Farmer Feature: Taro Patch Farm
Wedged between the road from Honoka'a to Waipio Valley in front, and the Hamakua Ditch in back, Taro Patch Farm is one busy little farm.
Edith (Edie) Bikle started her first garden when she was 15 years old and has been farming one way or another ever since. She bought the present 1,000 foot elevation 1½ acre property 7 years ago and immediately started adding an edible garden and fruit trees to the already established macadamia tree orchard.
Besides macadamia nuts, Edie and partner Tony Dela Cruz are working toward one day having as much of a self-sustainable farm as possible. To this end they are growing asparagus, butterfly peas, kale, lettuce, toy choy and other related greens; tomatoes, pumpkins, gourds, taro, green onions, chile peppers, and expotic herbs and spices; papayas, pineapples, oranges, avocadoes, jaboticaba, Buddha finger fruit, pomelos, and bananas (including the beautiful variegated green and white A'ea'e).
Bees from a nearby location can be seen buzzing around and pollinating both the garden and the fruit trees.
Edie and Tony roast the macadamias while still in the shell, giving the nuts a unique flavor and making it easier to be able to crack them. The demand for the roasted nuts is always greater than the supply and some customers buy several bags at a time.
The little farm specializes in ducks and is home to five or six breeds of mostly egg-laying ducks. They sell the ducks eggs, fresh and salted, when available, and as an offshoot have been selling baby ducks quite successfully.
There are also nine different breeds of chickens that lay mostly brown eggs, a few Sebright bantams, and two white turkeys; also several quail and rabbits for meat. The chickens and ducks are free range and have the run of several sections of the property, including a nice and quite deep pond for the ducks.
Besides the foraging the fowl do, Edie supplements the feed for the ducks, chickens, turkeys and quail with greens, coconuts, egg shells and leftover popcorn (for which she trades eggs with the Honoka'a People's Theater!)
The water for the pond, for watering the gardens and for a small fish pond in a side yard comes from the Hamakua Ditch. Once a year the pond is drained for cleaning and the manure collected from the bottom to be used as fertilizer. The rabbit manure is also used as fertilizer.
With a 4-tray worm composting bin and conscientiously placing almost all of their waste (raw food scraps, cardboard, newspapers and other compostable items) into the bins, the farm has turned almost all of their waste into liquid gold. The bin is home to 2 or 3 pounds of worms at any one time, all working and producing beautiful compost which she uses to make vermicompost tea for their vegetables and fruits.
In the past, Edie has kept horses, sheep, and cows, two of the latter she raised and bottle fed as babies. Now she would like to have at least one large animal again to complete the circle: keeping the grass mowed and providing great manure for everything else.
Her farm products are available through her store, Taro Patch Gifts located in the main street of Honoka'a across from the credit union, where you can find whatever is seasonably available displayed in front.
Edie has also taken 'Farm to Fashion' and makes beautiful feather jewelry and other art work with the endless supply of feathers from her farm.
Taro Patch Farm
Shop address: 45-3599 Mamane Street
Honoka'a, HI 96727
Sonia R. Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a. She is a regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine; and has her own food & garden blog at Sonia Tastes Hawaii.