story by Janice Crowl
photo by Jack Wolford
For Shekinah Carrillo, selling the harvest at a Kauai farmers market was a weekly ordeal. She’d rise before dawn, pack the produce, load the truck and zip off to an exhausting day of hawking veggies. The yoga teacher-turned-farmer yearned to spend more time doing what she loved most—working the land—so in 2002 she moved to Pahoa, bought a 15-acre parcel and dubbed it Milk and Honey Farm. Five years ago it joined Hawaii’s growing number of farms known as CSAs—community-supported agriculture.
CSAs started in Europe and appeared in the US in the mid-’80s. Since then the movement has spread across the country; there are more than 600 CSAs nationwide today, with several in Hawaii. CSAs work a bit like a co-op: Shareholders visit the farm each week to collect their produce, whatever the farm happens to be growing at the time. Each 3-pound box of produce a shareholder collects at Milk and Honey Farm contains an assortment of greens such as kale, tatsoi, mizuna, shungiku, arugula, lettuce and herbs. Shareholders can supplement their boxes with additional purchases of nutrient-rich vegetables in season like broccoli and taro, and exotic fruits like rambutan, lychee and even a few they may never even have heard of, like pulasan and durian.
“In the past, instead of just lettuce there used to be 10,000 varieties of greens. Here we’re getting historically valuable foods into people’s bodies again—Asian greens like mustard and bok choy, even dandelion greens, which is an age-old tonic,” says Carrillo, who often advises shareholders on how to prepare some of the stranger produce. The farm also produces eggs and goat cheese, and it boasts Hawaii’s first legal “cow share”—shareholders own a portion of a cow and get a percentage of its raw milk and cream. At a time when 90 percent of Hawai‘i’s food is imported, Carrillo plans to expand and diversify with poultry and cheese so that shareholders will eventually be able to get 50 to 75 percent of their food from the farm.
“It’s good food, good people and a beautiful setting,” says shareholder Cecily Okumoto, a schoolteacher from Keaau. “Everything is so fresh—that box is like opening a present every week.”
Milk and Honey Farm