Meet The Farmers: Moloa'a Organica'a
Fresh, organic Ginger and Turmeric just arrived at our organic processing facility thanks to our new partnership with Moloa’a Organica’a Farm from Kauai. At Hawaiian Ola, we use Ginger and Turmeric in our Sparkling Noni Energy Drinks and Sparkling Noni uncaffeinated drinks because of the amazing nutrients that these ingredients provide. Ginger is known to help in settling an uneasy stomach, diminish nausea, provide relief from throat and nasal congestion and sooths joint pains, check our previous blog post to learn more: http://www.hawaiianola.com/blog/2016/2/22/health-benefits-of-hawaiian-ginger Turmeric contains bioactive compounds with powerful medical properties, including anti-inflammatory, an increase in antioxidant capacity, and the ability to improve brain function. But where do these natural benefits come from and how can we ensure that the very best quality of nutrients is delivered to you? In this blog post, we will be chatting with Ned from Moloa’a Organica’a about their farm on Kauai to learn more about the care that they put into their farming process.
Hawaiian OLA: Ned, we are so excited about our new partnerships together, as an intro, would you mind telling us about your family?
Ned: Well, I graduated with a BA in biology back in the 70’s and then went to live in the woods of Arkansas for 25 years. Marta and I built our way up to having a 600-acre farm in those woods where we grew organic, apples, pears, peaches had a cherry orchard, and many other delicious plants. Marta and I have been together a long time and make a great team. She is the business brains behind our operation, while also being an an artist on her own time.
Hawaiian OLA: Wow, so you’ve been at this for a while, why did you become a farmer after graduating with a BA in Biology?
Ned: Right after school, the reason I moved to the woods was to become a homesteader and live a back-to-land type of life. I quickly fell in love with the lifestyle of being self sufficient and being able to grow the food we needed. We started with our own big garden to feed our table, and then we started supplying food to our neighbors, and it just grew from there. I knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone else, I like being outside as much as I can during the daytime, so farming was just a lifestyle that felt natural to me.
Hawaiian OLA: How did you end up on Kauai to start Moloa’a Organica’a?
Ned: Well, after 25 years there in the Arkansas farm, we got hankering for warm ocean and decided we wanted to move to Hawaii. In 2000 we came and looked at all of the Islands and Kauai was immediately our first choice, but we were afraid of the costs. It took us two years, but once we sold our farm in Arkansas, we packed everything up, loaded our tractor and tools into containers and shipped them out to Kauai. The 28.5-acre land we ended up buying on Kauai had been fallow for 20 years, fallow and overgrown with Guinea grass, guava and halekoa. Moloa’a means “matted roots” in Hawaiian, referring to Paper Mulberry trees or wauke which once grew so thickly in the valleys. I remember having to climb a tree just to see the entire property because the shrubs were so thick. At first, we didn’t have the living rights to the land, so we just lived in tents until we got all of the appropriate permits. It was so exciting to pick up our life and start new on this beautiful Island!
Hawaiian OLA: So how were you able to take this once neglected land and turn it into the organically certified farm that Moloa’a Organica’a is today?
Ned: We first started by clearing the most open area we had on the land to get our first garden going. Right from the start, being organically certified was very important to us, and because the land had sat for so long, it was easy to start the process right. From there, it took about 5 or 6 years to get the entire property planted out, using money from our vegetables sold at the farmers markets and planting seedlings helping us build one step at a time. Now, all of our 28.5 acres is being fully utilized to grow our organic produce, bamboo, and tropical hardwood windbreaks.
Hawaiian OLA: What was the first farmers market you sold at?
Ned: We sold green beans at the Hanalei farmers market on Kauai and haven’t missed a week of that market in the last 15 years. Now we go to about 5 or 6 farmer’s markets per week around the island selling veggies, fruits, and herbs.
Hawaiian OLA: What does it mean and why is it important for you to be organically certified?
Ned: Being organic has always been very important to me, ever since I started as a farmer in Arkansas. Since our initial reason we were growing food was to feed ourselves, we’ve always been very cautious about the process to ensure that we do not harm people or harm the earth. If you really think about it, it’s the basic pyramid of life that we learn in biology. There are small critters that support the big critters, and all the way up the food chain to us. So it’s all about taking care of your organic matter, it’s our foundation and that’s just a biological fact. Nurturing our soil is the most important thing we can do. The soils on our farm were mostly depleted when we bought the land. Although it sat empty for 20 years, for 100 years before that a papaya, pineapple and sugar cane plantation seems to have had some questionable farming practices based on the soil that we found. The soil we have on our farm is an oxisols soil which is a like highly weathered clay, so we constantly need to nurture it by adding organic matter. We use cover crops: sun hemp, Sudan grass, and hay mulch to nurture and mix into our soil. We also use crop residues as part of their crop use cycle, tilling the residues into the soil and adding compost. There are always pressures to grow more, work harder, etc. but even though we work our soils hard, we also care for our soil a lot. That’s why gradually, over time, our mineral levels and organic maters readings are up, our cation exchange capacity (the soils capacity to hold on to nutrients and transfer that to the plants) is very strong. We are organically certified by CSI (Crop Services International) and have an inspection once a year. They come and look over all of our paper work, check our books, receipts, and of course inspect our soil. Their goal is to trace produce back to the fields and original sources they came from, which we care a lot about as well.
Hawaiian OLA: Sounds like a lot of work! What excites you most about about this process?
Ned: I just love the outcome of having amazing, nutritional ingredients that are good for us and good for the earth. We are currently trying a Korean Jadam farming practice where we are brewing our own micro-organisms from forest soil, proliferating them, then spreading them on our fields. We are taking our crop residues, local wild grass, and nitrogenous plants and fermenting them in tanks of water to use as a fertilizer on our farm. So far we have been able to cut our fertilizer bill by 50% in the last year alone. This is very exciting since we want to pull back from using outside sources of fertility and work with the land and resources we have here on property.
Hawaiian OLA: What are the main benefits of organic farming from your point of view?
Ned: The main one is just having great stuff to eat all the time! Having healthy, organic veggies for our bodies so that we can be the best we need to be. Then having a community of workers that revolve around the love for those nutrients, and then from there community of consumers that appreciate those good nutrients, and the circles of goodness just continue to go out from there.
Hawaiian OLA: What brings you the most joy in being a farmer?
Ned: I love getting up everyday not knowing what’s going to happen. There is always something new, different, some unexpected challenge. It’s a profession that is as deep and meaningful as you want to go. Providing nutritional abundance for our family and community. Farming is fun, it’s a blast, especially when you are surrounded by a community who believes in healthy, responsible practices. I love working with a team to serve the community.
Thank you so much Moloa’a Organica’a for all of your kokua and hard work. Our new partnership will ensure that together, Hawaiian Ola and Moloa’a Organica’a will continue to deliver nutritional ingredients to our community, for everyone’s benefit.