Story by Julia Steele
Photo by Jyoti Mau
O‘ahu’s visitor attractions don’t typically have much to do with tractors and seedlings. Pearl Harbor, ‘Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum—there’s lots of culture and history on the island nicknamed the Gathering Place, but when it comes to the idea of putting your hands in the soil and learning about local agriculture, most think of the farm-rich Neighbor Islands: Kaua‘i, Maui, Hawai‘i Island.
On the farm: Steven Bolosan of Waialua’s Nä Mea Kupono is one of the North Shore farmers who’s part of O‘ahu Agri-Tours. “They love it, love it, love it,” says his partner Felicita Garrido of people who visit.
Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite aim to change that. Three years ago they founded the Sunday Hale‘iwa Farmers Market on O‘ahu’s North Shore to support the region’s fledgling diversified ag efforts. In the wake of the demise of sugar and pineapple, smaller farms have sprung up on the North Shore, places like Tin Roof Ranch, an organic chicken and egg farm; Poamoho Organic Produce, with its huge orchard of tropical fruit trees; and Mohala Farms, which grows organic greens galore: kale, collards, lettuce and more.
“In Hawaiian, ‘mohala’ means to flourish or blossom,” says farmer Mark Hamamoto, who along with production manager Kathy Maddux and others has been slowly planting out his six-acre parcel for the last five years. “We want this place to be about flourishing—and not just us, but all agriculture in Hawai‘i.”
The Hale‘iwa Farmers Market is now packed with an average of 2,500 patrons each week, so Boyar and Suite are taking their “meet the farmers” campaign to the next level. They’ve started Oahu Agri-Tours, which picks up visitors in Waikiki and drives them out to the North Shore for a day of touring farms and eating local. Different options are available: One tour might head to a coffee and cacao farm while another might meet up with Hamamoto at Mohala. All tours end with lunch at Nä Mea Kupono, a six-acre wetland with an artesian well where thriving taro lo‘i (patches) are farmed by Felicita “Ku‘uipo” Garrido and Steven Bolosan.
“They love it, love it, love it,” says Garrido of the people who have come to Nä Mea Kupono. “We tell people, ‘I ka wä mamua, i ka wä mahope’ which means, ‘The future is in the past.’ We have so much passion for this land, and our focus is on sharing our knowledge with the people of the world.”
Call (808) 388-9696 or email Boyar and Suite at OahuAgriTours@gmail.com to learn more and find out about taking a tour.