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 (below) 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 with two lady friends 14 years ago. And on this 14½-acre, 55,000-plant patch, with 20 varieties grown. Admission is $3 ($2 for seniors and U.S. military), and there are also extras as lunch, lavender lei-making, massage therapy, and an everything-lavender gift shop that’s just this side of twee.
Hale Akua Garden Farm & Eco Retreat Center
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 Gold Pineapple Farm
The outfit that brings you Maui Gold is ensconced on 150 acres adjacent to Kapalua Resort, way up on the northwest coast. The 90-minute tour’s not exactly cheap ($75!) 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, bristly babies home with you.
If you happen to be heading out to Hana, check out Maui’s best-known organic-fruit farm, where Chuck Boerner and his family grow papayas, bananas, and lots of other ono (Hawaiian for tasty) fruit. The 90-minute tour is even steeper ($375 for up to three adults or a family of four), but at least you'll score samples!
Some 3,500 feet up the slope of Haleakala, this eight-acres organic farm supplies several Maui eateries (it's actually owned by two of them) and markets. You can tour the coffee fields, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and greenhouses; pick some of your own, and enjoy a alfresco lunch fresh from the fields. By reservation only.
Surfing Goat Dairy
On the gentle lower slopes of Haleakala, as I mentioned in my introduction 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 New York City; you can even help with milking and chores if you like. Oh and by the way: goat-cheese soap, anyone?
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…