My name is Lis Delvalle. Miami is my home and refuge – literally. I met Miami at 5 years old, when my family and I emigrated from Cuba. I’ve been in love with Miami ever since I could remember. The United States meant the land of freedom and opportunity, but this city was more than that. It is the place that allowed me to be an American, without giving up any of the Cuban in me. Miami is a fusion of diverse cultures and people and offers all kinds of lifestyles. Homestead offers the rural lifestyle with spacious property and fresh air.
Homestead is a city located in South Miami-Dade County in the state of Florida, laying between Biscayne National Park to the east and Everglades National Park to the west. It is known for being a major agricultural area near the popular city of Miami and a gateway to the Florida Keys. Homestead has an elevation of about 7 feet and is often prone to flooding and damage from hurricanes. In Homestead, you can expect acres of open land and low-lying buildings. Some areas, such as downtown Homestead, are visibly old and others, such as the Redland residential area, can be impressive with an abundance of land and lavish homes. From my personal experience, the most valuable aspect of Homestead is all of the farms and local eateries along Krome Avenue.
The region of Homestead was inhabited by the Tequesta and Calusa Indians before their extinction. The land then belonged to the government, until it was opened for homesteading in the late 1890’s. By settlers living a life through self-sufficiency, Homestead became well known for its farming and agriculture. In 1904, the City of Homestead flourished as Henry Flagler decided to expand the railroad from Miami to Key West. This railroad allowed homestead residents or ‘homesteaders’ to transport and sell the vegetables and fruits they grew on the land. Homestead became a shipping center for fresh produce and the Keys gateway. It only had one path to get in or out called the ‘Homesteaders Trail’ which is similar to today’s Krome Avenue. Homestead was further expanded when the Homestead Air Base was built. After Hurricane Andrew, the base was so damaged that it was deemed inactive. It was later restored and became the Air Force Reserve Facility Homestead has today. The Homestead we have today is still known for its prominent agricultural land and as a gateway to the Keys, but now it is also home to many Central American immigrants looking for a better life in the United States.
Homestead, like much of Miami, has a heavy immigrant population. According to the Census Bureau, 70,477 people reside in Homestead. An estimated 66% of the population is Hispanic, 20% is African American, and 12% is white alone. The genders female and male are distributed evenly. The median household income is $43,568 and about 25% live in poverty.
Interview with a Homestead resident, Cori
Cori has resided in Homestead for about three years; she is an FIU student. Her family owns the multifaceted and beautiful event venue, Mon Petit Garden, located in Homestead, FL. The following is our dialogue on the City of Homestead.
Lis: Why did you or your parents choose to live in Homestead?
Cori: My parents wanted to start a event venue business and they got a good deal for the land.
Lis: What’s your favorite part about the city?
Cori: Driving by and seeing all the agriculture, as well as people driving in ATVs everywhere and the horses.
Lis: What’s your least favorite aspect?
Cori: All of the snakes and spiders, how far away Homestead is. It’s isolated and sometimes there’s not much to do.
Lis: What would you recommend a tourist or visitor to visit in Homestead?
Cori: Monkey Jungle, a zoo, get some cinnamon rolls and drive by some farms.
Homestead has public Miami-Dade County transit buses and a Homestead trolley that serve as transportation. The trolley runs from Monday through Friday, 6 am – 6 pm and Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 2 pm. The trolley has a limited route within Homestead, and public buses can take a long time. Metro transit is extremely inconvenient for Homestead residents, since the closest metro station is Dadeland South, which is about 20 miles away. The median commute time to work is 38.7 minutes. This is indicative that Homestead is a Miami suburb which means work opportunities are often outside of Homestead. According to the U.S. Census bureau the median commute time to work for a Homestead resident is 38.7 minutes. This is indicative that Homestead is a Miami suburb which means work opportunities are often outside of Homestead. Due to a lack of efficient public transportation and job opportunities outside of the Homestead area, most residents commute in their personal cars.
For tourists and visitors, the city offers a free guided trolley ride from Historic Downtown Homestead every weekend from January 4 to April 12, 2020. The trolley can be taken from Losner Park located at 104 N. Krome Ave., Homestead, FL 33030. This ride can take you to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park; the parks have agreed to grant free admission to National Parks Trolley riders.
