter of MWA and make my vegetable bean soup.
We took a break from isolation to visit Oak Haven Farms & Winery to pick our own strawberries and roast hot dogs over a fire. It was a fun excursion, about a forty-minute ride from our new house. We parked in the dirt field then poked our heads inside the gift shop, café and wine tasting room. A staff member told us to go out in the field and someone would give us a crate to fill with fresh picked berries.
We stooped to pluck the strawberries off the stems. When tired of bending, we gave up and headed into the shop to have our bounty weighed so we could pay.
Then we bought hot dogs that came with rolls and a forked tool. We wove the meats onto the tines and went outdoors to cook the hot dogs in an open fire. I loved the charred taste.
Then we went back inside to order a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for dessert. It was a treat and enough for two to split.
We skipped the wine tasting that cost extra as we are not fond of fruit wines or the Florida grape varietal. But if you’re interested, you can indulge.
If you wish to visit, check online to see their schedule first. Strawberry season is limited.
Oak Haven Farms, 32430 Avington Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776 or http://www.berriesandwines.com/
Bedner’s Farm was established in 1960 by Arthur Bedner from Pennsylvania. Today the 80-acre property is run by his three sons and grandson. The store itself is in a sprawling building off Route 441 in Palm Beach County between Boynton Beach Blvd. and Atlantic Ave. Parking is in front or at an overflow lot in the back. From the back, you climb up a small rise toward the main attractions. A narrow water-filled canal borders the fields so you can’t reach them from the rear parking lot. Just across the ditch is a pepper patch growing red and green bell peppers. Divided by tall sugar cane plants that serve as a wind block are more fields growing strawberries and grape tomatoes.
We decided to go picking first. At an open air stand, you collect however many buckets you want by leaving your credit card. In return, you are assigned a number that you have to remember. Prices are listed on signage.
From here, we trudged along a packed dirt path to the fields. The sun was warm and the temperature rose to the low eighties. The air had low humidity, making for a pleasant day. Hats shaded our eyes along with sunglasses. I wore a fanny pack where I kept my camera. Row after row of plants stretched before us. One section, the plants flattened and dried, had held cucumbers. Another with tomato plants had been picked clean of ripe, red tomatoes and held only green ones. So my husband headed toward the peppers while I went to pick strawberries.
I held each stem between forefinger and middle finger and gently yanked. One-by-one, I plopped the berries into my bucket while inhaling the scent of fruit warming in the sun. It was addictive, and I couldn’t stop picking the fruits. My treasure hunt revealed the ripe red berries glistening in the sun and waiting to be snatched. When my bucket was nearly full, I went to find my spouse. He had some delectable pepper specimens in his pail. We headed back up a slight ridge toward the open-air sales booth and turned in our buckets. Our bounty came to just over $18.00. I put my driver’s license back in my wallet and the brown paper shopping bags into the car.
We bypassed the tractor-pulled tram ride and gem mining in a nearby wooden sluice with a water tower at the top. Hungry from our exertions, we strode over to Porky & Beth’s Barbecue truck across the yard from the outdoor ticket booth.
The aroma of barbecued beef wafted into our noses. I ordered a quarter chicken and Richard got the brisket. Yellow rice accompanied his meal while I chose mac and cheese. We’d both selected cole slaw and also ordered drinks. By the time we took our Styrofoam-encased meals to the thatch-roof covered picnic area, I was salivating. I tore into my meal, hungrier than ever. There’s nothing like outdoor exercise and a barbecue cooked by someone else to stimulate your appetite. Birds stood nearby, twittering while we ate. A welcome breeze cooled our skin while we swatted flies away from our food. Happily full, we tossed our empty trash in the can to proceed in our explorations.
Facing the fields, we noted a petting zoo and pony rides to our left but resisted a visit to this popular kids’ area, instead heading toward the indoor market. Sheds with empty crates, tools, and tractors dotted the property. As we approached the air-conditioned building, we noted a Sabrett hot dog stand, a lemonade stand, soft pretzels, and homemade ice cream available from various vendors. There was also a lady selling clothing and another selling orchids at five plants for twenty dollars.
Inside the building, we took a shopping cart and plowed down each narrow aisle. The place had a crowd which made maneuvering difficult. It’s best to get there early. Besides the usual fresh produce, I spied olive oils, vinegars, olives, pickle barrels, granola mixtures, Florida-made honey, soaps, challah rolls, onion rolls, a variety of breads including but not limited to banana and zucchini breads and gluten-free choices. One section held bins with peppers in different colors and shapes. There was pasta and pesto, hot sauces, gourmet tortilla chips, hot peanuts, a coffee machine where you could buy a cup, olive spreads, packaged nuts, salad dressings, fruity sauces, apple butter, pickled peaches, German sauerkraut, and a large selection of wines. It’s easy to fill your shopping cart.
I’d like to return here in the fall when they have a pumpkin patch and corn fields. Here’s the bounty we brought home this time. Now I have to decide what to do with it all. Eggplant Parmigian with a fresh salad, anyone?
Mother’s Day morning found us picking blueberries at the Beck Brothers farm in Windermere. Their berries stay fresh longer than any store-bought varieties. They’re a bit tart this early in the season but are great on cereal or in pancakes.
Since we were attending a show (Beautiful: The Carole King Story) at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, we chose to dine nearby at The Boheme Restaurant in the Grand Bohemian Hotel. The elegant red décor matched the elevated prices but we felt the service wasn’t comparable to other upscale places, in our opinion. But you might think otherwise, and it is a mere few steps away from the theater. The food was very good.
The dazzling Dr. Phillips Center was built in a contemporary/modern style. I felt like I was on a cruise ship during show time. Seats at the orchestra level far back had a good view of the stage. There looked to be four floors maybe, with cafés on each one. Anyway, you could grab a substantial snack here if you’re hungry. You can bring drinks into the theater but not food, and seats have drink holders. We enjoyed the lively show and the music from an earlier era. Now this has made me want to see what’s playing in the theaters at home.