My great-grandfather, Joseph Rapisardo, Sr., was a farmer in Chester, New York, with my grandfather, Leo Nicotra. As the cold and nasty winters arrived every year making crop growing a challenge, they decided to move to sunny Florida in 1950.
After arriving in Florida my great grandfather and grandfather built a home in Homestead, Florida on the corner of NW 8 Street and 6 Avenue. On the adjoining property they decided to plant onions. The crops grew well in the South Florida’s sunny winters. In 1950 the area was rural and Homestead only contained 4,573 residents.
After being so cold in the winter, South Florida was a piece of heaven and that is why for more than 50 years the family has continued to live in South Florida. At first my great-grandfather and grandfather tried to settle in Naples, Florida, but did not care for the area or the soil. They both agreed to move to the small town south of Miami known today as Homestead. It was a perfect fit for raising a family and starting a farming business.
After the elder Rapisardo and Nicotra were deceased, the children and grandchildren continued the family tradition. My father, Gaetano Talarico married my mother in 1962 in New York and in 1967 he also moved to Homestead, Florida. After falling in love with the area he started F&T; Farms, which is now over 40 years old.
I, too, went to school here in the winter and also in New York for the summer to continue the planting of the onion seeds. My uncle, Joseph Nicotra, continued the tradition that his father, Leo Nicotra, and grandfather, Joseph Rapisardo, started back in 1950.
The seeds were planted in December and the plants were pulled in April. Joseph and Leo made the long trip back by truck to Chester, New York, where they were planted again only to be re-harvested in July.
In 1953 the Homestead Air Force Base opened and grew the community to 9,152 residents and became a national center of attention since it contained the closest jet fighter facility to Cuba. With the new growth in Homestead, it still remained a part of an agriculture spot as it is today.
The property to date, now on the corner of NW 8 Street and 6 Avenue, houses duplexes that are still owned by the family. I have now lived in Homestead for nearly 46 years and was so proud to be a part of the Nicotra-Rapisardo family and learning the history of the planting seasons.