Redland Farm Life School Project Gets Additional Dollars
Homestead’s Redland Farm Life School project to turn the 1916 school into a culinary center for farmers and culinary incubator moved a step closer to reality as the Miami-Dade Commission unanimously approved $1.6 million in funds for interior renovation.
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who proposed the legislation, says the dollars will fund water, electric and plumbing needed to move forward with plans for revamping the South Dade building. “We are creating a culinary incubator for our future chefs, a production facility for our small farmers looking to diversify, and a significant cultural space for our community.”
Located across the street from Knaus Berry Farm, the 102-year-old school was once the pride of the pioneer Redland community and the second largest rural consolidated school in the country. Then in 1992, Hurricane Andrew tore through Homestead and severely damaged the property. It was slated for demolition but South Florida Pioneer Museum came to its rescue, raising enough grant money to restore the building, fix the roof and install impact-resistant windows.
New Life as an Agritourism Center
County agricultural manager and former Farm Life School student Charles LaPradd joined local farmers and agricultural leaders to come up with a plan to convert the school into an agritourism hub equipped with commercial kitchens for farmers, a community event space and a hub for agricultural innovation.
The funding announcement came as welcome news to Farm Life School alumni and supporters who have been working diligently to see the Redland Farm Life School once again become a vibrant center of the community.
“The next step is getting an architect and designer to draw up plans,” says Bob Jensen of the South Florida Pioneer Museum. “$1.6 million won’t open it, but it will do a tremendous amount.”
Another supporter is Eugene “Red” McAllister, whose wife went to the school. “When we got the news that the funding passed unanimously, that was good news.” He hopes the movement will spark interest in getting attention for private funders to get involved.
“We are so grateful to the Commission,“ says Barbara Hanck, a former student. “Everything revolved around the school. This is reinventing the purpose of the school with a culinary emphasis.”
Bringing Tourism and Jobs to South Dade
Levine Cava, who called the school a “unique and precious gem,” says this is the kind of project that “had me at ‘hello.’ The center is really about helping preserve ag for everyone – good for tourists and locals visiting South Dade, kickstarting new farm ventures, and a cultural space for our community.” The center can also be used by farmers for value-added agricultural products, giving them a commercial kitchen to preserve and process their seasonal fruits and vegetables, for example.
Jensen sees the revamped school returning to its role as a community hub, adapted for the present day. “Small growers are the future of agriculture. You can do amazing things with five acres,” he says. Other ideas include a partnering with Miami-Dade College and its culinary program; making this a destination on food tours; using the space as a venue for weddings and quinces; and creating a regular spot for food trucks.
And don’t forget the jobs this will bring. “I’m thrilled that this historic treasure will now be put to good use as a job-creation center in the heart of Redland,” says Levine Cava.