Running diverse and regenerative farms takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but local farmers and ranchers find contributing to Maui’s future sustainable food systems and building a healthy, collaborative community makes any challenge worthwhile.
During the Hawaii Farmers Union annual convention earlier this month, farmers shared their typical working day on the land and their successes with growing organic produce. Some also shared their perspective on financial constraints, pest management and drought management, as well as the importance of maintaining good relationships with the community and local businesses to monitor supply and supply. request.
âThe community aspect is huge. It is a deep reservoir not only of physical health, but there is camaraderie, there is a feeling of working together â, said Mark Damon, who, along with his wife Leah, has operated Maui Bees Inc. as a family business in Kula for the past decade, after their passion for bees and organic food was a hit with the local community. “For me, when I’m exhausted and I go down the staff hall and they all laugh and have fun, for me, it lifts my spirits.”
Using regenerative farming techniques, the Damons produce fresh garden produce, organically fed pasture eggs, honey, potted produce and other produce, all available at their farm stall and cafe. de Kula which was created two years ago.
Mark Damon said via Zoom that they opened the commercial kitchen, which offers organic entrees and soups made with farm-grown produce, the week the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
âIt was a monumental effort, believe me. It was really difficult “, he said. âIt was amazing because the community loved it. They didn’t have to go to the grocery store. They could come and get their things here.
Due to demand, Maui Bees hired three employees in the first year of the pandemic, so “it was a success in this regard”, Damon said.
Yet agriculture and the contribution to sustainable food systems are “On the quality of life”, not about the money, he added.
âOften the question of: what is it for? Is it really worth all that hard work? ” will come “, Lapa’au Farm owner Michael Marchand said with a laugh. “It’s thinking about the future and being in this place of service and wanting to live a life that feels more free, even though there are a ton of obligations and responsibilities.”
The 2 acre land at Olinda grows a selection of root vegetables, leafy greens and mushrooms.
Although the farm “got hammered this year with deer” eating and trampling lots of crops – some of the many hardships farmers have to endure – Marchand said he has since invested in black polypropylene fencing that has “does wonders”.
And so, its mission to create a resilient and vital agricultural system continues.
Focusing on “Body and ground”, Marchand does not use conventional farming techniques, such as pesticides, but instead focuses on biodiversity and seasonal crops. It values ââbuilding organic matter in the soil, which leads to better quality vegetables, he said.
La Ferme Lapa’au also collaborates with local restaurants, distributors, grocery stores and other farms.
âI wanted to grow food for the community, I wanted to eat the healthiest foods for myselfâ, said Marchand. “For my children, I wanted to be able to leave something precious for them in the future and for them to take good care of the earth, I felt like this was my mission here.”
With the goal of creating a regenerative farming community that integrates family, cultivation, forestry and ranching, the third-generation Frost family worked for a decade to restore and transform 258 acres in Makawao into the Hokunui Maui farm.
Half of the land was in the ground when they acquired the property in 2012 and the entire land was full of grazing cattle.
“Our project does not only concern agriculture” said Karin Frost. âIt’s about building a community, living on a farm. “
Coping with recent droughts and managing grazing animals, the family slowly revitalized the soil and land, bringing back natural water sources for farming, planting native trees and plants, and growing organic produce for consumers. .
As part of their multi-part goal, Karin and Erik Frost said they eventually hope to build up to 42 eco-friendly homes and work homes that will run on a water well and a solar micro-grid for electricity. .
“The important part to understand about our ambitions is to treat this land mass in a holistic way”, Erik said. âOur ambition is to underline the link between the aena, the earth and the humans who live there. “
In Hokunui’s forestry and ranching programs, they teach regenerative and Hawaiian agricultural practices that show next generations how to restore natural habitat, revive the soil, and provide food for the community.
“Knowledge transfer is really important” said forestry director Koa Hewahewa.
Hawaii Farmers Union President Vincent Mina, who helped organize and arbitrate the virtual convention last week, said that one thing he noticed throughout the process of touring the farms was “How passionate everyone is” on regenerative agricultural practices and education.
Mina and his wife Irene own and operate Kahanu Aina Greens in Wailuku, which produces 300 pounds of microgreens per week and markets to local businesses. The farm provides them with enough livelihood to earn a living.
“It is really important to raise local awareness of the importance of local agriculture”, he said.
* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]