Farmers in South Miami-Dade’s Redland grow many kinds of exotic fruits and vegetables, but a vast majority is shipped out-of-state. Taste of Redland, a new venture that launched in June, aims to change the equation by connecting South Florida (and the rest of the state) with easy online ordering and fast delivery.
“Everything is fresh. The taste of it’s completely different,” said Michael Huter, founder of Taste of Redland. “A tomato isn’t something picked 17 days ago that’s in a grocery store that tastes like plastic.”
Huter explains why South Floridians need to support local produce: “We need to look at it almost as we look at team sports. You cheer for the Dolphins, you cheer for the Heat, we should cheer for our home team of Redland-raised.”
Huter and his partners founded Taste of Redland out of frustration with how separated Redland and its agricultural industry — which employees nearly 26,000 people — are from the rest of South Florida.
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Tommy Vick, owner of V&B Farms and a fourth-generation Florida farmer, expressed frustration with the state’s lack of interest in Redland.
“A lot of the consumers are clueless as to where their crops and vegetables come from,” Vick said. “If you look at some of the ads that USDA puts out ... they don’t put out green-bean ads for down here in Dade County when we’re growing green beans. We’re kind of the red-headed stepchild.”
Taste of Redland provides free next-day delivery to individuals, restaurants, and hotels throughout South Florida; and free two-day delivery to the rest of the state. There are no plans to deliver outside Florida. Huter partnered with Unity Groves to package the produce and with the U.S. Post Office to deliver across the state.
Taste of Redland has partnered with over 70 farms to ship fresh produce. The market uses over 2,200 acres of farmland to cultivate produce.
The effort to boost interest in Redland is meant to help farmers who struggle to compete with cheaper Mexican produce that is made possible through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Huter said local farmers are at a disadvantage against these cheaper products.
“Most of what comes in from other countries isn’t competing on a level playing field,” Huter said. “The only reason it is less expensive or more accessible is because it’s being produced in labor conditions that aren’t particularly fair.”
Redland is the only area in the continental U.S. where a variety of exotic fruits can be grown, such as sapodillas, longans, and various Asian leaves.
Vick said locally grown produce has several benefits that imports lack. He claims local produce retains more of its flavor, leaves a smaller carbon footprint, and is not exposed to chemicals that have been banned in the U.S.
Taste of Redland also plans to bring South Florida to Redland through major events.
In October, it will launch a Redland dinner series. Steve Haas, executive director of the Miami Beach Convention Center and architect of Miami Spice, will co-produce the series with events planner Suzanne Pallot, who owns Source Miami, and South Beach pioneer Louis Canales.
Taste of Redland plans to bring top chefs from throughout the region to use local produce to prepare meals. Haas is excited to see how Redland produce can change the Miami culinary scene.
“If you’re really a top chef, you’re always looking for exciting new products. What’s even more exciting is some of these products are in your backyard,” Haas said. “You can actually reinvent your menu and take your menus to a brand new, higher level then they’ve ever been before.”
James Beard Award-winning chef and author Norman Van Aken has used Redland fruits in his restaurants since 1987, including in his new Wynwood restaurant Three, and in his cooking school In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken. Having authored a book on tropical fruits, Van Aken believes using local fruits greatly contributes to his menus and helps a neighboring community.
Van Aken recently received his first sample of fruits shipped by Taste of Redland and he will use the service in the future:
“What we found magically on our own is now going to become more broadly available,” Van Aken said. “This has been something that has been needed for decades now and I’m glad that it’s here now”
Frustrated with the media portrayals of Redland and Homestead as a dangerous area with “roving pit bulls” and “infestations,” Huter wants Miami to see the community as a tropical paradise.
“This is what you envision in paradise,” he said. “How could it be possible that South Florida doesn’t know anything about it? It’s the most bizarre disconnect we’ve ever seen. ”
How to order
To order produce or to learn more about Taste of Redland, call 305-248-7700 or visit tasteofredland.com.
This story was updated with new information August 6, 2018