Tag: Meet The Farmer

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.

Squash And Awe

Article by Sara Smith

Photos courtesy of Anna Peach

Renegade farmer brings one more crop back to Hawai’i

Can a one-woman farm on a scant ¼ acre produce six tons of squash in one year? Yes, and Anna Peach wants nothing more than to share exactly how she’s doing it.

Last spring, after securing a plot in the Lalamilo Farm Lots, an agricultural subdivision in Kamuela, Peach founded her first farm, Squash and Awe. An artist-turned-gardener, Peach called on a year of intensive squash research, countless hours volunteering in urban gardens in New York City, and her family’s six generations of Wisconsin farming for the grit and wherewithal to accomplish her mission: make her super garden a commercial operation.

Six farmers had tried and failed on her parcel, so her first order of business was hand-building its dry, depleted dust into a moist, nutrient-rich soil. Peach bucks tradition by using a no-till method she calls ‘lasagna gardening’: layers upon layers of cardboard, newspaper, fish and vegetable food scraps—all collected for free from local businesses—with garden green waste.

“I soil-build for the worms and microbes, I plant for the bees,” she sums.

Supporting her one-person model, this method requires no machinery, but it does require her to walk her fields—an act key to fostering an intimacy with her farm.

Her next renegade act was planting only heirloom varieties. Onlookers shook their head, saying she couldn’t make it without GMO seed because of pickle worm. “That made me want to find the solution, then share it.”

Anna Peach on Ediblehi.com

Peach trialed 45 varieties of squash in search of the strongest, tastiest contenders to take to market. While a portion of her farm is dedicated to growing near-extinct heirloom varieties to seed, she’s focused-in on five workhorse varieties that have proved hardy and pest-resilient, including Kikuza and Black Kabocha.

And chefs love them. In a bold move, she secured clientele in advance of her harvest using fruit from her trial plants for initial sales calls into the kitchen of the island’s finest restaurants. Within a hundred days of her initial planting, Peach was making commercial deliveries. Fast forward one year, Squash and Awe is moving 1,000 pounds to market every month. Recently, the Hawai‘i Prince Resort featured a month-long specialty squash menu starring her produce.

The success of her guerrilla farm, as she calls it, is catching national attention. The president of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds travelled from Missouri to visit her quarter-acre operation. The visit resulted in an invitation for Peach to speak at the National Heirloom Expo this September, an event she calls “the SuperBowl of sustainable farming.”

In the meantime, Peach is busy preparing a quarter-acre expansion and experimenting with varieties of eggplants, a companion planting she’s found to do well with the squash. She continues to grow as much as she can, with excess poundage being stored, donated to local food banks, or composted. It’s endless work, as she puts it, “bringing one more crop back to Hawai‘i.”

Squash And Awe on Ediblehi.com

For more information, great farming tips, and squash recipes visit www.squashandawe.com.