Just after arrival in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Milton Wong, a close friend and former classmate of Uncle Jim Tom, dropped by to say Aloha, catching up about family and his prolific backyard farm of 10 acres. Speaking about my new book, Kana Vinaka, I became very curious about what local farmers were growing for their markets and Milton, a high school teacher for some 30+ years and US Army communications NCO during he Vietnam war, invited me to see and taste his new hobby and semi-retired lifestyle. So our Hawaii farm adventure begins.
His orchards and gardens are situated (up close and personal) deep in the upland country side of windward Oahu's steep Koolau range of towering sheer mountains that offer shelter and plenty of rainfall and cool breezes. His love of plants, especially, tropical fruits has taken him all over the world to find good varieties and his passion for excellence has him researching for better ways to improve quality of taste and yield. He's constantly experimenting with new varieties and techniques of pruning, girdling, trellising and finding nutritional growth benefits for his charges with very good results. His lychees, longans (dragon eyes), pittaya (dragon fruit), bananas, avocados, mangoes, Samoan coconuts, range of mandarins, lemons, limes, ulu (breadfruit) and papayas are all the best I've seen or tasted anywhere. Many of his neighbors in Kahalu'u also had big backyards of bountiful gardens and orchards, spending all of their spare and not so spare time tending and harvesting, even though most were working professionals like lawyers, doctors, architects, etc. and seem hardly in need of more income, however, their farms are all small (under 10 acres) and were handed-down through the generations, so are cherished and continued to be be used productively to benefit the wider family and community and to be passed on to their children.