We Tried It: Keiki and Plow
Our tips for feeding chickens and bunnies, gathering eggs, picking veggies and playing in a pirate ship on this family-run farm.
Editor’s Note: This was previously published. Hours were updated on May 27, 2021.
Keiki and Plow is a family-run organic mini farm with dozens of chickens to feed and vegetables to pick. My family is learning to grow our own veggies, but we don’t have hens or roosters, so I thought a visit could be a fun experience for our boys. I was also curious to see if I could pick up any ideas for our backyard garden. It’s open Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. So, I decided to let my younger son play hooky from preschool to check it out. If it was good, I’d bring my first-grader over Spring Break.
We drove into Hawai’i Kai, behind Kaiser High School and found the farm at the foot of Koko Head. We parked in a field at the bottom of the farm. Eyeing tall grass and a bit of mud, I swapped our slippers for shoes, grabbed our basket and headed up the hill passing long rows of Swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce and other greens.
My son and I were warmly welcomed by both farm-owner Heather Mohr and another gardener. We were shown into a large farm-style keiki play area with an adjacent fenced-in area housing more than three dozen chickens.
I wanted to see the hens and gather eggs, but my 5-year-old son made a mad dash for a dirt pit with tractor toys and a trough full of water, jugs and shovels. He played there for a long time, then wrote his name on a blackboard pinned to the chicken’s wooden fence.
Every time I tried to catch him, he made a bee-line for a new activity: a basket of wood and sticks, a picnic bench with kitchen tools, a real sink, a rope swing and pint-sized Adirondack chairs. There were only a couple of other families visiting at that time, so my son was letting his imagination run wild mostly by himself.
I finally told him we were going to pet the chickens and go on an Easter egg hunt for their eggs. That got him excited and we walked into the chicken coup. Heather let him grab dill and other donated frozen organic vegetables out of a bin to feed to the chickens and two rabbits. He was hesitant to let the chickens eat out of his hand but stroked a hen that Heather picked up and cradled in her arms.
Heather showed us the three different breeds of chickens and explained that they each lay different colored eggs. All of the chickens looked really well cared for, healthy and their feathers felt soft and almost fluffy. We looked in cubby holes where they were nesting and found an assortment of eggs. Our favorites were the blue, green and pink eggs laid by the golden-feathered Americana chickens. Some were so blue that, when we got them home, my other son and an adult friend asked if they’d been dyed.
Although a rooster was allowed in with the hens, Heather explained that eggs could only be fully fertilized if a hen sat on them for 21 days, keeping them at an even temperature. All of Keiki and Plow’s hens are still too young to properly care for their eggs or be possessive of them. Heather even lifted a chicken off of four eggs for my son to pick up.
We found seven eggs and Heather went to her house to pick up five more unwashed eggs. She said that unwashed eggs could be kept out of the refrigerator for up to six months. Once eggs are cleaned they lose their protective outer layer and need to be refrigerated. Store-bought eggs have had undergone harsher washing procedures and can’t be kept fresh as long. While that was a fun fact to learn, I was pretty sure that these colorful farm-fresh eggs were not going to last a week, let along six months at my house!
After we’d collected our eggs and petted a few more chickens, we went back into the play area. More moms, grandmas and keiki were arriving every few minutes and the once-empty space was soon full of toddlers and preschoolers shoveling water, making mud pies and maneuvering toy vehicles through dirt. Heather said that about 20 to 25 families usually visit on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The day we went was slower than usual as it had been raining all night.
Veggies to pick
Now that we had eggs to take home, I thought we’d pick some vegetables. But, of course my son wanted to stay and play. I promised we’d go back to play afterward and got him to look at the vegetables for about one minute–just long enough to snap a few photos with the “Dino Kale” before he ran away.
