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.
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.
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.