Country Moon Rising Bakery kneads aloha into every loaf

KAPA’A — The sweet smell of warm yeast rising with wholesome flour into perfectly formed loaves of bread pours out from Country Moon’s Bakery window.

Michael Rickett — entrepreneur, father, farmer, baker and businessman — busily attends to stacks of bread pans, filled with one of the many original recipes he has developed over the past four years.

Having downsized his numerous business activities from the Killer Juice Bar, a bakery in Lihu‘e, farm and fruit stands in Marin County, Calif., the father of three adult sons now focuses on making bread, pastries and smoothies from his organic bakery in Kapa‘a.

Having lost his wife of 25 years to cancer — Cecelia Rickett, whom he describes as his “soulmate” — just this past September, Rickett credits the alchemy of baking in helping him get through a heart-wrenching time.

“She was the balance to my insanely busy life,” he said. “When the bakery first opened I was working nearly 70 hours a week, I’d get home dead tired. But she was there, cooking dinner, making my world stable.”

Rickett’s three sons, Joshua, Jimmy and Christopher, are also invested in the bakery.

“The younger two (Jimmy and Christopher) help in delivery and slicing, while Joshua is away at University of California, Santa Cruz studying sustainable agriculture, which he plans to return and practice here on-island,” Rickett said.

Country Moon Rising offers 14 types of daily-made bread.

“We do everything from scratch. All the wheat is organic and we use good quality, healthy ingredients like olive oil and local honey,” Rickett said while he filled the oven with the most popular, 12-grain bread. “We like to use local ingredients any time we can — our sweet taro bread is a local Kaua‘i product. We actually trade with the grower; I like to trade anytime we can.”

The development and success of the bakery can be credited to Rickett’s long history in entrepreneurial business and his willingness to experiment, improve and change as the market demands.

“In the beginning it’s always a lot of trial and error,” Rickett said. “I read the book ‘Bread Alone’ by Daniel Leader, and I just tingled all over — I knew it was for me. I just connected to it. Since then it’s been a process of discovery, figuring out what tastes good and what Kaua‘i likes.”

Concerned about Kaua‘i’s food dependency on imported goods, Rickett’s prolific bakery provides 250 to 500 loaves a day, not including a multitude of pastries and cookies.

“I am definitely hands-on with the dough — there is a blissful conductivity that sets in. It’s fast and a lot of work, but I love it,” he said.

While he opened the bakery to focus his energies, Rickett couldn’t help but to expand into new areas he feels passionate about.

Related to his desire to contribute to more local food production on the island, Rickett has a new adventure brewing.

“There is no reason we can’t grow most of the produce we need here, especially tomatoes,” Rickett explained. “I have been developing a growing program with brandy-wine, heirloom tomatoes from simple self-watering pots.

“I am hoping to partner with local community centers around the island who would enroll interested senior citizens that would be willing to grow a few plants in their yard or porch. If they do the minimal pruning, watering, and looking after, I will collect the tomatoes and pay them for their product. Then I’ll sell them from the bakery.”

Reducing food imports and creating a community-supported agricultural system for the existing farmers is something Rickett also strongly supports.

The baker is looking for a piece of land to lease where he can plant his tomatoes.

“This is an economically viable proposal that could help farmers and consumers. It’s time to think about how we can reduce these imports,” Rickett said.

Country Moon Rising sells its delicious bread from Hanalei to Ele‘ele with 14 varieties, seven types of bagels and eight types of cookies.

From mouth-watering cinnamon buns to wholesome Spelt Goddess loaves perfect for sandwiches, Rickett says his favorites are “whole wheat, 12 grain, and a killer sourdough,” that he makes from a traditional French method.

He has four employees who help produce cookies and juice, as well as prepping the measurements for bread-making.

“It’s hectic but fun,” said Megan Coglin, one of Rickett’s helpers.

Holding a photograph of Aunt Cece and himself taken in the bakery a few years back, Rickett points out the secret to Country Moon’s sweet tasting loaves.

“See, we hug each loaf to get the air out of the plastic bag before putting them out,” he said smiling. “We literally put the love in the loaf: it’s filled with aloha.”

Country Moon Rising Bakery is located behind Shaka Tacos in Kapa‘a — just follow the fresh bread scent wafting into the street.

• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or kkeita@kauaipubco.com.

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