Big Island farm

Sustainability Profile: Hirabara Farms

Sustainability Profile: Hirabara Farms

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.

Sustainability Profile: Hawaii Island Goat Dairy

When you think of the Big Island of Hawaii, I bet that goat cheese is the last thing you'd expect to buy fresh from the islands. However, thanks to Dick Threlfall and his late wife Heather, a small farmstead of goats churns out over 12 kinds of goat milk cheeses including feta, mozzarella, gouda, Colby and much more. As part of a weeklong tour of Hawaii farms, our next stop was Hawaii Island Goat Dairy to learn about dairy goat farming.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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Hawaii Island Goat Dairy by the Numbers

  • 2001 - The year Hawaii Island Goat Dairy was established.
  • 10 - The farm encompasses 10-acres of land.
  • 60 female goats are milked daily.
  • 12 Types of goat cheese produced.
  • 20 male goats on the farm.

The goat farm herd consists of several dairy goat breeds including Saanens, Toggenburgs, and Nubians. Many goats are bred as half Saanen and half Nubian, or "snubian." Pasture lands on the farm include not only grass but also tropical trees such as bamboo, tea leaf, ginger leaf, and macadamia nut trees. The herd of goats graze here frequently.

Hawaii Island Goat Dairy only has four bucks on the premises. But for the sake of increasing production without increasing the adult goats they have to care for, the farm staff uses artificial insemination to produce baby goats. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the sperm of mating bucks to facilitate goat reproduction. After they're born, baby goats are raised indoors and fed by hand by staff and volunteers.

Dick Threfall (second from the right) and his family.

Dick Threfall (second from the right) and his family.

Goat Cheese Production

The goat dairy has a fully automated pipeline milking system on site. Made to exclusively cater to goats, the system can milk as many as 60 goats twice a day. The pipeline feeds the goat milk to the cheese room where it is pasteurized and made into two kinds of cheese: natural feta cheese and flavored cheeses. Some of the latter variety include goat cheese flavored with dill, garlic, macadamia basil pesto, or chipotle pepper. After the cheeses are produced, they are stored in a refrigerated cheese room where they are aged. Altogether, the farm produces 200-300 pounds of cheese a week. The products are sent to Hawaii’s top chefs and a few selected local supermarkets. Hawaii Island Goat Dairy cheese products are only sold in local Hawaii markets; no sales are available on the farm or online.

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Hawaii Island Goat Dairy and Sustainability

To do its part and involve the community, the goat dairy offers an on-site volunteer internship program that offers room and board in exchange for work on the dairy. Dick Treyfall also shares his thoughts on Hawaii becoming a more agriculturally sustainable state: “It’s a lot of work, but in the long run it’s worth it because there may come a time where we have to be sustainable. We’ll run out of food, but we have the ability to produce all of the food we ever need here. The sustainability move is tremendous now; it’s picking up and getting better all of the time. Happy healthy goats give good milk which makes great cheese.”

Sustainability Profile: Wow Farm

Tricia Hodson first inherited the plot of homestead land from her father back in 1989. She had a background in education and her husband Mike had spent 27 years working with the Hawaii Police Department. Neither of them knew anything about farming, but they had the vision of building a family business by growing and selling organic tomatoes. Initially, the Hodsons were growing tomatoes in greenhouses for personal consumption. Then they entered the local farmer’s market scene where their tomatoes earned their well-deserved “wow” name and fame. Their first greenhouse appeared on the property in 2006; today, their 10-acre property a holds over 40 greenhouses that produce between 5,000-10,000 pounds of organic tomatoes a week.

Why grow tomatoes? Mike says they are among the hardest crops to grow, and he wanted a challenge. A challenge did he receive, and it took lots of trial and error to come up with an effective way to cultivate an agricultural program that could be sustainable.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

Mike and Tricia Hodson of Wow tomato farms on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mike and Tricia Hodson of Wow tomato farms on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Wow Hodson Family Farms

Six years ago, Mike and Tricia Hodson were sitting on a 10-acre lot of Hawaii homestead agriculture land in Waimea with nothing more than a house and a dream board of ideas. Today, that land is now home to Wow Hodson Family Farms, one of the most successful organic tomato farms on Hawaii's Big Island. The story of how Mike and Tricia got to where they are today is an inspiring example of entrepreneurial and educational pursuits.

