What Types of Crops are Grown in Small Quantities on Oahu's Farms?

Discover what types of crops are grown in small quantities on Oahu's farms! From ginger to plantains to sweet potatoes - all these crops play an important role in sustaining Hawaii's economy as well as its culture.

What Types of Crops are Grown in Small Quantities on Oahu's Farms?

When most people think of agriculture in Hawaii, the crops that come to mind are sugar cane, pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coffee. While these are very important crops for the islands, there are many other crops that help sustain Hawaii's economy. Among these many crops are ginger, plantains, onions, sweet potatoes, lettuce and seeds. Avocados are a minor crop in Hawaii, with around 200 acres harvested annually.

Maui and the Big Island provide the most, while smaller amounts come from Oahu and Kauai. Other grass cover crops commonly used in Hawaii include sorghum and Sudanese grass, black oats, pearl millet, and rye. Hawaiian native Eric Enos grew up in Waiʻanae, on the west coast of Oahu, less than an hour's drive from Honolulu's flashy Waikiki beach resort paradise. When he graduated from college with a degree in art education in the 1970s, he returned home to teach at-risk youth in his community, children whose lives were often limited by poverty and crime. He never expected that the path he had chosen would lead him to create a farm that would help restore an integral part of Hawaiian life.

The Kaʻala farm, nestled in the mountains of Waiʻanae, on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu, has helped restore traditional Hawaiian farming techniques. To plant “kalo” (taro), farmers divert water from ditch streams to flooded or irrigated ponds called “loʻi”. After harvesting kalo, students and volunteers at the Kaʻala farm clean the roots of plants that were left behind before the land is flooded again to plant them in the future. The students hold the harvested kalo plants, whose bulbous, starchy roots of the corms will be steamed before eating them. Coconut growers at the Niu Now nursery in western Oʻahu place the seedlings together until they are big enough to plant them in new orchards.

Growing sweet potatoes around trees helps retain soil moisture and eliminate weeds. Coconut expert Indrajit Gunasekara, originally from Sri Lanka, works with Niu Now to identify and cultivate rare varieties of the tree on Oahu. Young people from the non-profit organization 'Āina Momona eliminate the invasive mangroves that were suffocating the old Keawanui fish pond on the eastern end of Molokaʻi. The 'Āina Momona team shares their experience at the Keawanui fish pond and helps rebuild the rock wall of the nearby Ohalahala fish pond.

After several years of work, the old Keawanui fish pond was painstakingly restored. Enos took his art students on long hikes to nearby Mount Kaʻala and, along the way, taught them about Hawaiian history and culture. They discovered row after row of ancient stone walls that their native Hawaiian ancestors built to enclose the freshwater terraces where they grew taro, the starchy tropical tuber that is Oceania's staple crop. Enos and his students decided to restore these terraces, so they cleaned the roots and weeds from the dry soil and channeled the fresh water to flood the soil and replant taro. Based on the knowledge of the “kūpuna” (the elders) to cultivate taro (“kalo” in Hawaiian), Enos founded his Kaʻala farm. Over the next five decades, similar organizations from across the island chain joined the Kaʻala farm, which planted dozens of food crops brought to Hawaii by Polynesian sailors who first populated the islands some 1200 years ago.

Among these crops is kalo crushed and fermented into “poi” which is an essential dish revered in almost all traditional Hawaiian foods. For Native Hawaiians, growing and consuming ancient crops are deeply related to their identity, history, spirituality, and culture. Hawaiian food is as special as its location. Located in the middle of Pacific Ocean, Hawaiian Islands were among last places where humans settled. Growing ginger, taro, sugar cane, bananas, coconut, bamboo, yams and breadfruit among other plants used for food medicine flavorings tools and construction along with fish and pigs sustainably supported hundreds of thousands people for more than thousand years. When Bernice Pauahi Bishop last descendant Kamehameha royal line died 1884 her estate was dedicated establishing Kamehameha schools improve well-being native Hawaiians through education In total Kamehameha schools now own about 360 000 acres When sugar industry set out search cheaper labor India South America Caribbean much land owned leased big companies became empty rangelands used tourism urban development. While some Hawaiian communities have always grown food their ancestral land there has been increase interest traditional methods over past 50 years Human story Hawaii based one most diverse ecological systems Earth ranging snow-capped mountains Pacific Ocean tropical jungles nearby deserts lava flows 5 million years ago yesterday's volcanic eruptions Before contact Europeans Hawaiian agriculture varied similar way Chiefs distributed land long strips called “ahupuaʻa” which went down slopes mountains ocean Ahupuaʻa system ensured agricultural units had access elements various ecosystems Agriculture was adapted individual characteristics each ahupuaʻa reflecting both elevation variation between rainiest windward sides each island drier leeward sides However each them used have combination “loʻi intensive” flooded irrigated agricultural terraces where kalo was cultivated rain-watered land used sweet potato (“ʻuala”) yam (“uhi”).Hawaii is home to a wide variety of crops grown in small quantities on its farms.

From ginger to plantains to sweet potatoes to taro - all these crops play an important role in sustaining Hawaii's economy as well as its culture and identity. Coconut growers at Niu Now nursery work with coconut expert Indrajit Gunasekara to identify rare varieties of trees on Oahu while young people from 'Āina Momona work hard to restore old fish ponds like Keawanui fish pond on Moloka'i. Eric Enos' Ka'ala farm has helped restore traditional Hawaiian farming techniques by planting dozens of food crops brought by Polynesian sailors centuries ago.