PHOTOGRAPHY: KAUAI FARMACY “There is a certain ‘mana’ (spiritual force) that exists here on the farm” GENNA WOLKON, PROPRIETOR
You both used to have high-powered jobs in New York, but you left it all behind. Why did you decide to move to Kauai? It would seem as though Doug and I made a conscious decision to leave everything behind, but in reality it was a series of events and a passion for freedoms beyond the status quo that had subconsciously led us to the tiny Garden island of Kaua’i in the middle of the Pacific ocean. As seasoned travelers to many parts of the globe years prior, we had witnessed many different cultural practices and lifestyles aside from the Western modern practices of our upbringings. When we became pregnant with our first child, we recognized how little informed we were in the business of birth and how restricted we were by the medical procedures that influence the birth outcomes. As a result we were limited in our choices for a natural home birth and subsequently an unplanned hospital birth resulted. Subconsciously, we found ourselves on a voyage to find a different existence where those personal freedoms and informed, conscious choices could be attained. When we arrived in Kauai, we were welcomed with like-minded, free-thinkers and passionate people born and raised here as well as transplanted from all parts of the globe (like ourselves). We immersed ourselves in the abundance of Kauai’s lush jungle underground and surf culture, and helped nurture our primal lust to come alive with acupuncture, meditation, yoga and xi gong. In hindsight, we were reinventing our lives, restructuring our former lifestyles and spiritually, physically and mentally rediscovering our youth, like little children in a jungle playground filled with discovery and wonder. After being introduced to this healthy and healing Hawaiian lifestyle, you decided to create Kauai Farmacy. What inspired you to embark on this labor of love? We were ready and able to take full responsibility for our own health... After arriving on Kauai, we were introduced to the Polynesian Noni plant (Morinda Citrifolia). It was our first experience healing from living plant matter rather than a man-made treatment. We were intrigued and began to experiment with the plant topically and eventually in tea form like we learned the ancient Polynesians did long ago. We learned how to dehydrate the Noni leaves and quickly experienced its ability to reduce inflammation and awaken our senses. We were discovering truths about our bodies; Doug was shedding years of excess weight from his former wining-and-dining high finance lifestyle, and I was beginning my healing journey from the cesarean birth of our son. The Noni leaf tea was detoxing years of poor dietary and lifestyle behaviors that were just now starting to catch up with us in our thirties. It was helping us with circulation; our energy-levels were higher; our digestion was picking up; and my mastitis cleared up while nursing my infant son. Years later after the home-birth of our second child, we discovered the power of another array of herbs (mainly sage, lemon balm, tulsi and mint) which we harvested straight from our landlord’s small garden and brewed into life-changing tea. The tea proved to be stronger and more effective than any of the pricey imported supplements and highly-praised tinctured herbs we were spending a small fortune filling our medicine cabinet with at that time. This discovery coincided with acquiring a four acre piece of land in Kilauea. With permission from our landlord, we transplanted a start from the Tulsi (Holy Indian Basil) plant and started our very first garden in 2011. We continued acquiring seeds, planting out gardens, and laying infrastructure equipped with solar dehydrators, water catch systems and retail apothecary located in the heart of the farm which we nicknamed “The Tea Wagon.” What was a former horse ranch is now home to Kauai Farmacy and its diverse array of over seventy different variety of medicinal herbs. Inspired by the privileged opportunity for us to make life changes towards a healthier lifestyle, we strongly believed it to be our Kuleana (our responsibility) to share what we were learning and what we continue to learn as we carry on this extraordinary herbal healing journey, with herbal medicine grown and crafted from the source. Can you please explain a permaculture garden and why they are so important? Our gardens are designed in a closed-loop system. There is zero waste. We harvest what we need and compost the rest back to make new soil, which then becomes the base for new garden beds. We make compost tea from decomposing plant matter gathered from all around the farm, and feed this back to the gardens weekly which nourish and enrich the plants with the very same vitamins and minerals and microbials that they themselves then offer. This is one of the many systems that make our permaculture gardens sustainable, stable and efficient. Unlike traditional mono-cropped farms where rows and rows of the same crop are planted for acres and acres, we use a permaculture planting methodology that emulates that which would occur in nature. The idea is to plant diverse communities (much like a backyard garden) where plants provide for one another. The diversity of these gardens is key to their ability to thrive. Each plant exchanges information with its surrounding plants. For example Comfrey provides nitrogen to its neighboring plants while a Cacao tree will offer rich magnesium. Canopy trees provide shade-cover to low lying plants; and plants like lemongrass and Comfrey serve as natural pest control. Using water-catchments throughout the farm, we use the Kauai rainwater mixed with our compost tea to quench and nourish the soil (luckily Kauai is home to one of the wettest places on Earth, with its center crater Waialeale receiving approximately 38 feet of rainfall annually, so we are fortunate with abundant rain). The gardens teach us deeper consciousness; for this reason, we only harvest by hand and never by