Address: 64-793 Ainahua Alanui Kamuela, Hawai'i, Hawaii 96743 (808) 887-0969 http://www.wowfarms.com/

By the Numbers

  • 10 Acres - Wow Hudson Family Farm consists of 10 acres of land. 

  • 40 - The number of greenhouses on the farmlands.

  • 2006 - The year the first greenhouse appeared on the farm. 

  • Thousands of pounds of tomatoes produced by the farm weekly. 

  • 14 Other families benefiting from the Hodson's farming education. [/tw-column]

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Today, Mike's method of growing tomatoes requires a minimal amount of output, and it reaps a ton of benefits. Among his inventive growing techniques includes the use of plastic flooring in his greenhouses that eliminates the need to weed his plants, an act which he says can take up 75% of a farmer's labor. The plastic flooring also makes it easy to swiftly sweep up the dead tomato leaves when they fall.

Mike's neat row of tomato plants in his greenhouse are also part of his efficiency plan. When it comes time to pollinate his plants, all he has to do is go to one end of the row and give his plants a few hard shakes. The tomatoes take care of the rest of the work, as they are self-pollinating plants.

What is the importance of sustainability in his farming practices? Well Mike is quick to point out that sustainability can have multiple meanings. It can mean financial freedom from the burden of debts, which he has practiced by paying for all of his farming equipment, supplies, and land without the need to borrow credit.

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Malama 'aina means to care for and nurture the land so it can give back all we need to sustain life for ourselves and our future generations.

An ahupua'a is an ancient concept of resource use and management based on families living in a division of land that connects the mountains to the reefs and the sea." - Puanani Rogers, Team Leader for the Ho`okipa Network

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Sustainability can also mean malama 'aina (take care of the land) by using organic farming techniques that will keep the land healthy, which is what Wow Farms does in their practices. Although they aren't certified organic (they don't see the need to pay for a stamp of certification), Wow Farms is a fully organic farm that chooses to sell itself as an "all natural" farm.

Most importantly, however, is the definition of sustainability that applies to keeping a community of people happy and fed with healthy, wholesome food. Wow Farm fulfills this mission by helping 14 other nearby homestead families learn to grow their own food using the Hudson's greenhouses and growing techniques. Mike points out that the entire state of Hawaii only produces about 7% of the food that we consume; if the ships and suppliers were to stop bringing in food from outside sources, the islands will starve after a week. An isolated island can't eternally rely on outside providers, especially with the population booming the way it is.

Wow Farm tomatoes varieties include heirlooms, red and orange beefsteaks, and Romas. The tomatoes are of such pristine quality that they are in high demand by the chefs at many high end Hawaii resorts including the Hilton Waikoloa, Four Seasons Hualālai, and Mauna Lani Bay Resort. Consumers can also find Wow Farm tomatoes in select grocery stores. Yes, they're priced higher than the average tomato, but they are organic, locally grown, and supremely tasty--not to mention, they have a very long shelf life.

Sustainability Profile: Rare Hawaiian Honey

Volcano Island Honey Company is a small business in Hawaii that produces one of the rarest types of honey in the world: organic kiawe honey. The honeybee nectar comes from the naturally GMO and pesticide free forest of kiawe trees on the dry side of the Big Island. The honey naturally crystalizes into a creamy white texture and is pure, raw, 100% certified organic honey that is bottled and jarred.

The company is owned by Dr. and Mrs. Michael Domeier; Dr. Domeier is an expert on Great White Sharks, having made many breakthroughs and discoveries that have been featured on television programs. He created a special honey called the Great White Honey and is donating 10% of those sales profits to shark research. Thus, Dr. Dumeyer’s work with the kiawe honey helps sustain another natural resource of Hawaii: the Great White Shark.

Rare Hawaiian kiawe honey
Rare Hawaiian kiawe honey

“What I like about Hawaii is that there aren’t huge agricultural businesses that are spraying their giant mono-crops. We came here from California where that happened all the time. So I think Hawaii is a great place to eat fresher and healthier.”

