This boutique herbal farm believes in healing from the inside out—and the ground up.
WRITTEN BY SARAH SCHULTZ PORTRAITS BY DOMINIQUE DEFELICE
It’s a subtle sort of alchemy, but the transformative powers of herbs have been studied for thousands of years under Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and by many cultures across the globe. Doug and Genna Wolkon of Kauai Farmacy—alongside a talented team of gardeners, blend creators, and three really cute kids—are bringing their products to the organic farming table.
The plants used in Kauai Farmacy’s arsenal of 100 percent organic herbal teas, culinary powders, and superfood blends is like taking a tasting tour of the rainbow: Deep purple tulsi, red hibiscus, calendula flowers the color of sunshine, and an assortment of jade, emerald and peridot-hued herbs that line the pathways of the gardens. They are all edible (or drinkable), and each one helps to tell the story of Kauai Farmacy.
This story begins with the noni leaf.
The noni is a canoe crop of Hawai‘i, and holds an important historical place in the islands’ commerce, diet and mythology. (The demigod Maui is said to have been resurrected by the noni leaf.) Now, scientists and integrative health professionals alike are looking into its cancer-fighting effects. The whole plant is packed with healing properties, but the fruit it bears has a pungent smell that makes it less than palatable. So, about nine years ago, Doug and Genna started experimenting with another part of the plant.
“The noni leaf was the first herb that we danced with when we got to the island, after a friend turned us onto it. It was charging our energy and circulation, making us hyper-aware of internal and external feelings,” the duo says. It was helping with Genna’s pregnancy weight from her first child; Doug lost 25 pounds of his former steakand- wine lifestyle. The leaf hadn’t hit the mainstream yet, and they couldn’t quite understand why. The Polynesians had used it for generations; it grows wild along the waterways, and across the islands. So, without much information at their disposal, Doug and Genna started answering their own questions about these lustrous green leaves. “We became knowledgeable. We began to harvest. And we started making tea,” Genna recounts.
They not only saw a business opportunity with their homemade tea blends, but also a way to reintegrate holistic healing back into people’s lives. In their previous lives, Doug and Genna worked in real estate finance and industrial design, respectively. Doug had even penned a book on economics, but says the business plan for a farm was harder to write. So, with just a palpable passion, an open-ended blueprint and a single tulsi plant in tow, the family took a leap of faith on the farm—and landed quite gracefully.
The property is situated on a 180-degree bend of the Kilauea Stream, which hugs the land and affords it with nutrient-dense silt and volcanic rock, while acting as a natural irrigation system. The size of their operation is predicated on how their gardens naturally grow—they are not quick to take the ‘āina for granted, which may be why it has given them so much in return. “We talk about how big we need and want to be, and every day we are organically checking in with the land and our team to see what feels right,” says Doug. “We walk lightly, and we are constantly reminded not to go too fast, as to continue our mission towards sustainability.”
Sustainability is a widely used term in organic farming circles, as opposed to traditional monocropping that strips the land of its good stuff—with no plans of replenishing it. Built around the concept of permaculture—a thoughtful method of developing ecosystems that simulates nature’s intentions—the gardens at Kauai Farmacy echo a sustainable community. Helper plants are used as purposeful shade for others; particular species reintroduce minerals and nutrients into the soil that others take away. Others are used to fence off pesky neighbors—a sentiment that may resonate with some. And insects play a large role in the community, from the microbials that break down the soil to the pollinators that keep things moving. (The bees even made it on the staff directory.) “The bees in our garden are cross-pollinating, creating new plant varieties for us,” says Genna. “For example, the African tulsi and lemon basil hybrid is very lovely and aromatically floral. We are actually letting nature dictate the business in a lot of ways.”
But any type of agriculture can be unpredictable—and Kauai Farmacy’s success has not been without a few hiccups. The aptly named Garden Isle gets a lot of rain and just as much sun, so the elements can be as challenging as they are beneficial. In some cases, the growing conditions have been too good. “We were so excited that turmeric grew everywhere. But then it actually grew everywhere,” says Doug. One of the couple’s favorite plants— and a mainstay in the Children’s Wellness, Endurance, Green Energy, Love Potion, Vitalitea and Women’s Wellness blends— gotu kola is a healing herb, but it grows like a weed. It was running rampant throughout their gardens, and they had to individually hand-pick each root out. Today, they have a separate garden full of what they call “the brain tonic,” giving gotu kola its own space to thrive. They don’t see any plants as invasive, and understand that their resilience has a place in nature and in the blends themselves.
