Small-Scale Farming Hawaiian Style

Couple’s new start in Hawaii is full of miracles.

| January/February 2010

Hawaii’s Big Island is perhaps best known for black-sand beaches and volcanic activity, but it is also alive with agricultural enterprise. From the famed Parker Ranch, one of the largest and most historic cattle ranches in the United States, to world-famous Kona coffee, the Big Island’s lava-based soils and diversity of microclimates offer an environmental buffet that’s suited to growing just about anything. So when Elizabeth Jenkins and Barney Frazier decided to trade San Francisco’s nightlife for quiet country living, Hawaii was the obvious choice.

Although neither had any farming experience, both were committed to the concept – which was just what the couple needed to put a little adventure and excitement back into their lives. Barney was eager to meet a new business challenge, and Elizabeth wanted to live a more naturally sustainable life. This couple’s dream began to unfold when they stumbled upon an abandoned fruit and nut orchard on the island of Hawaii in 2001.

Overcoming abandonment

“Initially, we bought a 5.3-acre property (one-fourth of the original orchard),” Barney says. “Six months later we bought the second parcel, because it had more macadamia trees on it.” And as so often happens with tight-knit families, Elizabeth’s mother wasn’t about to be left behind. She moved to the Big Island as the owner of a third, adjacent parcel, making it a real extended family farm. The 15-acre operation came to life with 270 macadamia nut trees, 375 avocado trees, bananas, and plenty of citrus: orange, tangerines, tangelos, grapefruit, lemons and limes. But it was far from a turnkey setup.

The Jenkins-Frazier orchard had been abandoned for several years and was a definite fixer-upper when the couple arrived. The trees needed pruning but hadn’t been sprayed chemically or fertilized for many years, so gaining organic certification was relatively easy – it only took six months to complete, thanks to the folks at the University of Hawaii’s agriculture department. The orchard was back in the fruit and nut business by March of 2002 when the first certified organic harvest was sold from the back of an old truck – the couple’s first roadside stand. Farm-raised Ka’u coffee, honey and other value-added products are now part of the lineup.

Online opportunity

Barney says that as their Ailani Orchards business grew, the produce stand evolved to handle the increased market and traffic. The old truck was replaced with a 10-square-foot tent, which was then replaced with a series of larger tents. Today, the farm’s on-site produce stand is a permanent pole structure where folks can find everything from the freshest organic limes and avocados to organic honey to macadamia nut butter and coffee – all in season.

In addition to farm-stand sales, Elizabeth and Barney market avocados and citrus through farmers’ markets and to wholesalers and organic food stores. However, the more valuable macadamia nuts and coffee are only available at the farm or through the website ( , 808-929-8785). Barney says it’s important to market the more labor-intensive crops directly because they can better control the pricing.

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