Farm to vendor, back to farm and then to table.
I’ve just watched the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala and I’m awed by the wonder of Mother Nature. Hawaii truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I can see why everyone wants to vacation here, especially Maui. It’s a paradise. After witnessing the majesty of a Hawaiian sunrise I’m in the mood for more awesome and I think one of the many Maui farm tours available is just the answer. Just down the highway from Haleakala are two great examples worth exploring, which is exactly what I did. 30 Days In Hawaii explores some Sustainable Aloha with a tour at Ali’i Kula Lavender and at O’o Farms.
Nestled high on the slopes of Haleakala, Ali’i Kula Lavender farm is part farm and part movement. They grow over 45 different varieties of lavender (I thought there was only 1) which means that there is always lavender in bloom on the farm. I arrived just after a tour started so I wandered around the gardens on my own. Luckily for me I was found by one of the staff who shared some insight into the farm with me on the gift shop lanai. Most of the lavender grown on the farm is actually sold to over 30 local artisan/vendors that in turn create unique and wonderful products which are then sold in the Ali’i Kula Lavender gift shop, this is Sustainable Aloha – the circle of life.
Before I go “shopping” for lavender though I want to wander through the gardens. Lavender may be in the name but they grow many other things as well including Limes, Olives and the flower called Protea (you’ve seen it before you just didn’t know it’s name).
Lavender is everywhere though, over 10 acres of it and the smell of it is in the air, it’s quite glorious and energizing. English Lavender, French Lavender and Sweet Lavender are just some of the types I saw growing around me.
Now it’s time to head back to the gift shop for some tea and a scone with Lavender Liliko’i Jelly. Liliko’i means passion fruit by the way. For sale in the shop is what you would expect, eye masks scented with lavender and soap but that just scratches the surface. There is also the jelly I had with my scone, Lavender Strawberry syrup, and Maui Kazowie Kettle Corn (sweet & spicy) and more… You name it there is a product with lavender in it.
You might be saying to yourself “why would I want to tour a lavender farm?”. Well I thought the same thing but let me tell you it’s worth the time. Not only are the gardens gorgeous and the view spectacular but the passion and philosophy behind Ali’i Kula Lavender is truly admirable and something to experience. I’m glad I did and I hop you do as well.
Just a little down the road from Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is O’o Farm. O’o Farm is yet another example of sustainability and innovation. Started about 14 years ago, O’o Farm was created to supply fresh produce year round for the owners’ restaurant Pacific’O. Now it serves not only Pacific’O but 2 other restaurants they own and operates a Farm & Gourmet Lunch tour 4 days a week. I told you O’o was innovative.
Our farm tour begins with Ancil Clancy, I knew that surfers were good looking but who knew farmers were also this hot. A quick run through of what to expect and also a warning to wear shoes not flip flops like I am. It’s been an abnormally wet winter so the ground might be a bit mucky and we will be covering a good portion of the farm, dress accordingly.
Our first stop on the tour is to visit some of the 1000 coffee trees that have been planted on the property. Yes you guessed right, they are growing their own coffee, roasting it and serving it in their restaurants. Ancil talks us through the entire coffee growing process, encourages us to pick a few ripe coffee cherries and even let’s us taste the fruit after we squeeze out the coffee seeds.
Right beside the coffee trees are just some of the 1200 fruit trees on the property. Here we get to see the Loquat or Chinese Plum. AS soon as the fruit appears on the branches Ancil climbs the tree to wrap them in mesh bags to protect them from the hungry birds that would clean the tree dry of Loquats. We all sample one, or two, they are sweet, a tad acidic and citrus in flavour. I be they make a great vinaigrette.
Beside the Loquats are some lemons, limes and oranges of many varieties including Mandarin Oranges.
Moving from the orchard to the outdoor kitchen we are met by Farm Chef JJ Johnson. Chef JJ shows us a sample of some of what is grown on the farm and then sends us back out with Ancil to “work for our supper”.
Just a few hundred feet from the kitchen Ancil takes us to a patch of the garden where greens of all varieties are grown. Arugula, Fennel, Lettuces, and Kale, you name it it’s here. A quick bit of work in the field picking various greens for our lunch and we are ready to go.
One last stop before lunch though and that’s to meet the man who roasts the coffee at O’o Farm. This reminds me of my time at Bridgehead Coffee in Ottawa when I got the full tour including a coffee cupping tasting. LOVE COFFEE especially freshly roasted.
Lunch is served under al fresco. If you were smart and read ahead about the tour you knew that you could bring your own wine for lunch. Not I though but I did make friends who shared a glass of vino with me. Everything we ate was either picked fresh from the farm that morning or caught in the sea less than 24 hours ago. Now that is farm to table!
And that concludes our tour, well actually not quite. We had to have fresh roasted coffee, fresh roasted Macadamia Nuts and freshly rolled dark chocolate truffles by Chef JJ. Have you ever cracked a Mac Nut before? It’s a hard nut to crack, bahaha. Sorry I couldn’t resist, but seriously it is a hard nut to crack, watch.
So ends just a wee taste of what the farms of Hawaii and Maui specifically have to offer. I couldn’t say it any better than Sustainable Aloha. You will be disappointed if you don’t put Ali’i Kula Lavender and O’o Farms on your itinerary when you next visit Maui.
Thank you to my friends at the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau for helping make this adventure possible. If you want to have your own Hawaiian adventure there is no better place to start than Go Hawaii, after you read this blog series though first.