One of the leaders of Hawaii's local farm movement is Paul Johnston. Johnston, who along with his wife Susan Sanderson, and Susan’s sister Betsy Sanderson, runs the organic Kekela Farms. Johnston, a doctor in his previous life, migrated to the Big Island from the East Coast. When he first arrived on the island, he worked full time as an OB-GYN.
It was only about three years ago that they turned to farming full time. In an interview with Marin Magazine, given earlier this Fall, Johnston noted, "Growing food, and preparing food is an act of love. So for me [farming] is not too far from medicine.”
The produce grown at Kekela Farms is just spectacular. Johnston utilizes the windward side weather to grow a full spectrum of crops, from lettuces and other greens, to root vegetables, chile peppers, squash, beans, onions and herbs. Of the Waimea climate, Johnston told Marin Magazine, “[i]t’s like a perpetual New England fall, some days it’s September, and others it can be November. The key thing we do here in Hawaii that doesn’t happen in many other places [because of the weather] is succession planting, which keeps us busy 365 days a year.”
Most of the crops grown at Kekela make their way to the island's many restaurants. However, they do sell to the public at the Waimea Town Market on Saturday mornings and at their own permanent farm stand on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
I must thank Leslie Hill, co-owner of the organic, sustainable, Wailea Agricultural Group, for introducing me to Kekela's farm stand. I originally contacted Leslie because I was searching for a source for fresh hearts of palm for the wedding and she told me that her product was sold at Kekela's stand. While Wailea Ag is the the largest fresh Hawaiian Heart of Palm grower in America, they consider stewardship of the earth one of their primary responsibilities and therefore grow their crops (hearts of palm, avocados, tropical fruits, spices) using methods of sustainable agriculture. For hearts of palm orders of 10 lbs or more, they will ship direct to you using FedEx.
For photos of Kekela's beautiful produce, click here: