A Chef’s Heaven at O’o Farm

November 14, 2013 7 Comments »

Oo Farms gardens organic maui
Ancil showing off his gardens.

“I’m a farmer.” He said. I looked over this young man with his sleek sunglasses, and curly hair pulled back in a ponytail – he didn’t look like any farmer I had ever met before. But then again I was used to my grandfather smoking a cigarette, wearing overalls, and driving a tractor in Nebraska. Apparently, the farmers in Maui have a different style – a Hawaiian style.

Ancil was the resident farmer at O’o Farm – an organic farm in Upcountry Maui that was created to specifically serve a handful of restaurants on the island. We started in the little parking lot with a beautiful view and followed Ancil the farmer up the hill as he explained various compost techniques, the growing of coffee beans, and other facts about the growing seasons in Maui.

The farm is located at 3500 feet up the side of Haleakala Mountain. The mountain is typically covered in clouds and mist by mid-morning which creates a cool wet growing environment year-round. You could tell that Ancil was part farmer and part mad scientist – he loved experimenting with different varieties to see what would grow in this unique volcanic island environment.

Oo Organic Farm Maui
The view from the farm.

The farm not only supplies its restaurants and chefs with organic fresh produce in true farm-to-table fashion, but they also do a luncheon food tour that requires you to get a little dirty. Ancil leads you through Gardening 101 talking about composting, tilling cover crops, and crop rotation. He points out varieties that I haven’t seen before and talks about the ups and downs of trying to adequately supply the chefs with what they need and when. I can imagine that with the unpredictability of Mother Nature, it’s a supply chain and logistics conundrum most months.

Discover things to do on Lanai: not your typical Hawaiian Island

After walking through the orchard, we met JJ, the chef at O’o Farm. Are double letters a requirement at this farm? JJ has a pretty cool job – but he might have the coolest kitchen ever. The cooking and dining environment is all open-air. No walls or no tile – just a few chickens running around, a big stove, a countertop/island and it’s all outside. JJ called it “Chef’s heaven” – and considering our elevation and location in the clouds – I couldn’t agree more. JJ met us holding a cornucopia of fresh leafy greens and root vegetables. He played the role of a game show host holding up various vegetables and asking us if we knew what it was.

outdoor kitchen
This takes the rustic kitchen to a whole new level! JJ working on our lunch in his outdoor kitchen

Next, it was our chance to get our hands dirty in the gardens and get back to our hunter/gatherer roots. Ancil took us to various gardens and had us pick fresh vegetables and greens. I felt 13 again as I picked the spinach in the neat little row. I spent my summers as a kid doing chores in my dad’s garden which supplied us with an abundance of fresh organic food before we even knew what organic was.

However, my view in Peoria, Illinois wasn’t quite this nice. Ancil took the basket of veggies and greens and delivered them to JJ to quickly utilize for our pending lunch. We continued to walk around and see the coffee roasting operation as well as learn about the trials and tribulations of raising chickens.

picking vegetables maui
Harvesting our lunch.

Finally, it was time for lunch – a true farm-to-table experience considering not more than 30 minutes ago we had picked many of these items on our plate. It was a great chance to sit community style and meet other travelers – this community seating makes it a super solo travel experience – so don’t be shy if you are traveling on your own like me. The chickens (named pot pie and chick fillet) hovered around our little tables as they knew they get the scraps after all of these visitors left. They were just like a dog waiting for someone to throw them morsel – however instead of barking they were crowing – the perfect ambiance for an outdoor farm restaurant.

We finished the meal with dark chocolate truffles rolled in sea salt and freshly roasted coffee from the farm. The only thing left to do now was drive back down the mountain and take a nap on the beach.

colorful organic salad maui
Fresh salad was picked a few minutes ago.
Dark chocolate truffles
The beginnings of the dark chocolate truffles…ridiculously tasty!

More Information:
Cost: $50
Times: Every Monday – Thursday from 10:30 to 2
Bring your own wine/drinks to enjoy and comfortable close-toed shoes
O’o Farm Tours and Lunch – www.oofarm.com

Check out the farm-supplied restaurants for more farm-to-table experiences:
I’O Restaurant
‘Aina Gourmet

Disclosure:  I was a guest of the Maui Visitor Bureau for this trip.  However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own.  I was able to choose my own activities that were of interest to me and my style of travel.

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