Last Saturday, Kokua Market went on our third farm tour of 2010. This time we went to the Windward Side and visited some really incredible farms. It was another beautiful day, and I really felt lucky to have been a part of this wonderful event.
We met at 8 am at Kokua, where Larry Kirby again arranged a wonderful spread of oat-cakettes, coffee, and tea. We then carpooled out in about 7-8 cars through the Koolaus to the Windward Side. We met at the Waiahole Poi Factory, which I was pleased to see was open for lunch on both Friday and Saturday (website had said only Fridays). We were greeted by Charlie Reppun who led us to the Reppun Farm in the back of the valley.
We parked our cars at the end of the road then walked about 5 minutes down a private road. Charlie Reppun gave us a brief talk about the last 80 years of struggle for the community in Waiahole to prevent unhindered development and allow continued farming.
I felt like we were entering a fairytale as we crossed a stream over a 1 foot plank to get to the farm. Charlie was knee deep in the water to give a supporting hand to those who needed it. We all made it across without getting wet, but that set the stage for the rest of the morning.
We began the tour by meeting Paul Reppun and seeing some of the equipment they've created or kept in use for years. We saw their honey processing room and got to bask in the aromas of their wonderful coffee packaging and grinding room. From there we began to tour their fields, seeing the diversity that they maintain of fruits, vegetables, and livestock to maintain a healthy farm.
We were intrigued by their "chicken tractor", a movable holding pen for about a dozen chickens where they can feast on grass or amaranth while laying eggs and fertilizing the fields. Those were some healthy and happy chickens. We learned from Paul and Charlie about their experiments with different crops and again the diversity of the farm that makes it a healthy and resilient system.
We then saw the awai from which they irrigate their fields. We followed the awai into their heavenly loi where the kalo is grown. I am still deeply moved by the memory of that wonderful loi with its peace and tranquility.
Again, we were amazed at the ingenuity of the Reppuns who use a water wheel attached to the loi to provide power for their kitchen. There were also several solar systems set up for powering other parts of the farm. We learned that they are off the grid as it would have been too expensive for HECO to bring electrical lines to the farm.
From there, we walked to another part of the farm that had cacao trees and coffee trees. We got to taste some of the wonderful fruits in the farm as well during our tour. The Reppuns were kind enough to allow us to eat lunch at their farm and provided us with a bunch of goza mats to sit on.
We had a delicious meal brought by Kevin Vaccarello from Sweet Home Waimanalo
. The eatery is incorporating produce from Kevin's farm and things from other farms to make their restaurant more sustainable. Kevin picked up some poi from the Reppun farm that he will be creating a wonderful yogurt-like dessert dish with for the restaurant. If the lunch of BBQ-style TVP or pulled pork sandwich with fresh greens and a delicious Okinawan sweet potato salad was any indication, we should all head out to Waimanalo for a taste.
We are so thankful to Charlie and Paul Reppun for their aloha in welcoming us to their farm. It will be an experience I will treasure for a long time. I will be continuing this blog over the next few days to talk about the other two stops on our tour, Green Growers farm and Marine AgriFuture. Please stay tuned!