The art of tea-making and the study of herbs have deep roots in many cultures, and Doug and Genna are helping to pioneer its resurgence. The team welcomes visitors to the farm on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. (reserve first!), and offers educational tours and tea samples. Not only is it a visit to a beautiful sanctuary within the beautiful sanctuary of Kaua‘i, but it’s also a chance to see how much passion goes into the business. “This is our purpose. It’s a love that goes beyond words.”
WRITTEN BY RYAN BURDEN PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHELLE T.M. LEE
After maturing on the tree for 12 months, coconuts change color to grey/brown before falling from the tree. Given adequate moisture, they sprout in one to four months.
Split a sprouted coconut in half using a machete or axe and you’ll fi nd a white, spongy center, sometimes referred to as a “coconut apple” or “queen’s bread.”
The edges of this living embryo are rich in enzymes and coated with pure, unadulterated coconut oil. This oil is the rich, healthy fat that the mother tree has gifted the new seedling to give it the energy needed to put down its fi rst roots and create its fi rst few sets of leaves.
Delicious and delicate, this jungle snack is something everyone should try at least once. And since sprouted coconuts are in reality baby trees, it is a snack best eaten with utmost reverence and appreciation.
In closing there is a responsibility when eating and enjoying a sprouted coconut. You take the life of a coconut tree that could have the potential to feed a village. So when eating one sprouted coconut be sure to also plant a coconut tree.
WRITTEN BY MELISSA CHANG PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEN DECASTRO
When you see how successful Kevin Hanney’s 12th Avenue Grill and Avenueʻs Bar & Eatery have become, you’d never know that owning a restaurant was always Plan B for him.
Like many in the industry, he had a typical introduction to the restaurant industry. He started in his hometown of Rochester, NY as a dishwasher at 15 years old, then became a busboy because “that’s where the money was.” He eventually moved up to being a waiter for about seven years.
He headed to college in upstate New York to get a degree in Natural Resource Conservation, and in 1978 got a job in the kitchen at Wild Wind Farms, an organic showcase farm with a good, seasonal restaurant (It was about the same time that Alice Waters was developing Chez Panisse.).
The restaurant work was just to get him through school; Hanney was focused on a career in natural energy. After graduation, he moved to California to get a degree in Renewable Energy and Solar Architecture from San Jose State University.
The ‘80s food movement in California helped shape Hanney’s food philosophy and style. He liked cooking and what he had learned, so decided to keep at it.
He was invited to teach a community cooking class at Kapi‘olani Community College and fell in love with Hawai‘i, so went home to Santa Cruz, packed his bags and moved. He figured he would be here for a couple of years and would “keep moving east until it turned west,” but he stayed and married local girl Denise Luke.
He had a successful catering business in Honolulu and was looking for a place that was appropriate and affordable for his vision (which he’s still seeking). He found a hidden spot in Kaimukī but it didn’t work for catering, so he decided to create a cozy neighborhood bistro like the kind he loved in San Francisco. Twelve years later, 12th Avenue Grill has expanded to a larger space, with an offshoot, Avenueʻs Bar & Eatery.
Like its older brother, Avenue’s Bar & Eatery offers items that are made from scratch and locally sourced whenever possible. The menu reflects popular items and requests from 12th Avenue Grill’s bar, thus they have more little plates. The menu specials change more often, as well, as they offer dishes that showcase ingredients of each season.
The guys running his show at Avenues are young but ambitious, and have had some decent experience. Bar Manager Joseph Arakawa, who is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, was previously at Mud Hen Water; Chef Robert Paik is a graduate of the Kapi‘ olani Community College culinary program and was previously at Vintage Cave. Their food and drinks reflect Hanney’s approach to fine dining.
“After arriving in Hawai‘i 24 years ago, I noticed that restaurants for the most part fell into two categories: Very high-end, continental- style restaurants or extremely casual ethnic restaurants. I decided I wanted to bring great food and drink that’s approachable to everyone at an affordable price, yet make everyone feel like they had a great experience,” Hanney says.
“Not since 1967, when the Beachcomber’s Handbook by Euell Gibbons was published, has there been a wild food book for Hawai‘i. In these long-anticipated pages, Sunny Savage, host of the wild food cooking show ‘Hot on the Trail’ and a 2014 TEDxMaui presenter, takes us on an adventure into the wilds of Hawai‘i and her wild-inspired kitchen. A springboard for anyone curious about wild foods, it is brimming with inspira-tion that makes you want to jump into eating one wild food every day.”
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