Location: 66-1250 Lalamilo Farm Road Waimea, Hawaii

(888) 663-6639 |  www.rarehawaiianhoney.com

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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By The Numbers

  • 100% All honeys are 100% certified organic. 
  • 10% Percentage of sales of Great White Shark honey that go to research. 
  • 1,000 Acreage of kiawe forest where honeybees gather nectar.
  • 1828 Year the first kiawe tree was planted in Hawaii.
  • 6 - Kiawe trees have long thorns that can be up to 6 cm long. 

Sustainability Profile: Abalone and Natural Energy

The state of Hawaii operates NELHA, an innovative science and technology park located in Kona. It consists of 87-acres of land and 3,200-acres of water. Parcels of the land are leased to national and international businesses that cultivate abalone, ocean fish, lobsters, shrimp, sea horses, algae, alternative energy sources, and bottled water. NELHA was the site of the first successful Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant in the world. This remarkable technique uses the difference between deep ocean water and warm surface water to create electrical power. One of the many uses of OTEC is to stimulate growing conditions for ocean plants and animals so that they may be cultivated on land.

NELHA By the Numbers

  • 87 Acres of land encompassing NELHA. 
  • 40 Enterprises located on NELHA property. 
  • 3,000 Feet deep: how far deep ocean water is extracted from. 
  • 1974 The year when NELHA's HOST Park was created. 
  • 3,200 Acres of water on NELHA property. 
Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii
Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii

 

Big Island Abalone Corporation

One of the businesses leasing 10-acres of land from NELHA is the Big Island Abalone Company. They produce over 100,000 pounds of abalone each year for consumption in Hawaii, on the mainland, and in Asia. The objective of the farm is to stimulate the positive elements of the natural ocean environment in which abalone can flourish by harnessing a constant flow of cool, pure, nutrient rich seawater pumped from 3,000 feet deep in the ocean. The farm also cultivates a blend of seaweed on site to serve as food for the abalone; the seaweed heavily influences the taste, color, texture, and appearance of the abalone.

The abalone business is thriving in Kona because science and technology are able to utilize a natural, clean and renewable resource: the Pacific Ocean. 

Kona Hawaii Abalone

Kona Hawaii Abalone

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

Sustainability Profile: Hamakua Heritage Mushrooms

Located on 33-acres in Laupahoehoe on the northwest side of the Big Island of Hawaii, Hamakua Heritage Farm consists of an indoor warehouse stretching 16,000 square feet. Owned by Bob and Janice Stanga, this farm grows gourmet mushrooms that are sold to Hawaii restaurants and supermarkets. Each week, the farm grows 4,000 pounds of grey oyster, pioppini, abalone, and alii mushrooms in thousands of jars in a sterile, climate-controlled environment.

Address: 36-221 Manowaiopae Homestead Road Laupahoehoe, Hawaii www.hamakuamushrooms.com

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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By the Numbers

  • 16,000 - Square footage of the Hamakua Heritage warehouse.

  • 4,000 Pounds of mushrooms grown.

  • 33 Acres of land Hamakua Heritage sits on.

  • 4 Types of mushrooms grown. 

  • 85% - How much of mushrooms are water. 

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Hamakua Heritage is one of only two farms in the USA that grows mushrooms in jars. The growing medium or substrate for the mushrooms consists of locally sourced eucalyptus wood, corn cobs, wheat grain, and water. No manure, gluten, pesticides, fertilizers or growth hormones are used. After the mushrooms are harvested, the natural growing medium is then recycled to local farmers and the jars are cleaned and reused; nothing is wasted.

In addition to fresh mushrooms, Hamakua Heritage also makes and sells mushroom-infused foods including mushroom cookies, crackers and tea, to name a few. They also have a section of the warehouse dedicated to hosting tours to teach visitors about the mushroom growing process as well as demonstrate some quick and easy ways to prepare mushroom dishes. There are also plans to further increase sustainability by adding solar panels and introducing shiitake mushroom growing logs, bokashi (fermented organic matter for composting) kits and mushroom growing kits for purchase by those looking to start their own home gardens.

Hamakua mushrooms are available in many local supermarkets including Foodland, Safeway, Times, Don Quijote, Costco, and Whole Foods.

Hamakua Heritage Farms mushrooms Hawaii
Hamakua Heritage Farms mushrooms Hawaii