Tag: farming

The Newest Generation of Farmers

Written and Photography by Tiana Kamen

Meet Hawai‘i’s newest generation of farmers: Levi, Lilia, Kailea, Kealohi and Makoa! These 4-year-old’s love to grow and eat food from their preschool garden. Makoa’s favorite vegetables are all of them: “I LOVE carrots, lettuce, broccoli…” while Lilia has her preferences. “I LOVE broccoli too! But only when it’s wet!” “Steamed?” we ask. “No, just wet with some water,” she replies.

Their teacher, Ms. Sue, speaks cheerfully, “When children harvest greens, they carry them to the cafeteria. The chef washes them and makes a salad. The preschoolers munch it up quickly, licking lips and asking for seconds!”

These children are building a love for nature and life-long healthy habits by practicing them daily. It’s part of Farm to Keiki, a program created by Tiana Kamen, a young Kaua‘i woman. “Almost a third of children in Hawai‘i are obese or overweight before kindergarten,” she says. By empowering teachers and parents to feed their children healthier foods, we can grow a healthier generation.” Kamen provides training, curriculum and a simple Farm to Keiki recipe as follows:

1. Keiki grow food in gardens. Preschoolers learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables by growing them! While they may only have small tastes, these experiences can turn into a life-long love for eating healthy foods and home gardening.

2. The garden becomes part of the classroom. Academics come to life in the garden! Math is most fun when you’re allowed to eat what you’re learning to count.

3. Children eat fresh, local and organic fruits and vegetables daily. Preschooler’s minds, bodies and food preferences are rapidly developing. They need to be well nourished to learn and grow properly. Island School is one of many preschools statewide that participate in Farm to Keiki. Interested in starting Farm to Keiki or supporting the program? Email tiana@farmtokeiki.org or visit www.farmtokeiki.org.


Probiotic Farming


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.

Robert Kanna’s Kaua’i Clams

Robert Kanna encountered his first shellfish growing up on Kaua‘i’s west side. “My dad would go diving and we’d play in the tide pools and salt ponds,”recalls Kanna. His interest in sea creatures piqued, Kanna attended Oregon State University where he earned a degree in fisheries science.

After returning to Hawai‘i, a stint at O‘ahu’s Oceanic Institute led Kanna to a job in aquaculture on Kaua‘i’s west side where he started farming Pacific white shrimp, sold as Kauai Shrimp.

Today Kanna is the farm manager for Sunrise Capital, owners of Kauai Shrimp. With 40 one-acre and 8 half-acre ponds dotting the hot, dry Mānā coastal plain on Kaua‘i’s west side, the farm now raises Kauai Clams.

Mercenaria mercenaria, known as littleneck clams or simply hard clams, occur naturally along North America’s eastern seaboard. The farm starts with 4 mm clam “seeds” from Florida and New Jersey which are shipped to Kaua‘i planted in upwellers and later cages. Salt water pumped from 500-foot deep wells passes continuously over the clams for 11 months, providing them with oxygen and phytoplankton until they’re big enough for market.

Kanna’s crew currently harvests only about 125 pounds a week, which is quickly bought up by local chefs and two Kaua‘i grocers: Ishihara Market in Waimea and both Foodland stores on the island. Outside of Kaua‘i the only place you’ll find these clams is Mama’s Fish House on Maui.

What are Kauai Clams like? Above all, they’re fresh—reaching market just a day or two after being harvested. Kanna’s favorite way to eat them is raw: “No shoyu, no lemon, no nothing,” he says—just straight from the shell. “The flavor is amazing.”