27 Feb Tropical Trail: Visit the Food Forest and Yummy Hydroponics of Wai Koa Plantation
The recent obsession with our tangerine tree got us to thinking about all the farmland wisdom we’ve received over the last year. In particular, we’ve been reliving our visit to the edible Shangri-La that is Kauai Fresh Farms.
Located on the 500-acre Wai Koa Plantation on Kauai’s North Shore, the farm specializes in hydroponically grown produce — that is, crops cultivated without soil. They include cucumbers, basil, 13 gorgeous varieties of lettuce and vine-ripened tomatoes that are grown, with the help of greenhouses, in a climate known for antagonizing them.
Locally grown crops are a boon to an island weighed down by imports. Restaurants (e.g. Merriman’s), hotels (e.g. the St. Regis in Princeville), markets (e.g. Papaya’s Natural Foods in Kapa’a) and food trucks across Kauai serve the farm’s produce.
The land was once occupied by a sugar plantation and by the Guava Kai orchard. Founded in 2006 in the town of Kilauea, Wai Koa Plantation is owned by Bill Porter, founder of ETrade, and his wife Joan. In addition to the farm, here you will find the tropical pageantry of the Stone Dam, catch-and-release ponds, a dog park and the five-mile Wai Koa trail loop for biking and walking, all open to the public. There’s also a mahogany hardwood plantation, organic orchard, community garden and permaculture food forest.
General manager Markeeta Smith was kind enough to give us a multisensory tour. Over the course of two hours we pretty much experienced all four seasons — from breezy chills to driving rain to agreeable warmth to sweaty, strip-off-the-raincoat-I-was-wearing-two-minutes-ago heat. And then we saw our first bona fide Hawaiian rainbow!
You can take the tour too by making reservations here. In the meantime, hop aboard the tram and let’s go… —TH