The Heart and Soul of a Farm

A FARM Written by Vanessa Wolf

Photograph courtesy of Kumu Farms

“The heart and soul of Kumu Farms are the 20 hard-working farmers on Moloka‘i and 15 hard-working farmers on Maui,” explains Emanuela “Manu” Vinciguerra. “I am PR, marketing and sales,” she continues, “but on a farm you do everything. ”

“I’m washing vegetables right now as we talk,” she adds with a giggle.

Led by 30-year veteran and Master Farmer Grant Schule, Kumu Farms got its start in 1981 with 130 acres on Moloka‘i. The island is free from the devastating papaya ringspot virus, and Kumu Farms began by growing what is now their flagship crop: non-GMO, strawberry papaya.

In 2012, an opportunity to expand to Maui arose, and these days Kumu’s conventional, sustainable and Certified Organic Production practices yield 35 different crops, including 12 herb varieties, kale, beets, fennel, bananas, papayas and salad mix.

But it’s more than the daily tasks of growing, harvesting and delivering this produce that motivates this team.

“Our goal is very simple,” explains Manu. “We are a productive, organic farm that aims to feed good food to the people of Maui and Moloka‘i – and the other islands whenever possible – all while serving and connecting the community. We donate 500-600 pounds of produce to the Food Bank every single week.”

“We believe it’s a cycle,” Manu elaborates. “The more we give and the more we treat farmers fairly, the more that will come back to us all. That includes six other unstoppable workers: Etty and Daisy on Moloka‘i and Cveta, Teresa, Kazuko and me on Maui. We do the after-harvest work and serve the customers.

“Still, our farmers are our heart and soul,” she concludes. “They are family to us and together we are a team, an ‘ohana. If we didn’t have them, Kumu Farms wouldn’t exist.”