Thursday, October 27, 2011
Go West! Wai‘anae, Oahu
No matter how many times you have been to Oahu, it's quite likely you have never been very far West of Honolulu, to Wai‘anae. It's not the easiest part of the island to farm because it's hot and dry, but it is where you will find some very inspiring people working hard to achieve sustainability for the land, for the food system, and for the benefit of everyone.
Eighty five percent of food in Hawaii is imported and Monsanto is now using some of the old plantations to produce genetically modified seeds. If anyone can turn the tide and bring back a more sustainable way of life, a way of life the people of Hawaii once enjoyed, it's the farmers and ranchers of Ma'o Farms, Kahumana Farms and Naked Cow Dairy. Seeing their work will give you hope for the future. They are all cultivating a deep love and respect for the land that nourishes, called 'aina in the Hawaiian language.
Ma'o Farms is a certified organic farm and education center. Ma'o produces salad greens, row crops, cooking greens, fruits and herbs. It also produces farmers! In a region plagued by homelessness, crime, obesity, drug use and unemployment they are training local young men and women to work on a farm. They are also helping to pay for their college tuition. They are farmers but see themselves as co-producers.
I walked through the fields and nibbled on the greens plucked from the ground, citrus and herbs. Everything tasted tender, sweet and vibrant. Their produce is available at farmers markets and virtually all of the best restaurants in Honolulu.
Like Ma'o Farms, Kahumana Farms also serves multiple purposes. In addition to a biodynamic farm there is a cafe, a retreat and transitional housing for families in need. They are growing all kinds of things including taro and are experimenting with herbs and plants with healing powers.
The food at the cafe is fresh from the farm, reasonably priced and delicious, served with aloha. I had some pasta with wonderful macadamia nut and basil pesto served with a piece of simply prepared fish and a green salad.
Naked Cow Dairy is run by two sisters, Sabrina and Monique, who never intended to be "cow girls" let alone cheese makers. There used to thirty dairies on the West side of the island, but when the last dairy on the island closed, they saw a need and chose to fill it. Traditionally 95% of all feed was imported, but they are working with local farmers to create silage for the cows. They have twenty Jersey, Holstein and half breeds and have been producing butter for two years, three batches per day. Whole Foods sells their butter, their cheese and yogurt goes to chefs and farmers markets.
The butter is 45-52% butterfat and very similar to European butter. It is some of the sweetest butter I ever tasted, amazingly fresh and clean tasting. Sabrina has a culinary background and has made some uniquely flavored butters including an outstanding toasted coconut version. The sisters are hoping to make feta, cream cheese, havarti maybe cheddar. But mainly, like their farmer neighbors, they are hoping to make a difference.
My thanks to the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau for hosting me on this visit