Resilient Farms: Moloaʻa Organicaʻa

Ned and Marta Whitlock, the proprietors of Moloa‘a Organicaʻa, strive to promote sustainable local practices through the study of soil biodiversity, microbiology, and creating a habitat for their organic farming to thrive on Kauai. They are rising resiliently through the COVID-19 economic disruption these few months by seeking new ways to feed their community by promoting online ordering/deliveries and collaborating with Malama Kauai’s various CSA programs.

Rewinding back to the year 2002 – this is when Ned and Marta began to restore and nourish 28.5 acres of land with organic food and exotic fruits to feed the growing community. Before the development of the orchard, the land was undeveloped and covered with invasive guinea grass. Astonishing improvement and enhancement were made each year and established an overwhelming amount of tropical fruits, organic produce, medical herbs, and native edibles with a combination of over 150 species of herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, hardwood trees, and spices. 

Before Covid-19 hit, Moloaʻa Organicaʻa was at five farmers markets weekly, and provided an abundance of fresh produce and fruit to dozens of health food stores, hotels, and restaurants on the island of Kauai. They are well known by the locals and tourists for their high-quality organic produce and unique variety of plants. They also offer a beautiful farm tour where you get to sample fresh fruit straight off the trees and learn about different strategies for growing a diverse variety of organic fruit and vegetables. However, the farm tours are temporarily closed until further notice due to COVID-19.

Moloaʻa Oraganicaʻa is currently collaborating with Malama Kauai through June 30th to provide over 150 fruit and vegetable bags per week through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. These boxes of fresh produce are distributed at DOE schools across the island in Farm-to-School CSA Boxes to keiki and families in need. 

“The programs that have been available to work with through Malama Kauai, such as the F2S CSA Program and the various kupuna programs, have been helping us to keep growing and working in the fields to continue to provide food for the community. The income from these efforts have kept our weekly profit similar to what it had been before. This has been a blessing and we wouldn’t be able to continue to do what we are doing to the same level without this assistance”

Meg Whiteford, Harvest, Sales, & Outreach Manager at Moloaʻa Organicaʻa

Like many farms on Kauai, they had to mitigate changes in operations towards selling their fresh produce online, shifting toward deliveries, and respecting social distancing rules. They even set up an online store a few days after markets closed to get weekly farm share sales up on the store with an option for people to choose their own veggies for the box if they purchased a certain amount of produce.

“The recent health crisis has forced us to reorganize and restructure. We had to act quickly to come up with a plan when markets were cancelled and each week it seems we have had to adjust to new regulations or changes in the market,” says Meg. “It has been an interesting shift, feeling out the different needs of the community, bumping up our social media communication, and staying up to date with the current community expectations related to health and safety. Our sales have definitely declined since the pandemic began, with smaller purchases from accounts, fewer markets, less tourism, and less people going out and about.”

But she also has words of encouragement. “I would encourage farmers at this time to really reach out to the community and communicate their needs, share their current situation, and be real with customers and the public. If we all stay positive and continue to do what we can to provide the community with food in whatever way that is, we can get through this and come out stronger than before,” she says.

This is definitely an uncertain time, and farmers definitely know uncertainty well. Maybe that is why we are so able to adjust and adapt right now.

Meg Whiteford, Harvest, Sales, & Outreach Manager at Moloaʻa Organicaʻa

The farm also donates the majority of their extra produce to local food banks and pantries, and encourages their fellow farmers to do the same – but not just for the tax write-off. “What goes around, comes around,” Meg continues. “So many people right now are wanting to start growing their own gardens. The more we can share our knowledge as farmers and be open to questions, the more we can localize and support each other to cultivate the world that we dream of- where people get their hands in the dirt daily, touch bugs, understand how to use a shovel, and eat raw veggies straight outta the ground! ”

You can find more of Moloaʻa Organicaʻa offerings and order conveniently online here where they sell an abundant package of fruits and vegetables – and can customize your own box as well. To see more exciting news on their farm see updates on their social media page on Instagram: @Moloaaorganicaa and Facebook page Moloaʻa Organicaʻa.