The National Parks are currently closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic, beginning March 24, 2020 the trolley is offering free rides to senior residents from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to guarantee them priority access at their neighborhood Publix.
Everglades National Park
South Florida is well known for the Everglades National Park. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is one place to see the Everglades in Homestead. This center is open 365 days a year from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except in the case of a pandemic.) At the Everglades, you can expect a lot of heat and naturally grown mangrove areas. There are plenty of animals like alligators, crocodiles, egrets, snakes, spiders, white-tailed deer, bobcats and many more. All the animals residing in the Everglades National Park are protected by federal law. It is imperative that visitors respect the animals in their natural habitat. Give the wildlife space, respect nesting grounds, do not feed the animals, and keep your own pets at home as they are not allowed on most trails. Please remember that in the Everglades we are merely guests, some would even consider us the invasive species among the animals.
Biscayne National Park
One of the big issues with Biscayne National Park is the access to the water. Homestead has access to the water through the Homestead Bayfront Park located at 9698 SW 328 Street, Homestead, FL 33033 operating from sunrise to sunset. At the park, you can find La Playa Grill Seafood Bar and an atoll pool and beach. The entrance fee is five dollars on weekdays and seven dollars on weekends. This can be a great place to visit a small beach, or picnic by the water.
Homestead has many locally owned businesses. As you stroll through Krome Avenue this will be evident. There is a food truck with a ‘PIZZA CUBANA’ sign and many places that are branded with local last names. Homestead has a variety of marketplaces, small cafes, and farms to shop in. These gems offer organic, locally grown produce. The smoothies and shakes are some of the best I’ve had. Aside from selling produce and food, a lot of these places have gotten creative. They have pony rides, bounce houses, and petting zoos for the family to enjoy.
Known for their mouth-watering cinammon rolls, this family owned farm has become a popular spot for visitors. Stay up to date on their Instagram to avoid the 2- and 3-hour lines of cinnamon roll fanatics during peak season. Knaus Berry Farm is open every year in November through mid-April. Although they are well known for their cinammon rolls, Knausberry Farm also offers a variety of honey, jams, and u-pick strawberries and tomatoes on site, when available.
Robert is Here Fruit Stand and Farm
Robert is Here started out from being a roadside fruit stand and has gained so much popularity, it is now a fruit and food establishment with a petting zoo. It is family-owned and sells local fruits and veggies, as well as smoothies and shakes made from the local produce. Robert is Here is a popular stop for visitors on their way to the Keys.
Note: The establishments mentioned are well-known local Homestead eateries, but it is recommended to just drive through Krome Avenue and stop wherever you please. There are plenty of local businesses right off Krome Avenue that are welcoming to visitors and each have something unique to offer.
Old Town Hall Museum
This museum building has a long history. Built in 1917, this was the original Town Hall of Homestead. The building has housed firetrucks and held inmates in jail cells. It has served as a Senior Citizens Center and a State of Florida Department of Corrections Parole office. In 1980, the building was threatened to be demolished in order to create more parking space for the expanding city. Ruth Campbell, who was a city councilperson and vice-mayor, fought tirelessly to prohibit the demolition and instead restore the building as a museum. In 1994, the Old Town Hall Museum was founded by Ruth and today holds many historical artifacts and photographs of early life in Homestead.
Even Homestead’s Coral Castle Museum was built by a hard-working foreigner! Edward Leedskalnin, born in Latvia, stood just over 5 feet and weighed about 100 pounds when he single-handedly built the Coral Castle using only hand tools. Ed claimed that he was able to construct this on his own because he knew the secret of the pyramids, but no one really knows how he was able to accomplish this construction. He was thought to build this monument, where everything is made of coral rock, after a life-long heartbreak. As the story goes, his love, Agnes, cancelled their wedding the day before the ceremony and from then on Ed set out to build her a monument in case she ever returned. Back when Ed would run the museum himself, you could expect a 10 cents admissions charge. With today’s inflation the cost of admission is 18 dollars for adults and eight dollars for children.
The Florida Pioneer Museum was founded in 1962 thanks to a donation of Indian artifacts by Dr. Herbert S. Zim. The museum was founded through pro-bono attorney Irving Peskoe, who ended up paying most of the museum’s incorporation fee since they had few donations. It is open and free to the public from November through April. The museum shows many local historical artifacts and has a depot that is separated from the Museum which can be rented out for events.
