John and I like to find different kinds of things to see and do on our journey through Florida. Florida has a lot to offer; of course, it is known for its pristine beaches and theme parks, but John and I want to explore past the well-known and journey into the hidden gems and even sometimes the quirky.
Besides the beaches and theme parks, Florida is also known for its citrus industry; however, Florida’s citrus industry has been in a steady decline for the past 22 years.
Florida’s citrus farmers have had to find other ways to turn a profit, and Mixon Farms is no different. In the 1970s, the farm stretched out over 350 acres; however, land had to be sold to provide an additional income source due to difficult times. Mixon Fruit Farms, a farm that has been a family-owned and operated grove and packing plant in Bradenton, Florida for over 76 years, now stands at only 50 acres.
Back in 1939, Willie and Rosa Mixon started the grove with 20 acres and over time the successful farm grew to over 350 acres.
In 2006 Willie’s grandson, Dean, assumed the family business. Times were tough in 2006; disease threatened the crops, and the economy was also suffering.
Nearby farms were closing, but Dean and his wife, Janet, were determined to save the family legacy. They got creative and started the tram farm tour, where visitors can get views of the grove, hear the farm’s history, check out some antique equipment, and as an added bonus, see and learn about rescued and rehabilitated animals.
Wildlife Inc., a non for profit animal rescue organization, operates a small outpost on a portion of the land at Mixon Fruit Farms, giving tram riders a wonderful opportunity to learn some facts about Florida birds reptiles. Mixon Farms shares this piece of land amongst the citrus trees to provide needed land and shelter for orphaned and injured Birds, Animals, and Reptiles.
I found it interesting that Mixon Fruit Farms was one of the first in the US to harvest bamboo commercially. Bamboo is a super nutritious food and has many health benefits. It has also become a trendy cuisine item, as bamboo shoots, which had been peeled, steamed and shredded, are now being used as ingredients in chicken curry, spinach dip and chicken stir fry.
John and I spent an enjoyable 2 and a half hours on the farm. We took the tour, which was worth the $10 just to see John hold an alligator. I wish we would have taken my grandson; he would have gotten a real kick out of the animals. The cost for children ages 3 -12 is $5.00.
Speaking of children. There is a playground area for the youngsters open Thursday through Saturday, along with a cute little butterfly maze to enjoy.
One of the things I got a real kick out of was feeding the Koi Fish. Mixon Farms has one of the largest Koi Fish collections in the State of Florida. The cost of the food was $1.50 per bag.
My Final Thoughts
John and I had a nice lunch in their Groveside Cafe, enjoyed some delicious orange swirl ice cream at their ice cream shop, and bought some homemade fudge to take home from their famous fudge shop. Other items available in the gift shop are Mixon Wines, Fruit Shipping, jams, jellies, and assorted gifts. Oh, and of course, we can’t forget the fresh-squeezed orange juice. John and I had an enjoyable time, but the tram tour might not be for everyone. It was worth the $10 for us to see the animals, and the animal part of the tour would be fun for kids. We absolutely enjoyed the hospitality of the staff, the cafe food, and the delicious ice cream. The gift shop has a wonderful assortment of citrus, wine, fudge, and beautiful gift items. I actually think it is a great place to Christmas shop, especially if you have friends and family up north that might enjoy some delicious Florida citrus. Shipping is done right in the shop from the citrus shipping counter.
The wine must be something special because John and I observed many people purchasing multiple bottles of it.
If you are in the area, it is an inexpensive family outing that offers a little something different than the usual. It is also always great to support Florida farmers and citrus growers.
Mixon Fruit Farm is located at 2525 27th St East in Bradenton, FL. They host multiple events throughout the year. Click here for their events calendar.
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Categories: West Centeral