Want to Volunteer on an Organic Farm in Hawaii?

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Maui, United States

Heading out to Kupa’a Organic Farm on the north side of Maui I got lost twice but the landscape is so beautiful I don’t even care. It’s on the slopes of Haleakala and it’s not the Maui you would expect. Higher in elevation it is lush farm country without a snorkel or speedo to be seen.

And while I am fascinated with the farming and local food issues in Maui, I wasn’t able to visit a farm last year so I was so happy to head out to Kupa’a Farm my first day. Even better, Gerry and Janet, who inherited the farm are from Canada and they have turned it into something amazing.

Once a monocrop of corn, there were soil issues and it was expensive to produce the corn. Neither Gerry nor Janet were farmers in Canada but they were both gardeners and Gerry worked in geology so when they took over the farm ten years ago they decided they needed to re-evaluate the land and begin an organic farm.

Today, when you ask Gerry what the farm specializes in he says building great soil. Many of the plants there are not for eating but increasing the diversity. They rarely have any issues with pests and Gerry attributes it to understand seasonality, when plants are grown at the proper time (rather than forcing them to be available year round) they are happy plants and have less issues.

Want to learn organic farming? Volunteer in Hawaii on an organic farm. Find out how on Kupa’a Organic Farm in Maui.
Taro plants. Want to learn organic farming? Volunteer in Hawaii on an organic farm. Find out how on Kupa’a Organic Farm in Maui.
Elephant garlic. Want to learn organic farming? Volunteer in Hawaii on an organic farm. Find out how on Kupa’a Organic Farm in Maui.

It took a decade to figure out which of the over 100 lettuce varieties would thrive on the land, they also have several varieties of taro, elephant garlic (leek), and a number of other vegetables that took much trial and error. But it has paid off, they supply their produce to 15 families through a CSA, local restaurants and are one of the most popular stands at the farmer’s market.

Want to learn organic farming? Volunteer in Hawaii on an organic farm. Find out how on Kupa’a Organic Farm in Maui.

What makes this farm particularly interesting is that other than Gerry and Janet, every other worker is a volunteer/intern. Each Monday they plant lettuce and it’s volunteer day where people can sign up to volunteer and work for free organic food.

On a larger scale they also have housing for two unpaid interns and are building accommodation for two more. You can stay as long as you want, one intern who just left stayed two years, there is now a couple here now going on five months. Some of the volunteers aspire to eventually begin their own organic farm but not everyone makes it, but Gerry says it is still positive as the intern then understands why organic food is so expensive.

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Maui Visitors Bureau. They did not request that I write a favourable review or start to question if I had the chops to be an intern on the farm.

 

Join the Conversation

  1. Arianwen says:

    This looks like a great place to volunteer. I did a summer job with a massive plant supplier and I hated it because they didn’t have any moral values and the staff were hard to work with. This looks like exactly the opposite. And it’s great to get outdoors and do some physical work too. It’s so much more rewarding than an office job.

  2. You got lost twice because you didn’t have your navigator with you this time! I am sure you remember how great I was with your iphone last year.

  3. TammyOnTheMove says:

    “When plants are grown at the proper time (rather than forcing them to be available year round) they are happy plants and have less issues.” Love it! Also like the idea that you can work for free organic food. If I was a backpacker in that area I would jump the chance!

  4. Interesting stuff and a great experience! A few years ago we visited Kauai and stayed with a friend who was living there. She took me to the local farmer’s market and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Because the supply was so limited, there was a viewing period for the first 30 minutes. And then when the bell rings, it would turn into a mad dash to get the stuff you wanted before it was all sold out. Farmers would sell every last bit of produce they brought the market!

    And the cost of produce there is high regardless of whether you buy it at the grocery store, Costco, or the farm market. It was clearly impossible for low-income families on the island to afford fresh, healthy food. Did you learn anything that the islands are doing to address this issue?

  5. Nicole @ Green Global Travel says:

    Wow what a cool place to volunteer… combining two very awesome things; organic farms and Maui! Id love to go to somewhere like this!

  6. lori pirone says:

    I would love to learn more about how i can be apart of hawaiis organic farming and experience the magic of the land.

  7. ADK Farmer Dan says:

    As a a beginning farmer myself, I’m hoping that our farmers markets will become as well attended as they are in Maui.

  8. I’m interested in doing an internship starting in early november. I have a AS degree in Horticulture; organic crop production but would love to learn more specifics to agriculture on maui. Please let me know how I can apply for an internship. Aloha,
    L

  9. volunteering is actually a pretty decent concept and a pretty creative one. we get to feel good about something and get all the information about organic farming first hand.

  10. Alan McLaughlin says:

    Aloha Jerry & Janet,

    We wanted to get some answers about Taro & you always have great information.
    Give us a call when you can please. Left the # on your machine.

    Mahalo,
    Alan

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Hi Alan, you can find Gerry and Janet’s website at http://www.kupaafarms.org/

  11. Sounds like a great opportunity, although I’m sure it is a lot of work. If anything it probably helps you appreciate where your food comes from, which is definitely a good thing. Do you eat differently or purchase differently at stores now that you’ve had this experience?

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