When I first visited Hawaii back in the ’80s, there was really no such thing as local cuisine, unless you count shave ice and spam musubi. Since then, though, there has been a real revolution in the local food scene, first with Hawaii Regional Cuisine, and now with the farm to table movement really taking hold over the last few years, following the death of the sugar cane plantations and the birth of diversified agriculture. Hawaii still hasn’t reached the level of, say Northern California, in the size and sophistication of the farmers’ markets, but it has come a long, long way and there are a growing number of agri-tourism businesses as well. There is even a Hawaii Agritourism Association to support farmers and encourage innovation.
It pretty much started with the coffee and mac nut farms offering tours and tastings, and over the last few years has expanded to include a wide range of farm tours featuring everything from vanilla and lavender to organic chocolate and exotic tropical fruits. Many offer educational tours, most have some kind of tastings, and a number offer full fledged farm to table meals by well regarded local chefs. The coffee growers have developed a number of tours and tasting rooms and there is an annual Coffee Festival with competitions, ‘cuppings,’ entertainment and a Miss Coffee. One of the better known and well regarded coffee farm tours is Greenwell’s http://www.greenwellfarms.com/farm-tour and the Kona Historical Society has a living history coffee farm demonstrating how coffee was grown in the later 1800s and early 1900s. http://www.konahistorical.org/index.php/tours/kona-coffee-living-history-farm/ and they have recently added a Portuguese stone oven and bread baking demonstration as well: http://www.konahistorical.org/index.php/tours/portuguese-stone-oven-baking/
One of the earlier entrants in the field of agri-tourism was the Hawaii Vanilla Company. The first commercial vanilla producer in the United States, the family business started in 1989 and since then, they have grown into a sophisticated operation offering tours, several options for meals, a plethora of recipes on their web page and features on the Food Network, Discovery Channel, and Travel Channel. Their tour offerings can be seen at http://thevanillachef.com/tours/
Just for fun, here is their video on making your very own vanilla extract:
Next post will cover the newer Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm, and the Chocolate Festival (sorry – you just missed it – it is held annually in March.)