The Farm at Hokuala


It's been awhile, to say the least. I left Steelgrass Farm (now Lydgate Farms) in 2016, where I created 2-acre vegetable garden and learned how to manage a cacao orchard. Learned how to graft cacao trees, pollinate vanilla, ferment cacao beans, hunt and butcher feral pigs. Chef Adam @hanaikauai taught me how to smoke the meat with kiawe and lilikoi. I was destined to live off the land, but things change, and it was best to move on. 

In June of 2016 I moved the family to Rising Sun Farm (for photos visit the IG account @farmercodylee) where I made use of a couple acres to provide lettuce, microgreens and edible flowers to the east side of Kaua'i. Moloa'a, Kaua'i has a beautiful red dirt, and I am thankful to have farmed next to over one hundred volunteers over the years. They taught me about life, I taught them about growing lettuce on Kaua'i. My daughter and I were in need of a bigger living space, and a friend was willing to take over the lettuce fields, so we bid farewell to the Rising Sun and moved towards the Rising Star... a.k.a. 'hokuala' in Hawaiian.  

Now, we are the Farmers at Hokuala Resort (@thefarmathokuala and @hokualakauai). I'm looking at over one hundred acres of old golf course land, and want to turn it into a food forest, market garden, foodie paradise, sustainable farm. I'm starting small, with just a few golf fairways... but, dreaming big... currently in the middle of finishing Phase 1 of the Hokuala Farm project... with over 150 fruit trees in the ground and a hundred more to go. Life is good.


Purple is the new Green

While drilling a hole in the bottom right molar, the dentist informed me that darker color pigmentation in 'greens' means more nutrients. If it means better health for us all then I shall grow more purple, red and dark green greens.

Bicolor shiso. With shiso comes mejiso (little micro shiso) and hejiso (flower tips). Both used as a garnish. I'm also experimenting with cutting shiso tips, like basil or mint tips, for garnish and mature shiso for table top flower display (that one could eat) and shiso seed for pickling. Hey, can I use the roots for something?

Hanai has created a twist on sea salt blends and made 'Shiso Salty' finishing salt. Gida also dehydrated some of our giant purple mustard greens and put them in the blend for a bit of a wasabi kick.

The original colored carrot blend.

Mature purple mizuna. This also comes in micros. Spicy when old.

A salad mix of all the greens in the fields. Beets, shiso, kale, lettuce, arugula and mizuna.

When the rows were young.

As the purple variety goes to seed it starts to fade into green. The flowers of shiso (hejiso) are very aromatic and edible, too. I found a beautiful mutant leaf today that had the shape of a butterfly. This plant tastes like licorice mint. Can cut the whole plant at 1" tall for mejiso, or let grow to adulthood and harvest primo leaf then flowers, then seeds for pickling. A very all-around wonderful plant to have in the cupboard.

When the purple leaf sits beneath the sun there's a metallic rainbow shine to it. I've truly never seen anything like. Maybe I've been starring at lettuce for all too long.

The new favorite lettuce type. It has a striking color and forms lovely small heads that can be cut in half and grilled/sauteed, just like any compact green romaine. First, a spoonful of butter, sizzling in a cast iron skillet, then cut half a head of lettuce and plop face down on the pan. Sear for a couple minutes on each side. Take off heat, face side up add a rizzle of lilikoi vinaigrette, sprinkle of island goat cheese and honey glazed wild boar bacon bits and oh my. Want to get really fancy use duck fat instead of butter on the lettuce and be sure to give it a nice crank of green peppercorns from the backyard.

One other fun kind.

The two faces of 50/50 shiso.

A whole flock of kale. Free kale. Anyone? The story goes... when I got it, nobody wants it, when I don't have it, everyone needs it. Not growing any more kale. My teeth are green from it. The local juice bar's juicer died and they don't want the kale anymore. Goodness, I can only eat so much. There's more than just teeth that have turned green. For lunch I grab mizuna and lettuce, then wrap it into a big kale leaf. The ultimate green machine burrito. Where's a goat when I need one. The kale got so big it became a colony for unwanted aphids, green worms and the leafs were getting this white rot that our pumpkins usually get.... so I chopped all the kale. It's now growing back in little leaves that are great for salads.

