Meet Your Producer: Sweet Cane Cafe and Farm
Two weeks ago, the DA BOX team was invited to visit Sweet Cane Cafe and Farm. Some may be familiar with this family owned restaurant at 8 Kamana Street in Hilo. If you haven’t tried it yet, we highly recommend that you do. The restaurant offers delicious and nutritious, organic and locally sourced vegetarian dishes with vegan options.
The owners John and Jackie, live just outside of Hilo on a 30 acre farm and many of the delicious, organic veggies used in their restaurant are coming right from their own farm. When they
purchased the land more than 18 years ago, the soil was dead from previous sugar cane
cultivation and commercial ginger farming, during which the soil was gassed against aphids.
John slowly began revitalizing the soil. He started building large compost piles. After the compost time had cured, he then distributed them around the land. He is still using this same technique today. His lifelong experience in organic farming was of great help in bringing life back into the depleted soil, as was the introduction of the Korean Natural Farming method. Korean farming, brought to the island by Dr. Park, builds on the principle of healthy soil which is created by reintroducing a variety of microorganisms and keeping the soil protected by covering it with compost and mulch.
One of the main compost ingredients at Sweet Cane Farm is bagasse, the material left after processing sugar cane. The main crops used from the farm in the restaurant are taro, cassava and ulu. With over 100 ulu trees, Sweet Cane Farm also supplies the Hawai’i Ulu Coop and are currently the biggest supplier to the coop on the east side of Hawai’i.
One starchy vegetable featured in the restaurant in a variety of creative dishes is cassava. If you have been a DA BOX member in the recent past, you may have received a frozen bag of shredded cassava. A favorite for many at Sweet Cane Cafe is a pizza, featuring a unique pizza ‘dough’ made out of cassava.
The sugar cane grown on John and Jackie’s land is a soft, juicy variety, which lends itself great for juicing. The harder variety that Jackie does not grow, was selected for it’s resistance to rats. Processing cassava and sugar cane is labor intensive and the farm offers up to six WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) positions most of the year.
The DA BOX CSA is looking forward to continue working with Sweet Cane Cafe and Farm in the coming year, sourcing a variety of organically grown produce including ulu, taro, kabocha and cassava.
Start of a new compost pile. The compost sits on a concrete slab for easier turning.
View of one of the many sugar cane patches