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Niles’s roots in farming – and passion for Hawai‘i – run deep. His family owned a 90-acre tobacco and corn farm in Kentucky, but his father also spent many years in Hawai‘i. Niles remembers walking Kailua Beach on O‘ahu as a kid and declaring, “This is where I want to be for the rest of my life.”


Fast-forward, and he and his fiancée, Ash, have a good head start on that life plan. Their organic Ho‘omakua Farm sits 4,000 feet above sea level, along the scenic road that leads to Maui’s Haleakalā Crater.


Once a goat pasture, the farm boasts a diverse array of crops – everything from corn and carrots to lilikoi and lettuce to towering stalks of kalo. The location and climate are perfect for hard-to-grow crops too, like wasabi, blueberries and yuzu.

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Niles credits Ash for helping him focus his energy and get the farm off the ground. She handles the marketing and sales, and together they do most of the farm work. A crew of dedicated volunteers shows up for bigger jobs, to buy seed trays or just to get their hands in dirt.


How does Niles inspire volunteers? “I say, ‘These are your tomatoes or your beans, and you’re going to plant, weed, mulch and harvest them,’” he says. “They’re driven to come out the next day or week, because they’re excited to see how their tomatoes or beans are doing.”


Educating and inspiring others is the main goal at Ho‘omakua Farm – to teach people how to grow food, feed their families and share with neighbors. “Food security starts within your own community,” says Niles. “We don’t need everyone to be a farmer, but everybody growing a little something is crucial.”

“Our kuleana, or responsibility, as farmers is to care for the land during our time. And once our time is over, it goes to the next.”

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Niles and Ash are developing two more farms on Moloka‘i Island, where they’ll plant vegetables, fruit trees and native crops like kalo. A fourth farm will turn waste from area businesses into compost, or what Niles calls “black gold.” And a fifth farm will be dedicated to harvesting seaweed and growing hemp – which, combined, create a sustainable bioplastic.


The goal is to revitalize each farm in a way that nurtures the land and gives food and jobs back to the community. “We want the community to know that we’re here for them,” says Niles.


He has two tips for people who want to get growing: “Connect with your local farmers. They are going to be your mentors.” And, “Just try. Try to put something in the ground, because it’s a learning curve no matter what.”

After working in hospitality for nearly two decades, the owner and operator of Ho‘omakua Farm, Niles, ventured into farming. He’s passionate about growing local, organic produce for his community and about teaching others to do the same.

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After working in hospitality for nearly two decades, the owner and operator of Ho‘omakua Farm, Niles, ventured into farming. He’s passionate about growing local, organic produce for his community and about teaching others to do the same.

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