More Sights to See
Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery
Homestead’s winery serves tropical tastings of a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as food. This is a classy setting recommended for adult birthdays or simply to get a sample of many different wines and beers.
Homestead Miami Speedway
The Homestead Speedway is great for car enthusiasts. The speedway is open to the public for Fast-Lane Fridays where anyone 18 and older with a valid license can race each other in their own street-legal cars. Aside from this opportunity, the speedway also hosts many racing events such as the Homestead-Miami Speedway Cup Series Race.
Cori, the interviewed Homestead resident, recommended Monkey Jungle, a 30-acre wildlife park that houses over 300 primates. The park is meant to get as close as possible to a monkey’s natural habitat. They offer encounters and interactions with the animals but focus on promoting the animal’s freedom with their slogan “where humans are caged and monkeys run wild.”
Fruit & Spice Park
Fruit and Spice Park is a 37-acre botanical garden featuring fruits and vegetables. The garden offers many educational opportunities with guided tours that anyone can enjoy. This park is recommended for photographers who are interested in taking photos of the garden as they stroll through.
Safari Edventure is one of my personal favorites to visit. They are an animal sanctuary where you can get up close and personal with wolves! They take in rescues and house them until they pass away. Their pricing is fair ($18 for adults, $15 for children) compared to their infamous competitor zoological wildlife foundation, who will upcharge 1000 dollars for tiger cub encounters. Safari Edventure does not offer cub encounters because they do not breed cubs. Their animals vary as it depends on the rescues they receive, but at my visit they had a crocodile, a kangaroo, a sloth, piglets, wolves and many other small animals.
Places of Worship
According to Best Places, the predominant religion in Homestead is Catholicism. Homestead has many different churches that its residents can attend; Yelp shows a selection of more than 30 churches. Aside from being pillars of faith, these churches help the community with donations and services that many low-income families need. Also, as many Homestead residents are immigrants, their religion may help them fit in and find comfort in a new place. Church can be the haven for many residents where they can meet people with similar stories or reconnect with their faith after their journey to the United States.
Homestead is not a considerably safe city. According to Neighborhood Scout, 1 in 85 people in Homestead are expected to be victims of violent crime. Florida city is adjacent to Homestead and known to be a dangerous neighborhood. Naranja and Princeton, both areas within Homestead, also have increased crime rates. Tourist sites and landmarks are usually safe to visit, but if you’re one who likes to roam, I suggest staying on Krome Avenue in the Redland area. This is the north-west section of Homestead and is known to be safe.
Immigrants make up a significant section of the Homestead population. A lot of the work that the average American would reject, an immigrant would accept, unfortunately, even for half of the pay. A lot of the farm and local business in Homestead are a product of arduous work from immigrants. Looking for a new opportunity, and a better future for their children, many immigrants tend to fields, cook and serve food, and sell tirelessly to make a profit. It is inspiring to hear their stories and imperative to support the local farms, food trucks, and businesses in the area.
“Best 30 Churches in Homestead, FL with Reviews.” Best 30 Churches in Homestead, FL with Reviews – Yellowpages.com, http://www.yellowpages.com/homestead-fl/churches.
“Coral Castle Museum.” Coral Castle Museum, coralcastle.com/.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Homestead.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Sept. 2011, http://www.britannica.com/place/Homestead-Florida.
“Everglades National Park (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm.
Florida Pioneer Museum, floridapioneermuseum.org/about/.
Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum, townhallmuseum.org/.
“Homestead, FL – Official Website: Official Website.” Homestead, FL – Official Website | Official Website, http://www.cityofhomestead.com/.
Homestead, Florida Religion, http://www.bestplaces.net/religion/city/florida/homestead.
Knaus Berry Farm – Homestead Bakery & U-Pick Strawberries, http://www.knausberryfarm.com/index.html.
Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Homestead Bayfront Park.” Miami, http://www.miamidade.gov/parks/homestead-bayfront.asp.
Tavss, Jeff. “3 South Florida Cities Ranked among Most Dangerous in U.S.” WPLG, WPLG Local 10, 27 Feb. 2018, http://www.local10.com/news/2018/03/02/3-south-florida-cities-ranked-among-most-dangerous-in-us/.
“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Homestead City, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/homesteadcityflorida#.