Ohia Fields Farm -- Featured CSA
Ohia Fields Farm is unusual in that it is located in two separate locations. The current home site and animal husbandry part of the operation is located on 4.5 acres of pasture above Honoka’a in Ahualoa, with beautiful views of Mauna Kea. The crop part of the farm is roughly 15 miles southeast on about 3/4 acres of their eventual home site farm. This consists of 22 forested acres up in the O’okala mauka area of Hamakua. Both properties share approximately the same 2500 foot elevation.
Miliana and Jeff Johnson started by raising sheep and chickens for about 5 years. Miliana had gained previous animal husbandry experience while working at another farm, and it is only in the last year and half that they have raised vegetables and decided to operate the farm as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) business.
Although not organic, Miliana and Jeff do practice sustainable growing methods and do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Soil samples are sent periodically to be analyzed and the soil is amended when needed using organic supplements such as K-mag, gypsum, OMRI Sulfate of Potash, dolomite and phosphate as well as composted chicken, horse and cow manure as well as their own composted waste from the fields.
They farm by hand – the only gas powered tools are the chainsaw, the truck and sometimes a tiller. They hired a tractor to open the fields and will again when they expand the growing area.
Completely off-grid, the drip irrigation watering is done from the cistern using a solar powered water pump which waters their raised vegetable and herb beds.
The Johnsons practice animal rotation in the 4.5 acreage, not only to improve the soil and foraging for the animals but also to conserve the watershed. Later this year they intend to experiment by incorporating temporary vegetable fields into the animal rotation plan hoping to further increase fertility and foraging.
Trying to strike a balance between adventure and the basics, they are willing to experiment with new crops. The summer season plans include adding more edible flowers and new herbs to their mix, and also experimenting with asparagus and other unusual crops such as beetberry, lemon cucumber, komatsuna, mizuna, purslane, sorrel and black turnips, broccoli rabe, mini broccoli, radishes, savory, arugula, peppers, dill, tatsoi, shiso, fennel, and chamomile.
They provided broiler chickens in the past year, but that proved to be too labor intensive. They hope to be able to provide stew chickens in the future and also do a small test-run of turkeys in time for Thanksgiving this year. Stay tuned.
The harvesting, cleaning and prepping for the CSA is all done on Thursdays, and then the portioned vegetables are bagged and stored in several large coolers until Friday morning when the subscription bags are packed and delivered.
After doing extensive searches, Miliana found some strong reusable jute bags they liked for making their weekly deliveries. Each CSA customer is assigned two bags with their names and the type subscription on a tag; one bag is delivered full and the empty is returned for the next week’s delivery.
During our visit the bags being packed were filled with generous portions of garden beans, broccoli, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, green and red lettuce and Kabocha pumpkins. The deluxe also included a dozen eggs, parsley, rosemary, and chives.
Included in each bag besides the recipe cards is a newsletter detailing vegetable contents of the bag and descriptions and explanations of new veggies that might not be well-known to the customer.
Although they would like to eventually expand to between 50 and 100 subscribers they still would like to keep it small enough to be able to develop personal relationships with the subscribers and respond to their comments and wishes.
Miliana comments: “We enjoy the puzzle-like challenge of growing multiple crops and want to improve the integration of all the pieces – the animals, the vegetables, the native rainforest. We are so honored to be a part of the food revolution on the Island of Hawai‘i. It’s great that we’re not the only CSA and that CSA’s aren’t the only answer to food independence and island sustainability. We have been encouraged from the start by family and friends who don’t just want us to succeed financially but who understand that, to us, this is not just a business, it’s our part of the solution to a bigger issue. We work very hard to make a small difference and we encourage everyone else to do the same, whether they’re growers, customers, or another part of the island social web. We all depend on each other.”
OHIA FARMS CSA
Subscription, Delivery, Contact
Sonia 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 contributing writer for Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and has her own food & garden blog at soniatasteshawaii.com