Freckles lettuce going to seed. Also, not growing anymore of this, because, it goes to seed in less than three weeks. I get to pick a few leaves then it's like, ''Adios!" Ciao. Yes, I talk to the lettuce.

Freckles is pretty, but has no weight or longevity.

Monster purple mustard green. Tastes like wasabi. Good in spicy kimchi.

African basil. I have three small plants that I'm growing to mothers, then will make many many clones of one day.

Garlic scapes. The only ones to be found on our island. Being used in place of garlic to open up the doors for local, organic garlic flavor. The companion real garlic is coming soon.

Whenever the trades come I get waves of aroma of garlic and shiso while in the nursery. Smells like a vampire slayer that just brushed his or her teeth.

Garlic scapes, aka flowers. Cut the flower after it does it's first bend and it will send a signal to put more energy into the bulb formation. At least, that's the plan. There's always a difference between a plan and the execution.

The garlic is in the final month or so before harvest. I lost more than half the crop since I planted it at the beginning of the year... some of the seed was rotten, or too little... then the pigs came one night... and then the chickens are always there... then I was away for a few weeks... now I'm back, and it's hot and dry... and the garlic is still unsure of where it's at. Once the solstice hits the garlic will go into decay mode and before then I will likely need to initiate a premature birth of garlic. Every farmer says garlic no grow here. It does, so far, but I do feel the challenges. I could pull what's there now and offer homegrown organic garlic to the community that's small and petite, or wait and see how big they will get before the solstice. I found one this morning that has four cloves and bigger than the size of a golf ball. With the scape cut a week ago the bulb is swelling rapidly... how big will it get? 

Here's a pic Hanai posted yesterday of shiso and garlic party we're having.

Micro arugula. Chefs like small things. Molecular gastronomy. Little green neutrons. 

The heirloom blue corn from New Mexico... before the pigs ate it last night. Sometimes I pull up to the fields and I see piles of fresh dirt. I walk over and find causalities. Dead vegetables with the sweet bits eaten and the rest of good stuff trampled on. Enjoy it pigs cause the farmer has a new old Bear Grizzly long bow on the way and I'm bought ready to get ninja on y'al hogs. The pig to human ratio on the island is 9 pigs per every human. That's about 63,000 wild pigs and for every pig there's probably 90 chickens. I planted two thousand corn, a few thousand oat, thousands of Billie's beans and I left for two hours and when I came back there were many fat roosters staring at me and pooping all at once. Faced with an army of chickens that won't sleep until every seed is eaten and converted to rich fertilizer I turned my back and walked away. 

Awapuhi ginger? The best natural shampoo.

Shiso and mizuna.

Teenage mizuna.

Purple mizuna rising towards seed. 

The office. 

My briefcase. 


Farmer Chef and Brother Penguin

Da plane just landed and I have 17 minutes to run the entire length of the Vancouver Intl’ Airport from gate A1 to gate E79. A few escalators, mile-long hallways, dodgy 90 degree turns pass construction zones and US customs. I ran, a cowboy in rabbit fur moccasins running across Canadian to destination known, a chocolate farm in Hawai’i. I picked up a salad and fruit bowl along the way. Hot with sweat and heavy breath I arrived at gate E79 right before the door to the plane closed. I gave the guy my ticket and hopped on board the metal eagle. Sat down in my seat, took off my sweatshirt, buckled the seat belt and took a sip of water. Soon we were in the air bumping to cruising altitude. Hungry, I put the plastic containers of freshies on the plastic table in front of me and everything stopped. The most primitive, basic question in life stared me in the face, again. 

Who or what made this food and drink?

Photo: 'Pictures of the day: 6 October 2008. The Telegraph. AFP/GETTY. 
< http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/3144855/Pictures-of-the-day-6-October-2008.html?image=32 >

From the moment we come out of the womb, we need food. Our first milky lifeline comes from our mother, or from a syringe, sometimes an IV and bag depending on birthing circumstances. In my daughters case, she was given an hour to suckle, but then was placed under UV lights and given an IV with basic fluids to feed her little body over the night. I remember holding her little toe, smaller than my pinky finger, telling her it won't always be like this and that I will grow her a garden to eat from.

