Ko Farms, hidden deep in Palolo Valley (Oahu), is a world away from busy Honolulu city life. Though many of us think of farming as an activity that takes place far away from the city, Ko Farms has settled into the urban farm life easily. And it’s no wonder: Ko Farms is very nearly magical. Butterflies and birds hover about, sun streams through the large trees onto the kale plants, and the ocean is still and deep blue in the distance. Built on the hilly terrain in the back of the valley, Daniel Ko has carved out multiple terraces in which to grow his greens.
A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit MA‘O Organic Farms, which is a 25-acre organic certified farm in Lualualei Valley on the western coast of O‘ahu, near the town of Wai‘anae. The trip was just one of the many events I had planned as part of a three-day meeting that Down to Earth hosted for members of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, who were visiting Hawaii from the mainland.
I'm very excited to introduce Life Foods, Inc., one of our favorite new brands in the store. Life Foods is a Maui-based company that makes wonderfully delicious superfood products including veggie burgers, condiments, hot sauces, salad dressings and vegetable ferments. Life Foods was founded on Maui in 2013 and continues to expand throughout the islands (and soon mainland distribution!). They source as much as possible from local Maui farms to support our island agriculture and to bring you the freshest, most nutrient-dense foods possible.
The need to produce more food in some regions of Asia during the past fifty years was—for a time—achieved by increasing the yields of grain crops by as much as 2.5 percent per year using industrial farming methods. These methods relied on high-yielding hybrid seeds and more recently seeds of genetically modified (GM) crops, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and intense irrigation. But by 2004 annual growth rates of crop yields began declining, e.g. the annual growth in yield for rice crops dropped to as low as .5 percent.
As concern over diminishing soil quality grows in the Asia-Pacific region, natural farming methods may hold the cure. The prime cause of soil erosion and nutrient depletion during the past thirty years is over-application of chemical fertilizer.
This is the finding of a study by the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Science, which notes that farmers have become too dependent on artificial fertilizers. They haven't been building up their soil with organic matter that nurtures the soil naturally and binds it together to help resist erosion due to wind and rain.