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Festival celebrates Maui agriculture

By Staff | Mar 24, 2011

Talk story with the people who grow our food and their industry allies at the fourth annual Maui County Agricultural Festival.

WAIKAPU — On Saturday, April 2, the fourth annual Maui County Agricultural Festival will celebrate agriculture’s vital role in the economy, environment and lifestyle of Maui.

Head to the luau grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu to discover what agriculture means to our communities and aina, taste fresh flavors and have fun.

Event hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

Hosted by Maui County Farm Bureau in partnership with the county Office of Economic Development and supported by generous sponsors, the festival provides a one-stop experience of the wondrous impact of agriculture in day-to-day life.

This year, day-to-day Maui vegetables will be the focus of the festival. Maui farmers grow a gorgeous spectrum of colorful produce, special occasion vegetables such as asparagus and fennel, and also crops such as coles that are the bread and butter of diversified commercial agriculture on Maui today.

“These veggies are often overlooked yet keep numerous farmers and farm lands productive, providing plentiful food,” said MCFB Executive Director Warren Watanabe.

“The best way to support local agriculture is to buy and eat what Maui grows, which means to be familiar with all crops.”

Coles — whose sprawling family includes cauliflower, broccoli, hardheaded cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga and turnips — belong to Maui’s top volume crops.

In 2008, 19 selected top-producing vegetables and melons accounted for 41.5 million pounds statewide, with head cabbage coming in first at 23 percent on 410 acres, and broccoli delivering a respectable 360,000 pounds.

“When we buy coles, we support a vital core of Maui ag,” said Chef Ryan Luckey, who oversees the kitchen at Pineapple Grill in Kapalua. “And, equally important, coles are undisputedly healthful and shockingly delicious!”

At this year’s Grand Taste Education at the festival, Maui coles and other value-added crops are the stars, with farmers and chefs teaming up to prepare any one variety in several ways.

“Caramelized, simmered or in salads, bought from a farm nearby, coles may change the way Maui thinks about daily food and local ag,” said Susan Campbell, chair of Slow Food Maui, which supports locally grown food and cultural diversity, culinary practices for health and island food security.

Visit the Victory Farm to learn about Maui’s crops and check out Maui Cattle Company’s exhibit of farm animals that aid in farm management and provide food.

A&B Foundation will sponsor Maui’s largest farmers’ market, with more than 50 farm vendors showcasing the bounty Maui grows from coffee to flowers to vegetables and landscape designs. Here’s the best place to meet the farmers who grow your food.

From farm to table, sample hot dishes, cold ice cream and have lunch at the food booths.

For keiki, Maui Thing will present barnyard games and hands-on art activities.

Wellness and health demonstrations will be offered, including information on fixing nutritious meals with fresh foods.

At “Ask the Farm Doctor,” agricultural experts will provide hands-on answers.

Share your Grown-on-Maui recipes and find out how they compare in a contest at the Maui County Agricultural Festival.

Learn how to make compost with kitchen scraps and garden waste and visit the onsite book store courtesy of Barnes & Noble.

Tickets for Grand Taste Education are on sale at www.mauicountyfarmbureau.org, or purchase them at the festival.