RUSKIN: True Ruskin Originals
We live in an amazing location. What’s most wonderful is that despite our rapid growth, we still find originals – those folks who’ve lived in this area forever and make up a large part of the fabric of our home. Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious produce and strawberry stand, in Ruskin, is just one of these originals. I remember discovering the Berrylicious strawberry milkshakes (maybe the best in the world) 15 years ago when my husband and I moved to Apollo Beach. As it turns out, the Morgans have been farming and operating a produce stand in Ruskin far longer than 15 years.
Brother and sister, Cathy and Mike Morgan, took over running the farm and produce stand from their parents, who were farmers just like their parents and grandparents. Morgan’s Farm Market was established in 1952.
A Long Line of Ruskin Farmers
“My grandpa was farming strawberries since before 1945,” Mike Morgan says. “My family has lived here forever. Kathy, Dickie and I went to elementary school in Ruskin. Mom and Dad went to school in Wimauma,” Mike adds.
The Morgan grandparents began farming in Ruskin in the 1940’s. By 1952 their son, Vernon Morgan, only a teen, began farming, too. Vernon eventually met and married Betty, another original Ruskinite, from the Castillo family. Betty’s family was life-long mullet fishermen (and ladies).
Farming: The Morgans Start Young
Fast forward a bit. Vernon and Betty have three children: Kathy, Dickie and Mike. As children the three Morgan siblings got the taste of operating a farm stand at an early age.
“We’ve always sold produce,” Kathy says. “We’d sell strawberries from our front yard [now SR 674] and mom and dad would drive around selling their fresh produce,” she adds.
By 1976 the three siblings were helping their parents farm the property on the west side of US 41 just south of Gulf City Blvd., where the Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious produce and strawberry stand now live.
Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious Produce and Strawberry Concession
In 1982-83 Kathy Morgan opened the Morgan Farm Market Stand and Berrylicious concession stand in front of the family farm. In 1997, when Kathy took a job with the Department of Agriculture, Mike and Dickie began helping to run the farm market.
Not Just Strawberries
Today, Morgan’s Farm Market grows far more than just strawberries. Top crops include peppers, 7 varieties of lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, beans, spinach, eggplant, beets, tomatoes, and okra. All for sale at the produce stand.
Each year Kathy also plants rows of flowers. Cut flowers are available to buy late spring through the summer.
Award-winning Fresh Seafood
Mike, who manages the farm and produce stand on a day-to-day basis, also offers fresh seafood. From his own award-winning smoked mullet to live blue crab, grouper, red snapper, clams and shrimp, all local, you can find fresh seafood just about every day. You can also call Mike to place an order.
Lots of people ask what Mike uses on his smoked mullet. They want to know his secret but, according to Mike, there isn’t one.
“It’s no secret,” Mike says. “I come from 100 years of mullet fishermen. I just know mullet.”
Despite having no secret ingredients, Mike’s smoked mullet does draw hoards of regular customers and even enticed an employee. Inga, who’s from Lithuania and has worked on the Morgan Farm for several years, was visiting the U.S. “I simply stopped to buy mullet. I’ve been working here ever since,” she says.
Granny Morgan’s Strawberry Milkshake Recipe
Kathy Morgan runs the Berrylicious Wagon serving incredible strawberry milkshakes and shortcakes. The milkshakes, perhaps the best in the world (which I may have mentioned earlier) are really fantastic.
“The strawberry milkshakes are Granny Morgan’s secret recipe,” Kathy says. “It’s what makes the strawberry milkshake so amazing. We hand make our whipped cream, too.”
If you prefer strawberry shortcake, well, they’re out of this world, too. A local woman hand bakes the shortcakes, which are a combination of pound cake and short cake.
The baker also makes chocolate shortcakes (Chocolate strawberry shortcakes are only available at Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious). The chocolate shortcakes are part brownie, part special shortcake, ice cream, strawberries and hand-made whipped cream. No words to describe how amazing these are.
Annual Sandwich Extravaganza
Beginning January 1, 2017 Kathy will add the Cubalicious Wagon, offering authentic Cuban sandwiches as well as pulled pork and other sandwich varieties. “We offer sandwiches every year,” Kathy says. “Daddy used to say January 10 was the magic date and he was right,” Kathy says of when they begin to get busy with snowbird and vacationers.
A Family Affair and The Family Is Growing
Mike, Kathy and Dickie are the first to tell you they could not run the farm or produce and strawberry stands without help, from Mike’s daughters and employees who just tend to become family.
Mike’s daughters, Aimee and Willow, both help with the farm and produce stand. Aimee has created the fun signs you’ll see hanging around the produce stand and she manages the Facebook page with her Aunt Kathy.
Kelly Butler, part of the Morgan clan for decades, manages the Berrylicious and Cubalicious concession wagons for Kathy.
A bit newer to the Morgan family are Louis and Inga.
Louis is from Holland. He settled in this area with his wife who is from Ruskin. He simply stopped by the Morgan Farm three years ago looking for work…and stayed. Today, Louis helps with all aspects of the farm and has definitely mastered the art of strawberry milkshake making.
Inga (the one lured by Mike’s award-winning mullet) helps run the produce stand and works on the farm, too. “My grandparents were farmers in Lithuania,” she says.
It’s All about The Customers
Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious stand attracts regulars from all over. It’s not uncommon for people to come up from Sarasota and Bradenton when they’re here for the season.
“We love when the snowbirds come back in town,” Mike says, “and we’d love for more year-round locals to come, too.”
Morgan’s Farm Market Family
Have you been to Morgan’s Farm Market and Berrylicious Concession in Ruskin? Do you agree, hands down, that their strawberry milkshakes are the best? And, that Mike’s award-winning smoked mullet is the bomb? Comment below.
2000 Morgan Farm Road, Ruskin, Florida
Contact and to order seafood: (813) 541-4541 (Mike Morgan)
Hours: Daily 9-6PM
Closed July and August