In 1999 Marie Mauger arrived on Kaua‘i with more than two decades of experience in nutrition, health and holistic therapy. That was on top of her as many years of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming experience in Oregon and California.
Over the past eight years, Mauger has turned the 16 acres she purchased as raw and overgrown land into a producing farm that is exemplary of sustainable agriculture — her form of planting gives as much as it takes from the soil, and can be farmed in the same way, with the same results that improves rather than depletes the soil over an extended period.
The yield of Mauger’s farm is more than fruit and vegetables: It is a visionary plan to increase connectedness between the island’s farmers and the community, between the farming present with the farming future.
Creator of ‘The All Kaua‘i Meal’ and ‘KEEPS’ (Kaua‘i Essential Exchange for Plants), Mauger is ready to share her expertise, experience and her adventures in renewable farming with the community.
According to any working farmer in the United States, and the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for America’s farmers is very troubling.
“Market pressures and low prices for many agricultural goods will cause more farms to go out of business over the 2004-14 period. The complexity of modern farming and keen competition among farmers leave little room for the marginally successful farmer. Therefore, the long-term trend toward the consolidation of farms into fewer and larger ones is expected to continue over the 2004n14 period and result in a continued decline in employment of self-employed farmers and ranchers and slower-than-average growth in employment of salaried agricultural managers,” states the USDL 2006-07 report on farm laborers.
Yet the report goes on to describe the food-production revolution that has begun on farms across the nation: “Despite the expected continued consolidation of farmland and the projected decline in overall employment of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers, an increasing number of small-scale farmers have developed successful market niches that involve personalized, direct contact with their customers. Many are finding opportunities in organic food production, as more consumers demand food grown without pesticides or chemicals. Some small-scale farmers belong to collectively owned marketing cooperatives that process and sell their product. Other farmers participate in community-supported agriculture cooperatives that allow consumers to directly buy a share of the farmer’s harvest.”
Mauger, like many other concerned farmers on Kaua‘i, can be considered the clairvoyants of future food sources on the island, and work every day from the break of dawn to create sustainable agriculture that neither harms the land nor the body.
While organic farming is paramount in beginning to address the toxic compounds, often called “Persistent Organic Pollutants” (POPs) poured over generations of food crops, the actual renewal of the soil must also be addressed.
“We need a safe, sustainable, inexpensive and effective method to 1) reduce pesticide concentration in soils and 2) help prevent pesticide uptake in crops,” Mauger writes.
Biodynamics is Mauger’s answer. The independent farmer has turned contaminated soil from years of pineapple farming into “clean dirt.”
Field research conducted over a one year period by Mauger, using biodynamic farming techniques, has been documented and published by “Biodynamics Farming and Gardening” — the leading organization investigating the revolutionary methods first described by Rudolph Steiner.
Steiner, the well-known theologian, philosopher, author, inventor, architect and agriculture expert, developed biodynamic methods in the early 20th century.
“The base of biodynamics,” Mauger explained, “is that the Earth, the land itself, is an organism that is aging. And like anything that ages, the receptivity to the environment, influences and incidents declines — and therefore needs renewal.”
The biodynamic method, “like many other organic methods (it) uses compost, cover crops, crop rotation, companion planting and appropriate soil cultivation,” Mauger writes, “but what makes biodynamic protocols unique is the use of nine specially prepared compost and soil amendments, which are made from common herbs and natural materials such as chamomile, dandelion, cow manure and quartz crystal dust.”
These methods have effectively cleaned Mauger’s land, which had tested positive for DDT and other POP toxins in 1999.
“Like lining up the tumblers in a combination lock, all these biodynamic preparations are the layers needed to heal and renew the whole life of the land,” said Mauger — renewal is integral to sustainability for Mauger.
Mauger’s farming philosophy points to the future, “You’ve got to ask if what you’re doing can be done over and over again, without depletion.”
Much like the Asian vision of health, holistic farming requires looking at the bigger picture — treating all aspects ‘of the body’ from soil and seed to the yield.
Mauger’s KEEPS project aims at connecting farmers through seed networking and an island-wide database. Designed by Mauger, a 12-sided barn is being patiently built to house this networking and educational facility.
“The farmers need to know who has which seeds and plants, and a way to get access to the seeds our neighbors have. This barn will serve as an education center, a database, a place of exchange for edible plants.”
The 12-sided structure, built by Ed Farris, is in need of completion funds. “It is truly a landmark structure, because as far as I know, it is the only building on Kaua‘i made completely of island wood — iron wood and eucalyptus.”
Taking a loan against the land Mauger had already paid off, the barn’s construction is moving slowly.
“It is my dream to see this structure serve the farming community in a real, tangible way,” Mauger said. “I haven’t had a break out here. Right now, it’s just me and my one amazing helper, Darrel Jarmusch,” who comes by to work on projects Mauger can’t do alone.
While the KEEPS program addresses seed and perma-culture propagation, Mauger has also addressed Kaua‘i’s lack of local food consumption with ‘The All-Kaua‘i Meal.’
Eating locally grown food has already moved to center stage in the environmental movement around the country. Mauger has devised a list of crops that can nutritionally support every man, woman and child on this island without having to depend on oil-powered shipments of avocados and Cheetos from across the Pacific.
“Pidgeon pea, taro, rice, breadfruit, sunflower and coconut oil, dairy, KaTuk, tropical fruits, local fish and corn are on my list of foods that grow here or could be grown here — food independence,” said Mauger.
While the issue of political sovereignty is on the top of many of the island residents’ agendas, food sovereignty, should also be a serious campaign.
Mauger’s ‘All Kaua‘i Meal’ offers a solution to some of the island’s health epidemics such as obesity and Type II diabetes, as much as it solves the enormous food importation issue.
Having offered a biodynamic and ‘All Kaua‘i Meal’ workshop this spring, Mauger hopes to get more people involved in her two-pronged approach to creating a healthier, holistic, sustainable relationship between humans and the land.
Contact Marie Mauger for more information on biodynamic farming, KEEPS and The All Kaua‘i Meal: email@example.com, P.O.Box 416, Anahola, HI 96703 or 822-7899.
• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 ext.257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.