Organic Maui farm teaches and feeds


POSTED: Saturday, June 27, 2009

Growing up in rural Ontario, Canada, Tova Callender lived a lifestyle that proponents of the back-to-the-land movement would applaud. “;My roots had roots,”; she said. “;My family tended a couple dozen organic acres that produced food to fill our cellar and stomachs for the long, cold winters.”;





        » Meet at: Kapalua Resort Center, corner of Office and Village Roads in Kapalua Resort, Maui. Look for the Maui Gold Pineapple tour van.

        » Offered: Tuesdays and Thursdays

        » Time: 10 a.m.

        » Cost: $60 per person ($50 for kamaaina), $50 for children aged two through 11, including lunch and bottled water

        » Phone: (808) 665-5491

        » Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

        » Web site: www.kapaluafarms.com (this site will be active beginning Tuesday)

        » Notes: Wear comfortable, casual clothing; sunglasses; a hat and good walking shoes. The entire tour is outdoors, so applying a liberal dose of sunscreen is recommended. Parents should bring a federally approved car safety seat for all children under 4 years old. Hawaii state law also requires kids aged 4 through 7 to ride in a car seat or a booster seat unless they fit an adult seat belt properly (i.e., they're at least 4-feet-9 and weigh at least 80 pounds).




        Kapalua Farms offers four other tours that take you into the fields for a firsthand look at Maui Land & Pineapple Co.'s pineapple plantation operations.

» Express Tour: Daily, 9 and 11:45 a.m.
        » Picnic Tour: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 11:45 a.m.
        » Upcountry Tour: Tuesday, 2 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.
        » Signature Tour: Friday, 11:45 a.m.


The Picnic and Signature tours include lunch; all tours include tasting pineapples picked on the spot. Guests on all tours may pick their own pineapple as a souvenir to enjoy at home.


Prices range from $40 to $70 for adults ($35 to $62 for kamaaina) and $32 to $62 for children. Discounts are available for groups of at least six people. Call or peruse the Web site for more information.




During the summer she and her two brothers shelled sweet peas, shucked corn, snapped the tops off green beans and gathered raspberries in recycled plastic food tubs strung around their necks. They also canned tomatoes, pickled cucumbers and stirred pots of strawberry jam.

Come fall they made apple cider — “;always fun despite the wasps we inevitably attracted,”; Callender said. “;Seven months out of the year, we grazed on delicious fruits and vegetables picked right from our fields.”;

Callender initially didn't consider agriculture as a career, but her interest in environmental science led her in that direction. Living off the land during her formative years rewarded her with a deep understanding and appreciation for fresh, healthy, living foods grown in a sustainable way. That awareness serves her well in her position as the diversified agriculture supervisor for Kapalua Farms, a subsidiary of Maui Land & Pineapple (MLP).

Callender joined MLP in 2005, when the concept of a diversified farm “;was just scribbles in my notebook. I was hired to research ways to increase food self-sufficiency on Maui using sustainable methods that would complement, not negatively impact, natural resources, from water quality to wildlife.”;

In early 2006 Callender and her colleague Claire Sullivan (who is now the community and vendor relations coordinator for Whole Foods) drew up plans for a farm that would not only be successful commercially, but fulfill educational purposes as well.

Located near Kapalua Resort in West Maui on 188 acres of certified organic agriculture-zoned land, Kapalua Farms harvested its first crops in spring 2007. It encompasses Kapalua Gold pineapple fields, a tropical fruit orchard, a produce and herb farm, a pasture-raised hen operation and a compost park. It supplies organic produce and all-natural eggs to Whole Foods on Oahu and restaurants and grocery and natural food stores throughout Maui.

On Thursday Kapalua Farms will launch a twice-weekly three-hour tour that will provide visitors with a close-up look at its operations. “;I realized people are really interested in learning where their food comes from, which is how the idea of offering a regularly scheduled farm tour came about,”; Callender said. “;We hope to expand production, but we're currently growing about 25 different crops, including exotic fruits such as lychee and rambutan. There's a good chance participants will be exposed to things they've never heard of before.”;

More familiar produce such as tomatoes, eggplants, herbs, lettuce, radishes, leeks, beets and white figs also are thriving at the farm. Visitors also will be able to chew stalks of sugarcane, taste seasonal fruits such as coffee berries, sniff the aroma of fresh citrus and herbs and learn about pest management in an organic gardening system.

“;Our goal is to attract beneficial insects that will eat the pest species,”; Callender said. “;If you spray pesticide, it not only kills the pests, but also the beneficial bugs.”;

The pests tend to have shorter life cycles and reproduce faster, while the insects that naturally control them have longer lives but reproduce slower.

“;Therefore, if you spray to control pests you'll always have to spray,”; Callender said. “;That's because you're giving the pests the competitive advantage over the insects that would keep them in check in a healthy ecosystem.”;

Awaiting guests at the end of the tour is a wonderful alfresco lunch made of ingredients gathered from the farm. Entree selections include Curried Chicken Wrap filled with baby arugula, avocado and Kapalua Gold pineapple chutney, and Roasted Garden Vegetable Sandwich made with grilled eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and tomato.

Callender hopes participants' visit to Kapalua Farms will inspire them to make wise choices for their meals—ideally, fresh foods produced locally and sustainably that improve their health and add value to their community. Education is a key part of that process.

She remembers how amazed she was 12 years ago to see orange trees for the first time in Southern Japan: “;When you've eaten something without much thought about it for most of your life and you finally see how nature manufactures that luscious miracle, it truly is a thrilling moment!”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.