Farm to Table: The New Face of Farming

Meet the people who grew your dinner.


Published:

(page 2 of 5)


Photo: Olivier Koning

Those imperfect but still succulent tomatoes work their way into her pizza. French beans become “dilly beans,” a Mason jar full of crunchy pickled treats. Since tomato harvests come in waves (hence the name of her booth, Big Wave Tomatoes), another way of evening out production was to use green, unripe tomatoes as well—fried, for instance.

Vana loves the individualized nature of what she does. Everything she grows has its own story. A tomato is not just a tomato; it’s a Striped Roman, a Green Zebra or a Costolucco Genovese. She raises pale heirloom beans that came over on the Mayflower (they’re creamily spectacular in soup), as well as Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, glossy black seeds that the Cherokee took with them to plant at the end of their long march into the unknown.

Vana’s diverse products also help even out the inevitable ups and downs of farming life. The pizza may have started as a way to use up all the produce on her farm, but it has become so popular that it is, she says, “taking on its own life.” This past winter’s tomato crop was bad—“the flowers just fell off; I think it was all the vog.” Most of the tomatoes weren’t retail-ready, but they were good enough to roast: “It helped pull me through the winter so I could keep planting.”

This year, the vog has blown away and the tomatoes are looking plump and perky. As Vana walks the rows of healthy plants—youngest to oldest, to avoid giving pests an unwitting free ride—she brims over with new projects. Look for her Mobile Market van on the North Shore, selling her signature pizzas and organic shave ice. As early as this summer, the van will also become part of her new brainchild, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture with the Waialua Farmers’ Co-operative that will bring weekly boxes of fresh, varied, ultra-local produce to residents of the North Shore.

Fresh, ground, locally grown coffee in a CSA box? You heard it here first.

Open-Faced Radish Sandwiches

Hawaii may not yet have black radishes, but we do have red ones. Something close to alchemy  happens when these homely ingredients come together in a combination enjoyed across continental Europe. Cut into a good, crusty baguette and give it a schmear of the best unsalted butter you can find. Top with crunchy, thin slices of radish; sprinkle with sea salt and perhaps pepper. Voilà.

 

Eddie Domingo, D&E Farm Produce

the cultural connection:

Farming is a family affair for Eddie Domingo, whose parents emigrated from the Philippines and began to farm in the mid-1970s, growing Southeast Asian greens such as sweet potato tops, and the new shoots of Moringa oleifera (horseradish tree), as well as edible flowers. On their 11-acre farm in Maili, the near-constant sun means that winter, when other farmers must scale back production because of the rains, has become their prime season.


Eddie Domingo is a second generation farmer on Oahu.

Photo: Olivier Koning

As we arrive, an Armstrong Produce truck is backing carefully into the dirt driveway, and boxes of fresh Asian greens, neatly sorted and bundled by hand, stand at the ready. D&E Farm and Produce deals with Oahu’s larger distributors, but everyone who works at the farm is a relative, so every day is also a family gathering. In a corner of the packing facility, a litter of newborn kittens plays in a cardboard box, while a small flock of geese, kept as watchdogs against agricultural theft, honk and rustle nearby.

Domingo, 30, was born and raised on Oahu. He doesn’t speak a lot of Ilocano, and he trained as a paralegal, not a farmer. But of the second generation of Domingos, he’s the one who’s made a commitment to the farming life. “I have three kids,” says his mother, family matriarch Vicky Domingo. “All of them were working on the farm. One went to the service [in the Navy]. One went to a regular job. And then there’s Eddie.”

Eddie Domingo runs the business side of things, keeping the books, tracking the orders and liaising with the farm’s buyers. He has helped develop relationships with distributors in California, where heat-loving Southeast Asian vegetables don’t grow well but there is a high demand from the population.

 

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