Everyone In Kapolei Should Take The Kahumana Organic Farm Tour (Not At Once)
Today 10 family members and I drove out past Māʻili and up into the Lualualei Valley to visit Kahumana Organic Farm.
Rachel, one of the farm’s workers (visit her at the Ka Makana Aliʻi Mall farmers market on Wednesday nights), gave us the tour, which started with her rundown of the important community work the farm does for homeless families.
A field of greens at Kahumanu Organic Farm.
After that, we toured the farm. First, we saw the area where the farm’s workers wash the greens that they sell to high-end local restaurants like Monkeypod in Ko Olina.
Then we saw their aquaponics setup—funded by a government grant. The runoff from the area where they wash produce flows into the 6000-gallon fish tanks. The fish (tilapia) poop in the tanks, and the filtration system takes the waste into beds of taro, luau leaves, and other plants. Those plants take out the nutrients they need. Some of the other fish waste is sprayed over the soil as fertilizer.
Next we visited the farm’s chickens. They raise them for the eggs. The chickens are free-range, they were just walking around, scratching or pecking as they saw fit. At night, the chickens gather in a fenced-in area with rows of 5-gallon buckets arranged vertically along the wall. The chickens like to climb up and sleep in the buckets. Reminded me of a Tokyo capsule hotel.
Out in the fields, Rachel talked to us about the different ways that organic farmers ward off pests without the use of toxic chemicals.
They do use pesticide at Kahumana—but it’s an organic pesticide that uses chili pepper and garlic to keep insects away. Another trick: They put fragrant plants like flowers, basil, and cilantro on the borders of their fields. The idea is that insects will be distracted by the more fragrant items and leaves the greens alone.
Finally, to the greens. Greens are Kahumanu’s specialty. They sell them to more than a dozen high-end restaurants, and to the public at farmer’s markets. Why greens? For one thing they grow fast—from seed to harvest in just three weeks.
Rachel showed us how they pick the greens—from the root, not just plucking the leaves—and let us sample wasabi greens and arugula. Both were fantastic.
I happen to have done plenty of writing about organic farming, so I know a little bit about it. But most of the folks–our group was all people from Kapolei and ʻEwa Beach—hadn’t been to an organic farm before. They didn’t know that organic is more than just a label; it’s a sustainable way of growing food using human hands and smarts, and a little help from nature—rather than industrial machines and toxic chemicals. They went away agreeing that organic was worth spending extra for—not least for how good it tastes.
Kahumana offers farm tours daily at 10:30 and 3:30. Tours are $40 per person, and include a (very tasty) meal at the farm’s cafe, which I will write more about later. Groups of 10 or more (like ours) get a $35/person rate.
We did the morning tour on a weekday, and didn’t hit too much traffic on Farrington, so it took about 25 minutes to get there from Kapolei. You turn off at Mailiilii Road to get to the farm (just before Waiʻanae Comprehensive Health)—the farm is a little less than 2 miles up the valley, at which point the road is called Lualualei Homestead Road. The farm is just past the intersection Puhawai Road (they have a sign there that might make you think you’re supposed to turn left on the road, but you actually go past it and then turn into their lot.)
You can also just go and eat at the fantastic cafe…I’d imagine they’d let you wander around the grounds afterward. But the tour is definitely the way to go.
- You can volunteer at Kahumana Farm on noon on Saturdays.
- You can stay in a room on the grounds for less than $100/night.
- You can attend a Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United meeting at Kahumanu Farm, it’s the first Monday of every month at 6:30pm.