Rob Parsons

Kipahulu Bus Tour Offers Look at Maui Sustainability

Maui Aloha 'Aina invites you to 'experience abundance'

by Rob Parsons

October 22, 2009

This Saturday, four Robert's Hawaii buses will shuttle 100 enthusiasts around the "back-side" to one of Maui's unique and fertile growing regions—Kipahulu. Vincent Mina, founder of Maui Aloha 'Aina Association (MA'A), which is the event's main sponsor, says spots are still available but that the event is close to being sold out at press time.

The tour affords a rare opportunity to visit and observe four separate organic farm operations, with expert soil analyst and Hawaii farmer Bob Shaffer also on board. "The strong part of Kipahulu," Mina says, "is diversity: fruits, taro, veggies, bamboo, all possible because of Southern exposure and good rainfall and soil." A gourmet lunch will feature local exotic fruits, taro-breadfruit-sweet potato salad, home brewed ginger kombucha and Maui grass-fed beef for the non-vegetarians.

With early morning bus pickup in Wailuku and Kula, the farm tour caravan will meander over the seldom-traveled Piilani Highway through Kanaio, Kahikihui and Kaupo, with stunning vistas from the mountain to the ocean. The initial stopping point is Kapahu Taro Farm, where Mina worked some 20 years ago with Uncle Harry Mitchell and Hawaiian Studies students from UH Manoa to open historic lo'i, or terraced patches. The farm is now tended by the Kipahulu 'Ohana, which operates cultural interpretive programs through an agreement with Haleakala National Park.

Next, the group will visit Laulima Farm, a certified biodynamic operation that offers a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, flowers and tinctures. Their popular fruit stand features an array of homegrown produce, as well as organic coffee and even a pedal-powered blender for fruit smoothies. Laulima offers apprenticeships for folks interested in learning biodynamic farming methods.

Lunch happens across the road at the Kalena Center certified kitchen. Mina emphasizes: "This is not a box lunch—it's gourmet local food."

Early afternoon will bring the group to Whispering Winds Bamboo Nursery, providing a glimpse of an agricultural operation "dedicated to advancing sustainability and ecological agriculture on the Hawaiian Islands." They grow more than 40 varieties of non-invasive clumping bamboos, including those used for ornamental landscaping, edible shoots, furniture or instrument-making, and for construction-grade building materials. "We are committed to educating the public," reads their Web site, "to the possibilities of bamboo to feed us, shelter us, to protect our soils and watersheds and to add more jobs to our economy."

Stephan Reeve's Ornament of Earth Sustainable Food Farm is the final location of the tour. "Stephan has all the diverse components of what's needed to feed and sustain himself," Mina says. "He has created a 10-acre edible landscape that is also a work of art. Hopefully people will leave his place with an expanded vision of what's possible."

Mina, whose own commercial family operation provides several varieties of fresh sprouts and sprout mixes, says the tour is really a follow-up to a sold-out visit made back in 2002. "The investment," he says, "is what [people] do with the experience when they leave, to support what they want."

October is usually the month for MA'A's Body & Soil Conference, a two-day event featuring national experts, often held at a working Upcountry organic farm. This year, the conference will be held in January and will follow the premise that building healthy soil nurtures healthy nutrient-dense plants, which in turn nurture healthy bodies.

Mina hopes both the tour and the conference will offer ecological inspiration. "We're giving people an opportunity to experience abundance," he says, "to let their innate experiences of nature surface." Maui Time Weekly, Rob Parsons

More info on the Kipahulu farm tour and the Body and Soil Conference can be found here: www.mauialohaaina.org