How A Miami Farm Became A Magic City Oasis

Oct 18, 2013

One of six cottages at the Magic City Farm.
Credit Julia Duba

The farm is hidden behind tall trees and a short wall. But when you walk closer, you can start to see the main house painted blue and coral-pink.

There are six small cottages on one side of the house, and sitting right over Miami’s Little River, is a two-story boathouse from the early 1900s.

Tamara Hendershot steps outside the main house at the Magic City Farm.
Credit Julia Duba

“(When) you’re in here, you’re not in Miami. (But) you can walk two feet out the door and you’re in Miami. What could be better?” said Tamara Hendershot, owner of the Magic City Farm.

Tamara came to Miami from New York in the mid eighties. She moved here for a job, but was laid off a few months later. So she started buying and selling houses -- living in each of them for a few years then moving on.

After her fifth house, she stumbled upon a property she just couldn’t leave. She tore down the walls, added porches and repainted everything. She grew exotic flowers and planted fruit trees. Lots of fruit trees: avocados, sour oranges, mango, jack fruit, guava -- the list goes on.

Then about six years ago, Tamara heard that the Magic City Trailer Park in Little Haiti was selling some old cottages for nine bucks each.

Photographers from Germany, France and England use the cottages as backdrops for fashion photo-shoots and commercials.
Credit Julia Duba

“I don’t even remember if I paid him or not,” she said jokingly.

Tamara bought six cottages and named her farm Magic City Farm after the trailer park. Each cottage has its own old-Florida style, which Tamara designed herself.

She buys things from thrift stores, decorates with recycled materials, and gladly accepts hand-me-downs.

“It’s ‘what’s available’ style. It’s ‘what’s easily available’ style. It’s just mushed together in a peculiar way,” Tamara said.

Mr. Wrinkles, a 400-pound pot belly pig takes a nap under the shade.
Credit Julia Duba

She then decided she could host photo shoots at the farm. So when autumn comes around, she allows photographers from Germany, France and England to shoot for fashion magazines and commercials.

Actor Morgan Freedman did a shoot there once. As did musician Lenny Kravitz. “Lenny Kravitz -- he was great,” Tamara recalled. “He took an outdoor shower.”

Besides the cottages, the fruit trees and exotic flowers, Tamara has animals. They lounge around the farm wherever they find a comfy spot. You might find chickens laying eggs in between some pillows in a cottage or in the main house. You may bump into Mr. Wrinkles, a 400-pound pot-belly pig taking a nap somewhere in the shade.

And you’ll definitely be greeted by one of the six or seven rescue dogs running around the farm.

Over the years, the farm has become a sort of local attraction. Kids visit on field trips, and it’s a stop on the Weird Miami Bus Tour.

Muriel Olivares owns an urban garden a block away from the Magic City Farm. She and baby Bimini stayed at the farm this summer for a mini vacation.
Credit Julia Duba

When Muriel Olivares discovered the farm through the tour about six years ago, she wondered how she had never seen or heard of it before.

Now, Muriel lives a block away, where she runs a community supported agriculture farm. She, her boyfriend and their 8-month-old daughter Bimini recently had a “stay-cation” at the farm for about three months -- for a change of pace.

“I mean it’s kind of ridiculous because it’s a block away but it’s on the river,” said Olivares. “It makes you feel like you’re somewhere else.”

Tamara’s selling the farm because she says it’s just gotten to be too much work. “And I’ll be crying all the time. I don’t know what I’ll be doing,” said Tamara. “But it makes sense to move on. This has been a dream. So this one’s kind of the hardest.”

Tamara said whoever takes over the farm has opportunities to make it into anything they want: an artist colony, a writers’ retreat, or a children’s after-school program.

As for her own future after the farm she said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up.”