There were good quantities of arugula, beans, bok choy, butter lettuce, cilantro, daikon radish, dill, green onion, kilroy kale, mizuna, oregano, sage, Swiss chard and thyme. Heather said that since they only started this farm last summer, they are still trying out different vegetables and seeing what grows well. Several months ago, they had too much basil but now they can’t get it to grow at all. I’ve had the exact same issue in my home garden so we decided it must be due to the winter rain.
Since we have many of the same veggies growing at home, I didn’t force my son to pick any with me. But, if we didn’t, I definitely would have bought some. I think that children who don’t have a garden at home would also be more excited to see how edible plants grow.
See also: 🏆 Best of HONOLULU Family 2020: PLAY
Back in the play area, my son found a pirate ship to play on with a few other children. There were even oars, a large treasure chest holding mother-of-pearl shells and a spy glass.
Keiki were making noises through long, plastic tubes and walking a balance beam. Heather said that area had just been created at the last volunteer day and that “Discovery Boxes” with layers of dirt and plants for kids to dig through would be next.
My son and all the other kids looked like they could find new things to play with all day long at Keiki and Plow. Our family used to live in London, where there were a lot of community centers with play areas that had water, pots, pans, musical instruments and similar sorts of creative items. In Honolulu, most playgrounds have almost identical sets of jungle gyms. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find old-fashioned messy, dirty, imaginative play here in Hawai’i Kai.
I originally thought we’d be leaving with a big basket of vegetables. Instead, we went home with pastel eggs—that were soon used atop avocado toast and inside “egg-in-the-nest” toast creations. I was surprised how much we learned about chickens and pleased to find such a creative play area. Heather and her gardeners’ passion for Keiki and Plow and the visiting families also really added to the experience. Both of my children have already asked me to talk to their teachers about scheduling field trips to the farm.
- Come early for the best selection. Take your pick of the different colored eggs right from the chicken coop. They also have more eggs washed and packaged, but eggs are in high demand and often sell out. Produce is also freshest in the morning.
- Bring water. It can get hot when you’re in the farm terrace, so be sure to put on sunscreen and bring a water bottle. Don’t forget to wear closed toe shoes or boots.
- Use the bathroom before you start. Keiki and Plow does not have a public restroom. It is in the plans for the future, but for now, you’ll have to go off site to go.
- Bring your own basket and empty egg carton. They have baskets you can borrow, but, if you have your own, you can pick veggies and put them down while keiki play. An egg carton will save your gathered eggs from bumping into each other and cracking.
- Bring your organic food scraps to feed the chickens and bunnies. Keep an old milk carton in your freezer and add scraps throughout the week. This keeps the smell and risk of bugs down and Heather says the chickens actually love the frozen food as a refreshing treat.
- Do not park in the cul-de-sac. When you drive up to the farm, head up the driveway and take a left by the “Parking” sign. There’s an open field for cars. If the parking area is full, you can park on the street, but not within the cul-de-sac as this is an emergency turnabout and cars will be ticketed.
- Call ahead for specific produce. Availability varies weekly so call ahead to hear the selection. Heather also posts the produce ready to pick on the farm’s Instagram and Facebook page, where folks can message her directly to purchase.
- Help your little ones with harvesting. According to Heather, younger keiki are most proficient at harvesting vegetables like radishes, beets and green onions–crops that are pulled entirely from the soil. Crops that need to be harvested one leaf at a time like kale and Swiss chard are more suited for older kids or little ones with Mom or Dad’s help.
- Leave enough time to play. The creative playground was the highlight of the farm for my son, so be sure not to rush through it.
- Remember to wash your pickings. Like any vegetables plucked straight from the garden, you do need to thoroughly clean it before eating. Cold, running water and scrubbing should do the trick.
- Plan a school visit. Wednesday mornings are set aside for school visits. Keiki learn about chickens, vegetables, do a take-home activity and more. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Open every Friday beginining June 4, 2021 from 9 to 11 a.m. Private playgroups of up to 10 people can also reserve time slots Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday. 587 Pakala St., behind Kaiser High School. (808) 208–2740, keikiandplow.com, @keikiandplow