Sunday, June 08, 2014

Real Food

Hand-picked from Alberta's Farm
Gillian Cornwall, c December 2008

Okay, so first I should explain this picture I guess. It makes me laugh every time I look at it. I won't even start with the Hawaii wallpaper mural behind me but under the sunshine yellow Arborite table (circa 1970), my feet are still caked with red mud from the fields of my friend Alberta's farm on the island of Lana'i in Hawaii. This was a great day. My partner at the time, being far more bold than I, pulled into the drive of Alberta's farm unannounced and we waited until Alberta showed up. I asked if we could come to see the farm one day and she said, "Sure, come by tomorrow and I'll show you around." 

Well, I thought this was pretty cool as I had watched this land progress with an abundance of produce and row upon row of banana trees and I wanted to see how things were going. Lana'i* used to be owned by Dole and all of the arable land was used to grow pineapple. The community revolved around the production of pineapple. People got up to the siren in the morning and worked the fields until the siren sounded again to end the day. 

We arrived at the farm the following morning - thinking we would just take a look around in our shorts and flip flops and maybe buy some fresh stuff before heading to the beach. I was staying for a month in a guest house in town so we were doing a lot of our own cooking and this was a great opportunity to eat local produce and learn about local growing practices.

Before we knew it we were helping to plant lettuce. We are not talking little tiny back garden rows - rather fifty foot long rows ...many of them. The soil was wet and lush and, where the hose had leaked, the ground was ankle deep in mud. It had been a ridiculously long time since I had felt that slippery squelch of mud on my feet - probably since I worked on a farm on Salt Spring Island, BC and amid the sheep, horses and chickens, I also kept a 40 foot by 80 foot garden. 

We helped plant for a couple of hours and then Alberta showed us around the incredible Eden that she and her husband have created. Here are some photos from their creation and the place from which we collected our bounty for the rest of our vacation meals.

 Yup. That's an avocado TREE!

Alberta picking us some lemons 

 banana flower 

 Alberta had a number of types of bananas growing

You have not had papaya until you have had one straight from the tree with a squeeze of fresh lime!  

 No small undertaking - years of labour and love

 Walking with Alberta through the banana grove

 Alberta under the avocado tree with her special avocado retrieval tool
I was obsessed with this tree. 

The Avocado Pear, hanging beautiful and full

Spinach, picked by Alberta as part of our "pay"

Amazing. I was reminded of this yesterday when Jodi and I went strawberry picking in Saanich. With the warm sun on our backs and a blessing to the earth, I bent to my task with the casual ease that comes with knowing you do not have to do this for a living. I ate no more than two ...okay three ....while we picked, my hands stained red by the sun-warmed, juice packed fruit. I watched the fuzzy bumble bees pollinate the surrounding flowers and wondered if I would come across Peter Rabbit, curled up, sleeping in the sun, full of the garden bounty! It was a perfect, sunlit, blue sky day on the Saanich peninsula just as that day had been in Hawaii. 

There is nothing on this earth like growing and harvesting your own food. Nothing will ever taste better and little will bring more satisfaction. I feel so blessed to live in a land that provides such incredible food (and wine!) and while we can produce little in our balcony garden, I am pleased to be able to have the herbs and odd tomato plant growing.

Remember those who farm for us while we toil behind desks throughout our days. Pay homage to the land that feeds us. It bears greater significance to our livelihood than our computers. Love that land; give back to it; be kind to it. 

I wrote this poem some time ago:

For every house we live in
For every school we raise in which to learn
For all the buildings in which we toil
Let us not forget the land on which they stand

For it is the land that is our true home
The land is the teacher of all we need to know
The land is the provider of all we need to grow
Let us not forget the land.

Saanich - by Michell's Farm
c. Gillian Cornwall

*To learn more about the culture and heritage of Lana'i, please visit: 

Gillian Cornwall, c. June 8, 2014


Alberta (the other one) said...

Thanks Gillian for this wonderful walk down memory lane and for sharing such beautiful pictures. We are lucky indeed to know Lanai and to have her know us.

Gillian said...

Thanks for reading and for your comment. Hope we will stand together on the shores of Hulopo'e again before long!