6 months later I'm in the small Koloa grocery store looking at all the ingredient labels on baby formula and the first ingredient on all the cans is... corn syrup. Corn, is the most prevalent GMO crop grown today and none of these cans were labeled 'GMO Free.' I thought to myself, what would a traditional Hawaiian kapuna do to feed a babe before the advent of formula? I went to the produce section and bought a banana, avocado and tub of local poi. A couple years later these foods are a staple in our kitchen and Rosa helps me harvest bananas and avocados. This week I plant organic GMO free corn seed in hopes to have a yummy mid-summer harvest and make masa with the tri-colored kind.

Back to the airplane seat...

I’m starving and staring at the only 'fresh' fruit and vegetable option that I could find at the airport. My body is hungry like it's a 3 minute old baby since I'm going on 20 hours of awake mode and flying at 37,000 feet in a cramped, cold itsy bitsy coach class airplane seat, but my mind is like, wait a minute... this food could be toxic or at least cost more than what the Earth can handle. Grown with pesticides, cleaned with machines, shipped across the world, radiated, wrapped in plastic and sold for a crazy cost… and why? Why is this the only option?

Because, I left my farm and kitchen.

Within walking distance of this farm and kitchen I call home is: pineapple, sugar cane, cacao, vanilla, honey, chicken eggs, duck eggs, duck, pheasant, pig, chicken, white guava, pink, strawberry guava, meyer lemon, tahitian lime, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, ice cream bean, sugar apple, strawberry papaya, thimble berries, lilikoi, apple banana, purple banana, plantain, longan, coconut, palm fruit, mango, avocado, lettuce, arugula, red mizuna, tomatoes, kale, parsley, cilantro, thai basil, garlic, beet, carrot, watermelon radish, daikon, turnip, rutabaga, scorzonera, green beans, winter squash, kambocha squash, purple sweet potato, nasturtium, red shiso, green shiso, mejiso and more. 

I left home to spend two weeks in Ohio and Canada to visit family and see penguins at the Newport aquarium.

Penguins, in Kentucky, who would have thought?

Flashback to spring when of 2013 when I lived with a colony of penguins in Antarctica. 

After the penguin visit I flew to Toronto to see snow, since in Hawaii we don't get snow and I need a dose of it once every few years.

My last few days in Toronto before the journey back to the island gave me a dose of numbness that I never want to feel again. Grey concrete, grey roads, grey cars, grey smoke, grey sky… building after building after building. I try to reason that my carbon emissions for this vacation will be sequestered by the sea and feed the trees.

Now I'm awake, back where the penguin journey began... in the Garden of Eden.

With a big deep breath I walk outside. I make my way up to the nursery and lettuce patch. It’s only been two weeks, or a half moon, since I've been gone, but the color green in the landscape no longer looks like the green I knew when I left. It looks radiant and alive, like it's a tidal wave of shades of green. Many shades growing at once, not just, green. The forest is thicker. It must have rained while I was gone. I fall to my knees with natural environmental overload and reach towards a carrot in the ground. I pluck it out of the Earth, eat it, it grounds my soul. 

How simple the pleasure of eating is and how hard it is to obtain it.

I’ve spent 10 years in kitchens and several years in the fields growing food. I’m no chef or farmer, though. I see myself more as one of the human beings that lived a few generations back, before the industrial revolution and before Donald Trump, when money wasn't the thing, and access to food and water was. I find more ancient deer bones in old cooking fire pits and arrowheads for hunting in the woods in Ohio than I do colorful wampum, a similar story to money. Oh, boy, have the times changed. More money is being spent on bombs and gas these days than it is food. 

I dream of the day the family and I go out to the orchard to pick apples, then gather honey and grind flour and churn the butter, to make the best apple pie ever made.

I dream that the chefs no longer rely on farmers to bring them their ingredients and instead, chefs grow their own ingredients and farmers cook their own food. 

I pray that the seeds we sow now bring fruit and good health for the generations to come.

Photo: 'Early Tribes: Teequesta.' Artist: Theodore Morris. PBS. 
< http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/tequesta >