Aloha kakahiaka from Massachusetts! Bright Monday morning we were welcomed with crispy chilled fresh air and beautiful blue skies. Almost everywhere we drove to, we were surrounded by green vegetation and many trees.
Our first visit for the day was at CISA, a community involved in sustaining agriculture. Margaret Christie, Special Projects Director shared valuable information as we all listened attentively for 2 hours. Many of the farmers face the same problems as we do in Hawai‘i. Margaret discussed the many programs that they provide for their members. The cost to join is only $125 a year. This includes many educational programs, grant programs, a farm loan program, a mentorship program, healthy incentive program and branding and marketing program.
CISA is a great example of a non-profit organization that is truly helping their agriculture community. Their “Be a Local Hero” campaign is far better, but yet comparable to Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture “Buy Local, It Matters” campaign and Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundations’ “Localicious” campaign. Hawai‘i can do a lot better than it is. It would benefit Hawai‘i agriculture greatly if Margaret would be invited to come to Hawai‘i to teach these organizations and others about how Hawai‘i can help its farmers under one organization. CISA or one unit does everything for the farmers.
After the presentation, classmate and Taro Farmer, Nick Reppun commented, “At CISA when I heard about a program that is sponsored by the MA State department of Elderly Affairs I am now inspired to provide poi to low income kupunas (seniors). I think this is something our organization, Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi can do.”
Every place we went including Representative Ed Case, Legislative Deputy Chief David Chun, Margaret Christie and other successful non profits and farmers say that branding and marketing is key to building a successful business, product, etc. We got to see the success of Be A Local Hero campaign in the grocery stores. Farmers and residents we talked to say that having the Be a Local Hero on their label adds tremendous value to the product.
Our next stop was to our classmate, Sarah Styan’s family farm, Nourse Farm, growers of the finest berries & berry plants. Sarah was born and raised in Massachusetts and was instrumental in setting up most of the amazing tours in this beautiful state. Sarah’s parents, Tim and Mary Nourse generously invited us to their farm located in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts for lunch and also took us on a farm tour.
We all enjoyed the sandwiches but the highlight for us all was the delicious fresh raspberry pie that Sarah had made the night before. It was her mother’s first place blue ribbon pie. Wow, that was the best raspberry pie we have ever had in our lives!
After a great lunch, Tim shared the history of Nourse Farm with us. His parents owned a dairy farm but Tim did not feel the passion for cows. During this time, Mary, his wife was growing raspberries in her garden and selling it. When he saw his wife selling these berries for a few years from her garden, this gave him the idea to try growing raspberries. The rest is history. They brought a strawberry farm in 1974 and produced strawberry and raspberry plugs.
This business grew into a large and successful business. Today, Nourse Farm produces and sells fine quality raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, elderberry and gooseberries and also small plants that are shipped across the United States, South America, Canada and other foreign countries. Sarah proudly shared that her dad, is one of the top expert in his field and humble about his wealth of knowledge growing these berries. It was fascinating to see the tissue culture laboratory where virus and disease free plants are multiplied using meristem tissue placed on agar.
After the laboratory we got to see the new cold storage facility. During shipping season, the plugs are held at 28 degrees so the plants would be in a dormant environment. The facility had a packing house where millions of plugs are processed every year. Nourse Farm is a leading edge farm and is constantly working to improve farm practices, working on a disease free product. The state of the art greenhouse is a big investment that can control the environment so that the plants can grow year round.
After the greenhouse and tissue culture laboratory tour, we drove to the field where we admired the beautiful raspberries plants and the workers harvesting the berries. The farm utilized two different growing systems. Most of the plants grow in open fields and about 2 acres are under high tunnels. The plants in the tunnels are exposed to less sunlight and are protected from rain and yield higher quality fruits.
It was time to say a hui hou (until we meet again) to Tim and Mary Nourse. Visit there farm at www.noursefarms.com.
Next and last farm tour for the day was at Apex Orchards, a 90 acre certified organic, diversified family farm with its roots in the fertile soil of the Connecticut River Valley — www.apexorchards.com. We kept driving up to a higher altitude and suddenly we see Apex Orchards with the most spectacular scenery!
We were greeted by Tim Smith, owner and farmer and Courtney the farm manager. The orchard was established in 1828 and has gone through transition over the years. Tim put his heart and soul into making changes to the business and clearing the land for new orchards. Today their products are sold at the Apex Farm Store, at farmers markets and to wholesale customers throughout New England.
We were so excited when Tim took us on his tractor tour of the peach and apple orchards. What, we get to pick our own peaches and apples? When we got off the wagon, we were each given a bag and Tim showed us how to feel a peach and how to pick it. For many of us from Hawai‘i, this was our first time to pick peaches and apples from the orchard. It was like we were in a candy store! The peaches were so juicy, sweet and delicious! Gene Davis from Moloka‘i could not stop eating and ate 3 peaches in few minutes! As for Olelo pa‘a Ogawa, she took time to admire the beautiful peach and ate it slowly as she closed her eyes and experienced bliss in that moment. The apples were equally delicious! There were so many varieties to pick like Gala, Macon, Golden Delicious, Empire, Fuji and more!
Before leaving the orchard, we had to take a group shot to remember with a breath taking view and remember this joyful moment in time! We went back on the wagon and went shopping in Apex Farm Store before leaving the farm.
We ended our day having dinner at Blue Rock Restaurant and enjoyed the view. A wonderful way to end the day.