Thursday 6 March 2014

The Dirt on Organic Farming at the Maui Dragon Fruit Farm

Now that the last layer of dirt has been washed from our bodies and our smelly grass and dirt stained clothes have been thrown out, it's time to recap all the organic dirt of our Woofing experience...

This second time to Maui, we knew better what to expect. The weather was just right, as we stepped outside the Kahului airport and took a deep breath of the fresh tropical air. Awaiting our arrival was the Dragon Wagon, a run down hippie van full of farmers, backpackers, travelers, and vagabonds like ourselves! This group of farmers called themselves the Good Vibe Tribe, and they quickly welcomed us into their circle and carried us away to our next adventure!

We arrived at the farm just before sunset and played frisbee in the giant infinity lawn overlooking the entire coast of Maui! All about were steep green points and an endless panorama of blue. There was nothing to block my view of the ocean. The vastness hit me like a punch in the stomach. It's hard to imagine a prettier view, radiant white clouds beginning to light up in the fathomless dome of delicate pale blue as the sun set over Lanai. The wind was beginning to soften to a tuneful breeze. It was the dawn of a beautiful day in the Pacific Ocean.

Our living quarters were an intimate and private camp located at the base of the Maui mountains, beyond the roads and traffic but perfectly situated under the heat of the Hawaiian sun. Green hills heavy with mists felt like just an arms length away, but in reality they were much further. The island's canopy of mountains stretched for hundreds of miles around us. Just out of sight was the beach, continually calling my name with its yellow sands ablaze in the sun! Every grain echoed its light. Wild life was aplenty and their noise was matching in their numbers! Cats, dogs, birds, butterflies, insects, you name it. We were welcomed into the first batch of cabins that had just been built for us the day before and we were glad to have them! Winter storms brought winds that were inescapable up in the mountains, and the wooshing sounds were relentless but satisfying.

Tent Town

 Gazebo for tours


 The Dragon Wagon

View from our cabin

Inside of our cabin



Mountain view of the farm

Ocean view of the farm

View of Lanai from the farm

Pineapple plants

 Dragon fruit plants and zip line

Beautiful plumerias that outline the driveway 

View from infinity lawn and hibiscus flowers

Paradise lawn where weddings take place

Storm over Lanai 

Queen Cat- Sparkle

Greg and Sparkle

Little Isis

Farm Dogs

Everyday the smell of dirt lingered on my body and stained my hands and toes. I learned a lot about organic farming and how much work it takes to keep up a farm. I learned even more about dragon fruit. This beautiful plant, known locally as pitaya, is actually a cactus and only the female plants produce fruit which can only be pollenated by hand at night during the full moon. They only produce fruit the week of the full moon and because of this, they are also known as moonflowers or Queens of the Night! I've also realized how tenacious a weed can be, especially in the inhospitable volcanic Maui soil. NEVER underestimate the power of a weed, these buggers dig deep and won't let go!

Dragon Fruit

Fields of Dragon Fruit that had to be weeded everyday!

Our first week on the farm, we prepared a large plot of land for a brand new field to grow dragon fruit. First, we flattened the earth with laborious hours on heavy machinery. Then, we dug hundreds of deep holes to place 10 foot wooden posts in, which we later packed and re-packed with lots of dirt. I've thrown more boulders than I can count, and have learned a blister can form quickly. The majority of the time, I was scheduled to weed, water plants, and mow the two lawns while Greg got stuck doing construction everyday on the new Field 4. To our dismay, we arrived to find out it wasn't dragon fruit season and that we had just missed it. So instead of spending our days knee deep in dirt, gardening and pollenating delicious fruit, like we were so excited to do, we got stuck hands deep in thorns, red ants, and giant centipedes! And we can't forget the 7 foot tall cane grass that puts splinters all over your body!

 Step 1: Preparing the land

 Step 2: Digging Holes for Posts

 Step 3: Placing Posts

Step 4: Removing all the big boulders for irrigation

Fields 3 and 4

As days turned into weeks, there was something about the 5 hour days 5 days a week in the blistering sun that just didn't feel right. We didn't come to Maui to work, we came to explore! Although we signed ourselves up for this and were determined to stick it out, it was the evil farm manager that gave us that extra push to leave. To be honest, we only lasted 3 weeks on the farm, but we worked our asses off despite what boss lady said. She accused us of not working because we'd wake up early, finish our hours and then leave to go wander the island before she'd ever see us working.

But it wasn't all bad, we met some really awesome people made some unforgettable experiences and were blessed with free food and an awesome cabin with one of the best views of Maui! Every day at sunset I'd enjoy my meal as I'd watch the sun's descent in a cloudless sky. At night the vault of the world was magnificently tinted and the stars were eager to participate. A zip line and giant aqua ball course were provided for tourists that some of the farmers got to work for extra money, but we got to use them anytime we wanted! Although we didn't get to pollenate any fruit, we did get to try a few and boy were they delicious! Fresh papaya, apple bananas, pineapple, and the occasion dragon fruit were growing at our fingertips! In the evening when it was quiet and all you could hear were the whining horses at the stables next door, and you could see more stars than you've ever imagined, it's really quite marvelous. And then you wake up, and the sun paints another incredible picture for you.

Our days after the farm were spent exploring all the parts of the island we didn't get to see the first time around and working 2-3 days a week at a restaurant and cafe. Our home was the back of an SUV that we turned into a bed. For 3 months, we bathed in our swimsuits at the public showers on the beach, had no kitchen, no source of power and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the dark. We had a house on wheels and could wake up in a different place every morning. One day we'd be swimming with turtles and the next we'd be deep in the rain forest jumping off waterfalls. There were definitely rough days, especially when it rained, but these are the reasons I travel, to experience life on my own terms.  I don't want to look back and not have stories to tell. Life is short, we only get to live once, and I want to look back and say I did crazy things.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You live in such a beautiful place! Majorly jealous!