Think of them as solar smoothies.
Nestled in the booming parts of West Kendall, between Miami Executive Airport and numerous home construction sites, is Granddaddy’s Farm Fresh Market — a smoothie stand and produce market that now runs solely on solar and wind power.
It’s the first agricultural business in Miami-Dade County to depend completely on alternative energy sources, officials say. The $15,000 project made its debut in February with 18 solar panels lining the facility’s picnic shelter. At night, a windmill serves as a backup power source.
“At first, we were forced to run on generators because we don’t get electrical service out here,” said Troy Ledford, the owner. “It was at that point that I decided solar panels would be the best way to go. Not only would we be organic with our produce, but also organic with what powers this place.”
Granddaddy’s is not extravagant, but humble. On its 10 acres sits a white trailer, similar to an oversized food truck, serving up milkshakes and smoothies, freshly-baked banana bread, and that week’s seasonal treats, like strawberries picked straight from the field and dipped in chocolate.
The open-air market also lets customers stroll across strawberry fields and pick their own fruit, onions, sunflowers or tomatoes.
The solar panels run the kitchen’s equipment, from the blender to the cash register to the lighting, and provides a charging station for farm equipment.
Charles LaPradd, Miami-Dade County’s agriculture manager, said the farm isn’t the first to use solar energy, but it is the first to fully operate on it.
“It is very encouraging to see innovative farm operations such as Granddaddy’s establish in Miami-Dade. The movement toward sustainable energy practices by this farmer is very positive,” LaPradd said, noting that some South Dade farms use solar energy to power smaller operations like irrigation pumps, electric gates and perimeter security systems.
Laura Reynolds, former director of Tropical Audubon and now a consultant for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Ledford’s move is an important one, one that more farmers should consider.
“This makes us more resilient as a community,” she said. “Every business and every homeowner should be looking into this. People are finally figuring out that this is cheaper and better. The investment could pay itself off in as little as a year and a half to two years.”
An average household spends about 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour on regular electricity, according to a report by James Fenton of the Florida Solar Energy Center. However, when a solar system is installed, the costs dips to about 4 cents a kilowatt hour.
Some customers say that although the market is fairly new, they already feel at home.
“This farm makes me think of my own granddaddy — just more fun, much healthier and more sustainable,” said Alex Gonzalez, 23, of Kendall. In his hand was a mango milkshake. “But don’t tell my grandpa I said that.”
Part of the farm’s charm is a maze shaped like a pirate ship and created from sunn hemp — a tall, yellow flowering plant that can resemble a corn field.
The attraction lets people learn about the real-life pirates that sailed the high seas while they try to find a way out of the maze. Visitors wear special goggles that help them find clues in the maze. On average, it takes someone about 90 minutes to conquer it.
Ledford says it is in an obscure location on a road that still gets little traffic, although homes are in the works around it.
After being in the agriculture business for 27 years and managing 28 parcels of crops across Miami-Dade, Ledford decided to take a different tack. Last year, he ended his leases on all the other properties and leased one new piece of farm land, 10 acres off Southwest 127th Street and 157th Avenue, an area currently under development.
This time, he added a market to his fields.
“Right now, all you see is construction around, and it could be discouraging,” he said. “But I’m not worrying. Soon, as people start moving in, this place will feel like their own granddaddy’s, a place where they can come, relax and of course have something to eat.”
IF YOU GO
Hours: Open 7 days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Address: 12790 SW 157th Ave, Miami