Our week-long Big Island trip for the Hawaii sustainability documentary continues with a stop at Hirabara Farms. This 3-acre parcel sits at 2,900 feet above sea level in Waimea. It is owned by farmers Kurt and Pam Hirabara, and together they produce 13 varieties of baby lettuce and about 2,400 pounds each week exclusively for island chefs. A crop scientist, Kurt initially attempted to start the farm on land near an active volcano to take advantage of fertile volcanic soil. However, winds blew chemical vapors from the active volcano, spreading onto the crops. The Hirabaras relocated their farm to Waimea, an area cradled between two extinct volcanos, and they found farming success. Today, the cool weather of Waimea allows them to produce strawberries, artichokes, fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, carrots, and olives.
*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here.
Hirabara Farms by the Numbers
- 3 Hirabara Farms is a 3-acre parcel
- The farm is 2,900 feet above sea level.
- 13 Varieties of baby lettuce grown on the farm.
- 2,400 Pounds of lettuce grown each week.
- 20+ Years the farm has been in business.
Kurt and Pam define sustainability as producing what you get imported, meaning if your farm inputs such as compost, fertilizer, and seeds are naturally available, your farm outputs or crops and related products may then be considered sustainable. To this end, they work towards being sustainable by growing crops that are suited for their climate and soil, using a catchment system to capture rainwater, meeting electrical needs through solar panels, creating fertilizing compost with landscape trimmings from local resorts, enriching soil with earthworms, and using natural plant barriers and coverings to protect crops.
The Hirabaras also heavily promote relationships with local chefs. Their outdoor kitchen is often used to host visiting chefs who cook in the space to demonstrate use of local crops. Their lasting words on sustainability: “It’s better to have something and not need it at a given time than to need it and never have it at all.”