I was raised on a tiny farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, by my grandmother, and she grew everything. Never went to town for food. Other than baking powder, baking soda, and maybe some yeast, we bought nothing. If you needed medical remedies, you'd go out and gather some roots and pinecones. I remember her making me pinecone tea when I had a cold.
When I was about 6 years old, my grandmother finally trusted me enough to let me collect the eggs in the morning. I'd reach under the chickens to get them, and they'd still be warm. And the very first time someone brought me eggs from our chickens here on Maui, I had a sense memory, because they brought them in a little basket just like the one I used all those years ago.
One of my strongest memories is being on the back porch helping my grandmother churn butter. We churned the butter, we milked the cows, we killed the hogs, we cured the meat in the smokehouse. Above all, we tended our little garden. That's where most of what we ate came from. And now I've returned to that way of living: We eat what's from the garden. (It turns out you can even make drinks from the garden if you add a little vodka! We're not making our own vodka yet, but we're growing a lot of potatoes, so stay tuned....)
When I bought this property several years ago, I knew it had been farmland in the past, but I didn't seriously imagine continuing that tradition. Then one day my friend Bob Greene said, "What if we give back to the land—and find a way to give back to Maui?" His point was that about 90 percent of the food on the island is flown or shipped in from outside, which makes it very expensive to buy—not to mention the carbon footprint involved in getting it here. We realized if we could grow delicious food ourselves, we could share it.
So we designated 16 acres for farming, and last summer, with the help of a brilliant natural-resource-management group called Bio-Logical Capital, we planted a single acre with more than 100 species of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The plot is in the shape of a half-moon—that's how it had been set up by the previous owners, and we followed their lines. I think of it as our own fertile crescent!
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