Robert Is Here, along with his family

By Carol Brzozowski

At an intersection near Everglades National Park in Florida City, Fla., a large sign atop a farm stand proclaims, “Robert Is Here.”

Fifty-two years ago, Robert Moehling, age six, was instructed by his father to sell the family farm’s cucumbers at a roadside stand. No one stopped.

His father figured drivers couldn’t see the young boy, so he painted a sign with “Robert Is Here” in large red letters. The next day, the youngster sold all of the cucumbers.

Robert’s school bus picked him up and dropped him off at the fruit stand. At age nine, he hired a neighbor to work while he was in school. At 14, he bought 10 acres and planted avocadoes. He now owns 40 acres.

Today, Robert Is Here Fruit Stand and Farm is a South Florida landmark that attracts locals and tourists from around the world. The farm ships fruit all over North America.

“We’ve always grown tropical fruit. Our place is a mecca for tomatoes, lettuce and fresh vegetables, so it’s inevitable we’re going to surprise you with something you’ve never seen before,” says Moehling.

The stand sells citrus, mangoes and produce with exotic names such as Monstera Deliciosa. Milkshakes are made to order. Also for sale: preserves featuring Moehling’s mother’s recipes, honey infused with fruit flavors, pies, flowers and firewood. There’s a petting zoo, and musicians perform on weekends.

The fruit stand was born of necessity. “It was a business the family had to have to keep their head above water,” Moehling says.

Moehling and his wife, Tracey, have four children: Brandon, 29; Victoria, 27; Robert, 26; and Savannah, 22. They started working the farm at age 11. At 14, each was given an avocado grove to tend. After college, they all returned to the farm to work.

Even the third generation is involved: Moehling’s three-year-old grandson works on the farm and punches a time card.

Moehling has pushed through challenges, such as zoning issues and crop freezes. The most devastating year was 1992. His mother was murdered by an intruder. (The murderer was never caught.) Then, a few days later, Hurricane Andrew struck.

“My house was gone, the barns were gone,” Moehling says. “The fruit stand was severely damaged. Mom was gone. The kids weren’t old enough to help me out.”

After the 1992 tragedies, Moehling planned to move to Oregon. His neighbors convinced him otherwise.He and his family “grew our roots back,” he says.

Moehling says he capitalizes on everyone’s strengths. “There are so many facets to what we do,” he says. “I can’t do any of this myself. They can’t do it without me.”

The farm’s marketing efforts have moved beyond a hand-lettered road sign. A few family members created a website, www.robertishere.com. Moehling, who doesn’t use computers, has never seen it.

Moehling knows his business is unusual: Many South Florida family farmers have sold their land for development. What’s more, all four of his children work in the business. “It’s up to them to make it go another 50 [years],” he says.

Brandon Moehling says can’t envision working for anyone else.

“I love the freedom of our own business. I love the farming,” he says. “We’re custodians for the next generation. I hope all of my sons pick it up.”

The 100-hour work weeks are difficult on the spouses and children, Brandon concedes.

“We get through it,” he says. “We’re a very strong and proud family. Very cocky sometimes. We know we [sell] a good product. We work hard and we party hard.”

Carol Brzozowski is a freelance writer based in Coral Springs, Fla.

Copyright 2012 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permssion from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

 

 

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March/April 2012

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