Mothering comes in many forms. Emily Peacock has nurtured several noteworthy projects in South Kona that deserve notice as we celebrate Mother’s Day.
Nearly 15 months ago, Peacock took on a project which we reported in January 2012. She decided to show her dedication to the importance of increasing local food production by setting a goal of planting an acre of land in edible crops that she could eat or use, feed to guests at the Kealakekua Bed and Breakfast she manages and supply produce for the seasonal Farm to Fork Dinners she hosts. She set out hoping this might provide an example of what could be done by one person, in a limited time with limited space.
To start off, Peacock needed to meet many infrastructure needs, including installing raised beds, completing a potting and washing shed and running plant trials. With her installations nearly complete, she will likely exceed the amount of produce that a single acre might provide very soon.
Once raised beds were fully planted, her lavender garden complete, her large pineapple bed in production and most of her orchard planted, she met Zac Hosler and learned about aquaponics. Her garden at the bed and breakfast near the bottom of Napoopoo Road was demanding lots of water and nutrients. For her, deciding to install an aquaponics system was a game changer. Relying largely on water that picks up nutrients from the fish living in the system, which is then recycled through the plants, meant less water use and less expense for off-site nutritional products. It also meant healthier plants that reliably grew faster and maximized the space in which they grew.
In an aquaponics system, with a constant water supply circulating around their roots, plants grow rapidly and can be grown closer to one another. As she expands the system, Peacock will likely be able to produce several times as much in her four aquaponics tanks as she might be able to grow in numerous raised beds of the same size.
The aquaponics tanks, with a production value roughly equal to that of more than 1,500 square feet, have given the project a big boost. Although she has more land to work to reach her goal, Peacock may soon reach the limit of what one woman can reasonably handle in terms of production.
She harvested lavender this week to make bouquets and sachets to use for scenting products for her guests. She has also used her vegetables as well as some of the many herbs she grows in egg dishes she prepares for the daily breakfasts. She plans to offer Chef Daniel Theibaut a variety of choices from the garden to incorporate into his French-inspired menu for the Farm to Fork Dinner planned May 18.
Peacock is a woman of several passions. Each one is served by her garden.
Two years ago, with the help of Jean Hull, Peacock launched her dream project of serving delicious locavore dinners prepared by local chefs. She wanted to highlight and support Hawaii’s agriculture and chefs. Her dinners include short talks by farmers about growing and raising food on the Big Island as well as information from the chefs on the ways they use locally grown produce to make the four- to six-course dinners and plan appropriate wine or beer pairings. After eight successful feasts, Peacock has become the undisputed queen of Farm to Fork Dinners in South Kona.
It was at the first Farm to Fork Dinner that the inspiration for Peacock’s gardening project was born. Greg Smith of Earth Matters Farm mentioned in his talk that we must not expect a single 13,000-acre farm to produce our food sustainably. Rather, he said, we need 13,000 one-acre farms to provide sustainability for our communities.
Smith’s remarks inspired Peacock to think differently about the land she lives on. She decided that she could certainly serve her passion for the bed and breakfast and her passion for supporting local agriculture with her new passion for growing food. This is a success story with many facets and provides a good example of the things we can accomplish when we pursue our passions.
Information on past and future dinners can be found at farmtoforkhawaii.com.
Diana Duff is an organic farmer as well as a plant adviser and consultant.
Tropical gardening helpline
Email plant questions to email@example.com for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.
Earl asks: My daughter brought this fruit home yesterday and asked what it was and if it was edible. I decided to send you a picture to see if you can tell me what it is.
Answer: The photo you sent is of the bitter gourd, Momordica charantia. The fruit grows on a vine and is edible when green. As its name implies, it is very bitter.
It is a close relative of the bitter melon. Both are edible and used as vegetables in Asian cuisine.
Once the bitter gourd starts to turn orange, the skin gets tough and inedible. The red seeds inside the fruit are edible once fully ripe. They are also used in Asian recipes.
The vine grows quickly and covers trees and walls rapidly. When it covers plants, it blocks the sun and reduces their ability to photosynthesize, eventually killing them.
It is considered an invasive species since it grows so fast and self-seeds easily, damaging native species where it grows. It is not a plant you’d want to grow unless you can keep its growth under control and you plan to pick and eat all of the fruit.
More information, including recipes for using the fruit, is available online.
Wednesday: “Turf Care” from 2 to 5 p.m. at Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel with Chris McCullough. Part of Hawaii Island Landscape Association Landscape Maintenance Training series. $35 HILA members; $40 nonmembers. Go to hilahawaii.com to download a registration form. Contact Ty McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 322-4884 for more information.
Thursday: “Tax Workshop for Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at UH Cooperative Extension Service conference room in Kainaliu with Michael Holl. Call Didi or Perci at 887-6183 or email email@example.com to RSVP or for more information.
Friday and Saturday: Kona Orchid Society’s Plant Sale and Show from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Free entry. Plants and crafts for sale. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit konaorchidsociety.org.
Saturday: “Raising Heritage Poultry for Profit and Pleasure” from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kahua Ranch in Waimea with Jim Adkins. $109 for seminar and hands-on experience. For more information, call 937-7432 or write email@example.com.
Register online at sustainablepoultrynetwork.com/workshops-seminar.
“Composting Workshop” from 10 a.m. to noon at the Waimea Country School. $10 fee includes a composter for those who complete the workshop. To register or for more information, contact Ann Hassler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-1100.
Farmer direct markets
Wednesday: “Hooulu Community Market” 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay
Saturday: “Keauhou Farm Bureau Market” 8 a.m. to noon at Keauhou Shopping Center
Sunday: “South Kona Green Market” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook
Plant advice lines
Email questions to master cardeners at email@example.com.
Call UH-CES in Kainaliu from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday at 322-4892.
Call UH-CES at Komohana from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Friday at 981-5199.
This column is produced by Diana Duff.