Being on a farm automatically takes me back to being a little girl growing up in North Carolina. My grandparents had a big farm and every summer, I would go spend two weeks with them.
It was an incredible, and sometimes terrifying, experience to help feed animals that hours later would be on our dining room table, but I was most fascinated by the various crops they grew on that massive acreage. I’d go with my grandmother out into the fields and we’d pick corn, green beans, tomatoes and whatever else we needed for the day. My favorite stops were always at her watermelon patch, where she would pull out her large knife and cut into the warm fruit, and I would sit right there on the ground happily eating it, with the sweet pink juice running down my chin.
That’s a feeling a lot of the younger generation of children haven’t experienced. Many of them have no idea where the produce they eat comes from, other than Publix.
One of the reasons why the McMahon family has opened up their Fort Myers working farm to the public is to help educate young people about the origins of their food. Southern Fresh Farms is owned by Robert and Shelly McMahon, and they are fourth generation farmers.
Robert said that they began to hold tours and events at their farm for the public about six years ago.
“My family has lived on this property for more than 40 years,” he said. “Kids today seem so far removed from agricultural things, and we just want people to know where their food comes from.”
Southern Fresh is a farmer’s market that’s also a working farm, so when I went there, I took a walking tour around the property. On the weekends, you can take a hayride around.
There are planter boxes in the front that people can rent and grow their own plants. And you can see in action many of the crops that the McMahons are growing, both hydroponically, in vertical towers and on the ground.
Toward the back of the property is where they keep the farm animals, all of which are rescues. There are two cows (Henry and Moofasa), four goats (Pearl, Aunt Pat, Sofia and Penny), a sheep (Lulu), a donkey (Blue Angel, aka “Murphy”) and “too many chickens to name.” Children can feed the animals and can donate to help with their care. There’s also a playground in the middle of the farm.
Underneath the large shelter, there is the farmer’s market, a concession stand and something you don’t usually see on a farm — a bar, where they sell Crazy Dingo Brewing creations. Crazy Dingo and Southern Fresh Farms have a little partnership going where the farm grows hops and other ingredients for the craft brews, and on Fridays and Saturdays, the bar opens up for a literal beer garden.
I’m sure that aspect of a farm is not something my grandparents anticipated all those years ago, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. After all, I like knowing where my beer comes from, too.