Ali'i Kula Lavender
“Ve vere bored in Hamburg,” Eva Kafsack mused to me as I had at a plateful of her divinely creamy chevre. Had I made a wrong turn at the sugarcane factory and ended up in a Monty Python sketch (“blessed are the cheesemakers…”)? Nein, mein Schatz, this very German-looking retired teacher sitting across from me, along with her former software entrepreneur husband Thomas, was the real deal: a goat farmer in the fertile “upcountry” of Maui. Sugar may once have been king hereabouts, but no more, and recentlythe most popular vacation spot in the Hawaiian chain has diversified, with the organic/sustainable/eat local phenomenon taking off in various points around the island. And many of the places that practice it – not just the Surfing Goat Dairy but also a winery and a variety of farms – also open their doors to visitors (at one or two you can even overnight). Below are several of Maui’s top agritourism stars, all within an hour’s drive of most resorts; you can dig up more info at HIAgTourism.org and EdibleHawaiianIslands.com.
Ali’i Kula Lavender
Some 4,000 feet up the slopes of Mt. Haleakala, farmer Ali’i Chang decided enough with the protea flowers already, and went into business (picture below) with two lady friends 14 years ago. And on this 14½-acre, 55,000-plant patch, half-hour tours (from $12) explain all about the 20 varieties grown, and combinable with such extras as lunch, lavender lei-making, and massage therapy. Or just poke around an everything-lavender gift shop that’s just this side of twee.
Hale Akua Garden Farm
(HaleAkuaGardenFarm.com) Along the initial western stretch of the scenic but twisty Hana Highway, the seven-acre hideaway owned by Lorie Grace and Michael Shiva D’Addario lets you attend classes and seminars, even get your hands dirty for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Or you can just take the free tour, check into one of the 16 rooms with wowsa Pacific views, swan around the pool and hot tubs, and tuck into the yummy organic stuff that comes out of the ground here.
Maui Pineapple Company
(MauiPineapple.com) Slightly more than a mom-and-pop, the outfit that brings you Maui Gold is ensconced on 150 acres adjacent to Kapalua Resort, way up on the northwest coast. The two-hour tour’s not exactly cheap ($40!) but it’s fun (you even get to pick a pineapple), the only one of its kind, and besides sampling the goods you can tote one of these sweet babies home with you.
(OnoFarms.com) If you happen to be heading to Hana, check out Maui’s best-known organic farm, where the Boerner family grows papayas, bananas, and lots of other ono (Hawaiian for tasty) fruit. The tour’s also a little steep ($35), but you score lots of samples!
(OoFarm.com) If you’ve got $50 and 2 1/2 hours to spare, check out this upcountry organic farm, set up to supply several Maui restaurants. Pluck some veggies, and the culinary whizzes on hand will turn ’em into lunch for you, yum.
Surfing Goat Dairy
On the gentle lower slopes of Mount Haleakala, the Kafsacks have run their 42-acre operation with 110 to 250 goats since 2003. They’ll offer various tours (from $7), as well as tastings of their 30 flavors of award-winning soft cheeses (don’t miss the lavender), which they’ve sold at mainland retailers including Fairway here in NYC; you can even help with milking and chores if you like. Oh, and by the way: goat-cheese soap, anyone?
(MauiWine.com) Farther up still, at the end of a winding, bucolic upcountry drive, check out the winery founded back in 1974 by Napa Valley’s Tedeschi family on the grounds of Ulupalakua Ranch. The free half-hour tours are informative and so are the tastings: the Plantation Red isn’t half bad, but Tedeschi’s better known for wines and liqueurs based on other fruit, especially pineapple (Maui Splash; the dryer, surprisingly complex Maui Blanc; and the champagne-style Hula O Maui). And that drive back? They claim they haven’t lost anyone yet…