The Naked Cow & Future Farmers

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Taylor Ann Ono, School Editor

    In 2007, led by farm owner Monique van der Stroom with assistance from Jenni Patten, the Naked Cow Dairy Farm and Creamery opened, becoming the only local dairy farm on Oahu. Their homemade products can be found in stores across the island, from Whole Foods and Safeway to restaurants like Alan Wong’s and Hula Grill. In order to learn about the hardships and purpose of self-sustainable farming in Hawaii, the MHS Future Farmers of America (FFA) visited the farm in Waianae on Oct. 14. Naked Cow Dairy Farm’s dedication has led to the success of their artisan cheeses and hand churned butter, along with the spread of awareness about the  agricultural industry and its benefits to the isle.

    “I went to school for dairy farming, so for me it’s a love of doing what I want to do, they say pick something that you like to do and you’ll never work a day in your life, even though farming is a lot of work. But I just chose a career that I really enjoy,” said van der Stroom. “Everyone depends on farmers for living: farmers produce all the food in the world. Farmers produce all the milk, beef and vegetables, everything we eat is produced by a farm somewhere. So obviously for the perpetuation of humans on Earth, we have to farm.”

    Unfortunately, farming isn’t an attractive profession for the youth, but education is a means to generate interest amongst the younger generations. “It exposed the students to a real farm; like what we do here at our school, there’s no consequences, you do a poor job, no big deal, you try again. But hopefully they saw that being a real farmer, you can not just do it half-heartedly, you have to put everything you have into it,” said Agriculture teacher Jeffrey Yamaguchi. “I love it, I’m here at seven o’clock in the morning, I go home at six o’clock in the evening everyday, because when the students aren’t around, that’s when I get to play, and I play in the dirt, that’s what I like.” Junior Chynna Chun added, “It was very inspiring that they are still willing to push through all the challenges or hardships that they face. I also like learning about the process. They take so much gallons of milk to produce a small wheel of cheese for profit, I think it’s a lot of hard work and dedication.”

    One of the struggles of working on a farm is the constant care and attention that the land and animals require. There is also competition with mainland companies. Because of complications such as these, farming has become a difficult lifestyle that not many people choose as a career. “I grew up on a pig farm in Nanakuli and my dad gave it up in the late ‘70s simply because you can’t make money. When the mainland product is cheaper and of the same quality, you don’t blame the consumer for buying the cheaper product. It’s kind of sad but I guess that’s the reality of it. The good thing about it is there’s hope, hopefully there can be policy and legislation that encourages young people to go into farming because the average age of Hawaii’s farmer is in the 60s, so we need to get new blood,” said Yamaguchi. “The ones who are farmers, the ones who are 60 something years old, they’re pushing their children away from farming because it’s a hard life. I went to college in Iowa and the saying was, ‘Agriculture is not a career, it’s a way of life,’ which is very true, that you don’t do it for the money.” Chun added, “We’re taking stuff that’s really school based and we’re applying it to the rest of Hawaii or certain farms. Not a lot of people are interested in (agriculture), not a lot of people take this class, but for us, to really learn about it, we can share this knowledge with a lot of people.”

    Some people don’t realize the importance of farming and the major impact that it has on the community, especially in places like Hawaii. “If you grow up in an area where there are no farms, the food just appears and kids will never ever understand what it took to get that food to the store. They don’t see the connection between the land and the farmer, and the food that’s being produced. It’s real important to bring them to a farm so they see that at a young age, and that is impressionable on children. Seeing animals and seeing farms and seeing things grow, that sticks with them through their whole life. Not everyone is going to grow up to be a farmer, but it might tap into some of those kids that will go into that direction and learn to love farming. There’s more to it than just having an animal, having a cow, so I think it’s interesting, I like teaching kids about what I know,” said van der Stroom.

    Even with the farm and creamery being the last on Oahu, the interest in its continuation has not been lost. “I think it’s important that locally, they get that recognition because a lot of the companies, they’re all mainland based, and for us to be local I think is really special. In general I want agriculture to be more popularized,” said Chun. Van der Stroom added, “We’d like to work with the high school students and bring them out to the farm to do projects or internships. We’ve had a couple interns in the past where they come from the vet school and they work with us in the kitchen or they work with us with the animals. There’s so much opportunity with the students in the high schools, the community colleges, any university. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to bring students in and show them what it’s like instead of just learning in class.”

    The Naked Cow Dairy Farm and Creamery is doing a lot to keep farming alive. It has continued to spread its message about the perks of farming, offering interactive activities to the community such as tours and cheese-making classes.

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