machines. The closed-loop system and backyard-garden techniques are ecologically-friendly, building a strong foundation for sustainable life. The plants serve as companion plants to each other, boosting the garden’s immune system as a whole; and likewise, these same companion plants strengthen and nurture our immune system when the herbs are consumed in our teas, superfood powders, spices, and other medicinal herb products. Kauai Farmacy is not certified organic, but you believe your farming practices to be ‘morganic’. What do you mean by this? From seed-to-cup, our plants are fed compost tea for fertilizer which is made from the very gardens themselves; they are chanted to each morning by our head gardener with prayer; they are hand-harvested with pure intention (never by machine); they are dehydrated in custom built solar dehydrators at low temperatures to maintain the plant’s true integrity and medicinal benefits; they are artisanally hand-crafted by passionate herbalists into teas, superfood powders, tincture, hydrosol and salves; they are labeled and packaged onsite within footsteps from the gardens to insure freshness and quality. How we grow the plants, harvest and craft them into herbal products, our process and ingredients are 100% transparent to our customers, leaving no questions unanswered. The closed-loop system we undergo in the gardens and seed-to-cup operation allows us to hold the utmost integrity in our products (neither of these concepts are considered in the organic certification process). The loving measures we take far out-measure the current ‘certified organic’ standards, which allow certain percentages of harmful chemicals into the growing process, condone procedures using excessive heat (cooking off vital nutrients; vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.) and discount genetically modified organisms (GMO). We have decided to self-certify ourselves ‘morganic’ as a result, letting our customers know that we go above and beyond when it comes to our intentional processes growing potent and pure plant medicine. Guests can savor a cup of tea at your Tea Lanai or tour your farm with a Medicinal Herb Garden Experience. What are these experiences like? We offer guided tours Wednesdays and Fridays from 10-12pm, through our lush herbal oasis with a casual tea tasting, extensive walk through the production facility, and a meeting with the herbalists that are artisanally hand-crafting the herbs that can be sampled and purchased, connecting visitors straight to the source. Visitors on a tight schedule have the option of sipping tea and sampling products at our on-farm tea apothecary open weekly, where a Kauai Farmacy team member is happy to help customers find which blends work best for their personal needs. We recognize that not everyone knows what Ashwagandha is, or what raw cacao (real chocolate) looks and tastes like in fruit form. Herbs like these and the other seventy plus herbs we grow here are becoming more and more important for people to incorporate into their lives for sustenance and wellness. As the go-go lifestyles and degenerating modern diet worsen and hormone imbalances, cardiovascular disorders, anxiety and obesity increase, we are in dire need of educating people on how to heal themselves without being sentenced to drugs, surgery and chronic pain. As the medical and pharmaceutical industry continue to be focused on and monetized by the human body in its most weakened state, we are dedicated to introducing effective, plant-based healing mediums, like culinary herbal spices, healing body balms and loose leaf herbal teas to encourage and empower people to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. What do you hope that guests will remember most about their visit with you? There is a trust that occurs when people visit the source from which their medicine is grown. We hope they will carry that trust with them and find comfort in connecting with the plants and the Kauai land from which they are grown. There is a feeling associated with this experience that is truly indescribable. There is a certain “mana” (spiritual force) that exists here on the farm that dates back to the birth of the island, and historically has evolved with the energies from the care-takers, the plant life and the animals that enter and exit its sanctuary. We certainly do our best to educate people about the herbal plants which grow here and how to integrate them into the modern lifestyle; however, there is no greater reminder of our primal intuition than nature herself. Being present and soaking in the elements within the herbal garden oasis and consuming the teas and herbs while immersed in the heart of the land, is something that people are bound to take with them for the rest of their lives. We hope that people remember that feeling when they are in their own sanctuaries across the globe sipping on the tea grown from these gardens, and crafted by the passionate herbalists they met on their journey here. How would you explain ‘Aloha spirit’? Aloha is a deeply profound way of life, which most of us are only just learning, yet subconsciously we’ve been longing for all our lives. As we connect and immerse ourselves more in nature, ground in the “aina,” the land which feeds and provides us, and “malama,” care for and protect that which is pure and intended, the closer we are to living with Aloha. The definition roots in “Alo” meaning “to be in the presence of” and “hâ” meaning “the breath of life.” Essentially, living with Aloha, means living with the presence of breath. Aloha has adapted to mean many different things, from greetings such as Aloha kakakiaka (good morning) to peace and goodbye, but in time if you are truly living with the Aloha spirit, there is no single way to define it in words; it is just a way of life. What can we learn from the Hawaiian culture? That we are one with the land. In preserving and carefully tending to the land’s needs, we are in turn receiving the land’s energy in the form of food, shelter, clothing and medicine.