Getting directions to visit local farmer Ryan Earehart’s Oko’a Farm in Kula, Maui doesn’t include any street names or address numbers but is instead a list of agricultural references: “Drive until you see a tractor on your right. Keep going until you see a monkeypod tree and take a right, you’ll pass a herd of goats on the left soon. Keep going until you see a pineapple field on the left and you see sugarcane on the right.” If you couldn’t tell by his directions, Ryan is pretty preoccupied with farming and a quick glance around his 4-acre property shows you that his focus is paying off.
Oko’a farm is a beautiful and lush example of polyculture farming. There are small clusters or rows of different plants scattered everywhere you turn and anywhere there’s free space. No square foot is wasted: a few rows of lettuce here, a trellis of tomatoes or berries there. Varieties of peas and beans grow along the driveway fence, vines of large lilikoi climb from a small grove to the back of Ryan’s house on the property. Oko’a Farm grows over 60 different types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, beans, and more. As Ryan walks through and points out different plants, he begins explaining how to eat them and what their nutritional values are. His knowledge is almost encyclopedic. Fueled by his strong desire to grow his own food and to know exactly what he was feeding his family, Ryan started Oko’a Farm about 7 years ago. As the produce manager for Mana Foods for the past 10 years, he was able to interact and learn from lots of local farmers, and encouraged to teach himself. He began experimenting with a couple of crops, learning more and more on his own, growing his farm until he was able to do it fulltime.
Matching his passion for growing his own food, sustainability also plays an important role in Ryan’s farming. Ryan explains that he chose to name his farm Oko’a because in Hawaiian it means “whole, complete, independent”1, which he interprets as a close definition for sustainability. Not wanting to depend on outside resources, he doesn’t like to see anything go to waste. He uses organic matter from his sugarcane and bananas as a natural fertilizer for his crops. He also utilizes pellets from dozens of adorable rabbits that feed on plants grown only a few feet away. He reuses old bathtubs as planters. He rotates plants to keep his soil healthy and grows naturally bug-repelling plants, like marigolds, close by.
Ryan, along with his partner Sal, and his quite frankly picturesque farming family, seems to be doing everything right. Growing food for sustenance and nutrition while being sustainable makes him one of our favorite local farmers. You can buy Oko’a Farm’s amazing produce at our Kahului store. While you’re there, talk to our produce manager, Kevin, who shares Ryan’s enthusiasm for local and fresh produce.