You see them all along the highways of the Sunshine State: huge, splintering plywood signs reading “Indian River Citrus, Pecan Rolls, Jellies, Honey, and Preserves—Next Exit!” Pull over and you’ll find one of Florida’s citrus farm stands. Some, like the Orange Ring in Haines City, have been in business for a century and ship their fruit all over the country. Others are more ramshackle operations attached to gas stations and offering little more than bagged-up Sunkist oranges, refrigerator magnets, and a selection of seashell wind chimes. No matter—I always make a point of stopping. Maybe it’s out of nostalgia for my great-aunt Helen who used to send boxes of Florida citrus to us in Massachusetts when I was a kid. Or maybe it’s for the simple pleasure of peeling open a cool, juicy Honeybell orange and devouring it while leaning against my car in a sun-baked parking lot. Either way, there’s a charm to these operations, one that harks back to a time— long before golf courses and condos invaded this place—when Florida remained America’s own little tropical paradise.
Amy Traverso is senior lifestyle editor at Yankee Magazine.