Farm Friday: Keiki and Plow

This emerging family-run organic farm in Hawai‘i Kai is on a mission to educate families about their food and empower keiki.


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Ryan and Heather Mohr, and their Australian shepherd pup Andy, started Keiki and Plow, an organic farm in Hawai‘i Kai.
Photos: Nicole Oka

 

Some call her Superwoman.

 

In addition to raising her family of five with husband and business partner Ryan, organic farm Keiki and Plow co-owner Heather Mohr is busy with entrepreneur workshops, agricultural conferences, grant writing and prepping for a talk at Whole Foods. What else this week? She’s chaperoning her youngest’s field trip on top of her daily duties caring for 4 acres of farmland with their 45 chickens, two rabbits, a cat and the latest addition to the farm, Andy, an Australian shepherd pup. She and her ‘ohana only moved to this plot of land in June, hoping to immerse their kids in a nature-integrated, kid-friendly environment.

 

They’re not farmers—Mohr was a preschool teacher and her husband an entrepreneur. But now they run Keiki and Plow, a family-friendly organic farm behind Kaiser High School. After moving from California to Hawai‘i 12 years ago, they lived in Waikīkī. For Mohr, it was a good experience. She could take her kids to the zoo and the aquarium, and they were in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. Following the birth of her third child two years ago, the family moved to Kuli‘ou‘ou, resulting in their first foray into community gardening. “We had a 10-by-10 plot,” she says, “and we loved it. Our kids wanted to share everything we grew with friends and teachers.”

 

The view from the couple’s 4-acre farm behind Kaiser High School.

 

Making the jump from a backyard plot to a 4-acre farm, however, came with its challenges. It took countless hauls to the dump and perseverance in cutting back the brush and weeds to shape the property into a farm. They came every weekend to the property beginning in February to clear the land and haul away trash, not knowing if they’d even get to lease the land. It was tough, but it gave the Mohrs time to come up with a game plan for their vision. “We had the opportunity to take a piece of land that was mistreated and help it grow into something nurturing,” says Mohr.

 

She’s quick to thank everyone else for their success. “It’s not just me,” she says. “I don’t want people to think I’m doing it on my own. This is something that takes a team, and it’s really because of my husband, my kids, our family and friends that Keiki and Plow is a reality.”

 

The Mohrs spent months cleaning up the property to create the farm. Now, the couple posts the veggies and herbs available every week on the farm’s social media sites.

 

“When Ryan and I looked at how we wanted the next 20 years to go, our hearts agreed on one word—slower. Purposeful work, connected work—to each other, to the ‘āina, to our community,” explains Mohr.

 

A semifinalist in this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-Up agricultural business competition held by Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation, Keiki and Plow has grown from a dream into a reality. The business plan competition is open to tenants on Kamehameha Schools-owned lands who are farmers as well as other agricultural producers and educational collaborators interested in growing food for Hawai‘i. With $30,000 in prize monies at stake, it’s a big jump for any smaller farm or agricultural business. To the Mohrs, it was a valuable opportunity to get engaged in the local ag community. They prepped intensively, studying up on which irrigation methods were best for their crops and reworking their business plan over and over.

 

Despite not winning, they’re happy. “We’re really proud of what we did. We wouldn’t change a thing about the way we presented our ideas and our business plan,” reflects Mohr. “If anything, it made us believe in our farm even more.”

 

Produce offerings vary each week in response to what’s available for harvest. Mohr posts the available produce on a weekly basis to the farm’s Instagram and Facebook page, where folks can message her directly to purchase. Those interested in picking their own produce can always stop by the farm during harvesting days. The produce on rotation includes Swiss chard, Toscano kale, butter lettuce, sweet corn, radishes, green onion, dill, thyme, carrots and beets. She even grows a variety of Hawaiian plants, including kalo, (sugar cane), ‘ōlena (turmeric), ‘uala (sweet potato) and mai‘a (bananas). Their most popular products, however, are the large, organic eggs that come in a spectrum of colors, including an eye-catching robin’s egg blue. Mohr’s free-range chickens are raised on organic, GMO-free feed and veggie scraps from Whole Foods Kāhala, resulting in eggs that often yield golden-orange double yolks. Recently, the farm sold out of its weekly organic egg packages for the first time.

 

Mohr inspecting the kale growing on her farm. she grows a variety of produce here, including butter lettuce, radishes and beets.

 

The farm’s most popular products are the large, organic eggs that come in a spectrum of colors from these free-range chickens.

 

Some of the bounty we harvested that day.

 

What distinguishes Keiki and Plow from other organic farms is that activities are keiki-centric. Even your littlest ones can enjoy picking their own veggies with the help of Mom or Dad. The farm is open from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for u-pick harvesting, chicken feeding and other keiki activities in a nature-inspired play space. “It’s a great way for keiki to experience interacting and caring for farm animals, including 45 organic chickens and two cuddly bunnies,” she says. Families are encouraged to bring a basket to harvest organic vegetables at reasonable rates ranging from $5 to $15, depending on how much is picked.

 

The farm also hosts a family-friendly volunteer work day and potluck every first Saturday of the month. Volunteers complete a range of projects for all skills levels, including weeding, clearing and helping with the mulch.

 

Veggies and eggs from Keiki and Plow.
Photo: David Croxford

 

Eventually, the Mohrs would like to offer community programming and keiki gardening classes. Mohr gestures to the large, unfinished terrace in front of us. “We plan to have a Keiki Discovery Garden here and conduct workshops for kids and their families,” she says, smiling. “We want to have a farm café here, too. It’ll go in that back corner.”

 

They’re waiting on permit approval for a commercial kitchen, too. “Wouldn’t it be great for kids to come here and prepare meals with their family using fresh, organic veggies that they picked?”

 

587 Pakala St., open to the public from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday and Thursdays. A visiting donation of $5 per family is requested for animal feed costs. Families can volunteer from 9 a.m. to noon every first Saturday of the month. For more information, connect with Keiki and Plow on Facebook and Instagram. (808) 208–2740, www.keikiandplow.com

 

Farm Friday is an occasional feature that highlights Hawai‘i’s vibrant and diverse agricultural industry. Every month we will visit farms, talk to food producers and discuss issues that affect the community from which our food comes.

 

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