Karen Thom and her husband Henry N. Wyckoff started Peaceful Farms, their polyculture lychee orchard in Hakalau, 20 years ago after the closure of the sugar cane plantations. They started the venture with Karen’s father Sing Low Thom who immigrated from China with a background in agriculture and encouraged them to incorporate small scale animal agriculture into their fruit orchards to build soil health. The family used a tractor and a few flocks of sheep and goats to clear the acreage of sugar cane left by the Mauna Kea Sugar company.
Today, Karen, Henry and Karen’s sister Stacey manage multiple flocks of sheep and goats and grow different varieties of lychee. The animals lounge under the lychee trees, pruning and aerating the trees by eating from the lower branches, which prevents lychee rust. Karen tells us that the fallen lychee has the bonus of acting as a natural antiparasitic for her grazing animals. The animals fertilize as they go, resulting in year after year of sweet and plentiful lychee harvests.