By Dagny Brand
“If you build really great soil, you’ll get really great food off of it,” said owners Gerry Ross and Janet Simpson about Kupa‘a Farms’ focus of “outstanding beauty and unforgettable flavors” in their organic farming. Growing products ranging from vegetables to coffee, Kupa‘a Farms emphasizes sustainability through their composting and through the educational opportunities that they offer.
Since Ross and Simpson took over the farm in 2003, “everything is grown organically.” Kupa‘a Farms rich, composted soil allows them to produce 40 different kinds of vegetables, tropical fruits, coffee, and cacao. “We like all of our kids,” Ross said regarding his love for all the produce grown at the farm. Ross and Simpson are especially proud of their taro, as well as their coffee, which won 16th in the world last year. “We have so many different things growing here,” Ross explained. “Right now, we are transitioning to fall crops, so we can grow lettuce that we couldn’t grow during the summer.” In addition to growing produce, Kupa‘a Farms partnered with Simpson’s twin sister, Judy Simpson, who makes jams and sewn bags. Kupa‘a Farms is a perfect example of sustainable agriculture in all its aspects.
While Kupa‘a Farms works to feed the community through organic methods, the farm also educates people on its importance. Kupa‘a Farms is a mentor in the Farm Apprentice and Mentoring Program. Ross teaches classes on composting and sustainable agriculture both on the farm and at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Kupa‘a Farms welcomed students of all ages to the farm to learn about “what it takes to grow food sustainably on Maui.” They also had interns from all around the world come to the farm. “Lots of people want to learn how to grow food in a way that has low impact. We’re glad to help them learn, and they are glad to help us on the farm,” said Ross. While the interns have not been on the farm since the shutdown, Kupa‘a Farms has continued its educational classes on Zoom.
Kupa‘a Farms is direct-to-consumer through a subscription share service with Ho‘omakua Farm. Their products can also be found in Maui restaurants like Tin Roof, Lineage, and Joey’s Kitchen. Most importantly, Kupa‘a Farms wants to encourage people to “grow something and eat local,” as Simpson emphasized. “The best reward is seeing people getting excited about something they’re growing.” In addition, Simpson and Ross encourage Hawai‘i locals to help the state become “sustainable in compost production. Compost keeps our soil beautiful and should be a product widely available to farmers, gardeners, and ranchers.”
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