Words by Raelinn Doty
Photography by Adriana Torres
Meet Doni Chong, businesswoman, philanthropist and yogurt farmer at Happy Heifer Yogurt.
How exactly does one “farm” yogurt, you might ask? It is perhaps the tiniest “crop” one can imagine. From a farming perspective this may seem unconventional, but not all farming is soil-based (as is the case with aeroponics, aquaponics and hydroponics.) This is also the case with yogurt. What Doni farms is unconventional as well— microbes, or probiotics, which later turn into the healthy bacteria that make yogurt just that: yogurt. She explains further saying:
“Probiotics are living microscopic organisms, or microorganisms, that scientific research has shown to benefit your health. Most often they are bacteria. Because there are good and bad bacteria for your body, we hope to showcase the benefits of digesting good probiotics into your body.”
Doni also explains that probiotics are fairly simple to understand: Yogurt has three helpful bacteria that aid in digestion and Kefir has 12 helpful bacteria that encourage intestinal health. “So when you consume a yogurt or Kefir product, you are getting a total body health supplement.”
With 25 years of experience in natural food processing, along with raising her children on natural foods, Doni takes special care in every aspect of Happy Heifer. She sources her milk from the only local dairy in Hawaii on the Big Island and then uses age-old methods to hand-churn the milk in small batches saying:
“The most unique thing about our yogurt is that we hand-make and hand-blend everything just like the olden days! We make everything fresh by batch and don’t rush the processing time to meet commercial demand.”
Happy Heifer also customizes their yogurt to meet their customers’ needs using soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk. And they now occasionally offer small batches of Kefir and Kombucha, both of which contain probiotics. They will be expanding into non-edible products as well, like their new “HI drate” skin creams using all natural, locally sourced ingredients, and offering workshops on custom-blending with natural fragrance oils.
In addition to hand-farming her probiotics, Doni has an exceptionally big heart for her local community. She not only educates the public on the benefits of health and nutrition through the use of probiotics, but also shares the message of “churning the local economy.” She does this by helping women who have been previously incarcerated, were sex slaves or survivors of abuse. Doni says, “My passion is aiding domestic violence survivors since I share my own personal triumph and recovery.”
Happy Heifer Yogurt can be found at the HMSA Farmer’s Market and at their own location in a cozy and quaint plantation house nestled under 100-year-old Banyan trees on Kaneohe Bay. The house was built in 1927 by Dr. Theodore Richards who purchased the nine acres fronting the water. Happy Heifer is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. selling their yogurt and a small offering of a Farmer’s Breakfast. Be sure to relax on the wraparound porch that offers stunning views of the mountains and the bay.