This is one of those quick posts where I set the stage and the photographs will lead you home. So here I was, not more than an hour and half south of Jacksonville and into central Florida. There were no layovers, no changes in language, no standard benchmark of travel…simply fewer buildings and larger stretches of land but it feels like a different world. There were hand-crafted signs for blueberry festivals and disheveled motels hinting at abandonment. The humidity was heavier and the ocean breezes were absent.
It doesn’t get more “Florida” than this.
Nestled in the small town of San Mateo sits the citrus farm of Cecil and Stella Nelson. They began this venture in 1986 with a bunch of young citrus trees. Today he grows everything from red grapefruits to blood oranges, kumquats, ponderosa lemons, and more across 10 acres in the main grove and another couple of acres adjacent to their home. Beyond the varied forays intro citrus, he also has peach trees, pomegranates, and a variety of other fruit trees thought out the property including pineapples.
But aside from the beauty of the property and the life nestled in every corner, the Nelsons are just lovely people…they’re old school southern. My group had arrived to review and vet the farm as part of their participation in the Beaches Green Market. (We work to do this with all the vendors.) But before any tour began, we sat in their living room and talked for a good long while and Stella served us homemade iced tea from kumquats. Delicious and refreshing…the tea and the conversation.
Long story short…there is something beautiful about farming. It’s rough work, not for the faint of heart…but the fruits (literal and figurative) are beautiful and humbling. Please don’t forget that your food has an origin story. Choose the better story.