Taking the Maui Country Farm Tour
By Jen Russo
Maui Country Farm Tours has entered the eco-tourism industry with a fun multi-farm and nature tour developed by food and nature enthusiast Marilyn Jansen Lopes. Using a reclaimed Maui Land & Pineapple Co. eight-passenger, air-conditioned van with giant windows, the tour starts at Whole Foods Market in Kahului at 9am. The Deluxe Up-County Photo Farm Tour adventure begins by driving towards the North Shore, but they offer lots of tour options like their newest Sugar Express, morning or afternoon Upcountry farm tours, or private tours as well.
Driver Rick Lopes (Marilyn’s husband) was born and raised in Hali‘imaile and his colorful stories about the history of the region are priceless. Your first destination is the Ho‘okipa Beach Park, one of the North Shore’s most pristine and visited locations that attracts many windsurfers, surfers and other ocean sports enthusiasts.
Even though I’d travelled these roads before, letting someone else do the driving was fantastic. When coupled with the nostalgic guidance of the Lopes’, the scenery was even more spectacular.
Our next stop was Ulupalakua’s Tedeschi Winery and Ulupalakua Ranch. Impressive botany is well documented in the history of the land, which is now operated by the Sumner family. There you can encounter rare trees and artifacts on the property as you take a short foot journey narrated by a winery expert. Wine tasting at the winery demonstrates how Maui’s niche wine market developed decades ago. They grow grapes in a vineyard along the slopes of Haleakala, make sparkling wine in the traditional method and offer their famous pineapple wine as well.
Now all this touring will stimulate your appetite, which is good because around this time the Lopes serve a picnic lunch under the Tedeschi’s trees. You can munch your pre-ordered sandwiches with fresh fruits, fresh baked goodies and cool beverages in the pleasant Ulupalakua breeze. You choose your gourmet sandwiches when you book; there’s turkey, avocado and bacon, an Italian sub or veggie on ciabatta. All the sandwiches are made at Whole Foods Market, and the menu changes seasonally.
Once your hunger is satiated, its off to Kula Country Farms. With more than 180 acres, this agricultural spot includes a stand where you can buy flowers, fruits and vegetables. Chauncy Monden and his family operate the farm and stand, and they’re well known during strawberry season, where you can pick your own ripe, delicious berries on the farm. Amazing Kula views are everywhere, and you can take photos on the flatbed truck adorned by bailed hay.
Once you’ve scooped plenty of tuberose stems, its off to Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm for a walking a look at their crops and agricultural products. The farm requires little additional watering since it was developed with sustainability in mind by Ali‘i Chang. Though Chang passed earlier this year, the farm still operates with his philosophy and continues to perpetuate his ideas of sustainability for the island and its modern agricultural endeavors. You will marvel over the diverse types of lavender grown here, as well as plenty of other plants to smell and touch, as your guide describes and cuts pieces for you to enjoy.
The last stop on the way back to Kahului is the Surfing Goat Dairy. The goats and their owners Thomas and Eva Kafsak have some of the most amazing chocolates and cheeses on the island, and after your walking tour you get a chance to sample and purchase these treats. Your tour here always starts by feeding hay to a few mid-size goats. The gobble it happily from your hands while they let their personalities shine. Later you will learn about their milking procedures and how they make their cheese and chocolate right there on property.
After this wide snapshot of Maui’s diverse agriculture, you’ll be happy to pile back in the van and enjoy your descent into the valley floor. In the deluxe tour you will receive copies of Marilyn’s autographed books. She has authored three: Amaryllis of Hawaii Drawings of Hawaii to Color, Amaryllis of Hawaii Loves To Cook Recipes For Life, and Amaryllis, Amaryllis How Does Your Garden Grow? “Organically, of Course!” (you can find them at AmaryllisofHawaii.com).
Comfortable shoes are important on this tour, as you cover a lot of ground, but keep in mind that you will come away with one of the most unique experiences on Maui.