Honopua Farm was started as a commercial flower farm more than 30 years ago by Bill and Marie McDonald. Marie, who has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as a living treasure, is an outstanding authority on Hawaiian flowers and lei making and has authored several books on the subject. The name of the farm, Honopua, means "a gathering of flowers."
The McDonald's daughter and son-in-law, Roen and Ken Hufford, have taken over the running of the farm for the last 21 years, after her parents' retirement in the mid 1990's. They started expanding production by adding organic grown vegetables as an answer to demand from local businesses.
Back in the early days, Roen would fill a box with whatever crop could be harvested and made the rounds around town. Their first customer was Healthways II in Waimea; little by little the customer base expanded to include restaurants and other businesses. Today the farm continues to sell to several wholesale and retail accounts, a few restaurants, a local brewery and at two local farmers markets.
The 10 acre farm, located at the 2900 foot elevation in the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots area of Waimea, is no longer certified organic but continues to practice organic methods of planting, using no chemicals and only organic fertilizers and soil builders.
After noticing that some things grew better when planted at certain times of the year, Roen started following an astrological calendar which explains in detail what to plant not only on which days but even down to the time of day. The charts let her know when is the best time to plant leaf crops, fruits, flowers and root crops.
Except for the salad mixes, which are directly seeded into the soil, all seedlings are started in trays and later transplanted by hand into the fields. All of the work is done by Ken, Roen and several helpers. It is labor intensive, with planting, mulching, weeding, thinning, pruning, harvesting and preparation all done by hand. The only machinery used is when the fields need clearing or leveling to plant.
On Fridays, Roen cooks for everyone and all their helpers join in a meal.
Besides their best selling spinach and salad mixes they grow a variety of lettuces, chard, kale, beets, radicchio, rhubarb, red variegated sorrel, carrots, collards, radishes, arugula, mustard, mizuna, endive, cabbage, turnips, fennel, artichokes, other specialty and seasonal vegetables, and an assortment of herbs.
You can find them at the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, and the Waimea Mid-Week Farmers Market at Pukalani Stables on Wednesdays.
Ken & Roen Hufford
P. O. Box 355 Kamuela 96743
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.