DeBernardo’s Rustic Farm – A Harvest Host Destination
We are travelling Northeast toward the little town of Anthony. I am very happy to see some of the “Old Florida” instead of the large gated communities and strip malls. Stopping off at “Catfish Johnny’s Restaurant located at 2396 N. Hwy. 470, Lake Panasoffkee, FL. We enjoyed a local favorite; catfish, shrimp, fried okra and hushpuppies. You can’t get more Southern than that and it was delicious. Sitting in the canopy of an ancient live oak tree, I wonder what Florida would be like without their comforting shade in the ninety degree weather today.
We approach the entrance to DeBernardo’s Rustic Farm. This is another Harvest Host stay and we couldn’t be more pleased. We are greeted by a friendly, smiling woman with flowing dark hair. Dawn DeBernardo, our host, is someone who takes much pride in her farm. At one time she kept horses but now her prized chickens are her companions on the eight acre homestead. Beaming in the Florida sun, she happily tells us how much she lovingly enjoys taking care of her land and doesn’t mind at all cutting all the grass herself. It’s meditative she says. Dawn points out to us that her brother lives next door as well as her ex-husband on the other side and many other family and close friends nearby. “Everyone knows everyone in this little town”
As we stand in the lovely green pasture we can hear a paraglider overhead. Dawn looks up and says, “Hey there, wave to John”. I look up against the cerulean blue sky to see someone flying above us in an ultralight plane. “Yes that’s probably John Travolta” He’s our neighbor. Heck of a nice guy. He used to live in Daytona Beach but hated it. Too many starstruck people bothering him. Here he can breathe and just enjoy life. Everyone in town loves him and he loves this place”. I am stunned to think that there is a famous movie star who could settle in any place in the country chose this sleepy little town tucked away in the backwoods of Florida. The longer I stay here though, I begin to understand the attraction for someone like John Travolta who has suffered losses in his family. First his son died and later while living here his wife became ill and also died. The whole town paid their respects to him at the funeral. I guess in many ways this town is exactly what he needs. I too have suffered the loss of a son and find solace in nature and the kindness of strangers along the road trip.
Yes, I knew immediately that Dawn DeBernardo was a special lady and has had a very rich and exciting life. Dawn also used to fly planes but her main job was as a driver for famous bands on the road. One of them was “The Judds” She recounts the special privilege it was to drive for this country music legendary duo and sadly recalls Wynonna and the beautiful Naomi Judd with great remorse about her untimely death. Her daughter, the actress Ashley Judd made a statement “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. I never realized how much of a battle depression was for Naomi Judd. I would like to read her book, “River of Time”.
DeBernardo’s Rustic Farm is also a venue for parties, weddings, events and receptiContact: https://venuesocalafla.com/
We are able to chose our own location under the shade of a lovely row of trees. Dawn offers us to partake of her delicious fresh spring water. “Just help yourself. The hose is right by the barn. You can even drink out of the hose like I do she laughingly says”. We eagerly accept and fill our containers. The gift of water and a safe quiet haven to sleep is worth its weight in gold. Instead of gold I offered $20 and a little sketch. I would love to stay here again and even managed to paint a little study of a delicate Mimosa tree .