Around the world travel, Backpacking, Kauai, Lettuce Farm, long term travel, Travel, Uncategorized

The Farm

Somehow I have this knack of getting myself into hilarious (in hindsight) situations, and this is one of them. With a few extra days on my hand in Hawaii and not wanting to leave Kaua’i just yet, but while also watching my bank account dwindle down fast, I decided to do what a lot of backpackers and budget travellers do here…work/trade. I thought I’d found the answer to it all when I came across an ad at the local health food store for work/trade on a local lettuce farm. I called to inquire.

I spoke to Mary, who runs the farm, and I got the lay of the land. For 3 hours of work a day on the lettuce farm, I could pitch a tent, have use of a kitchen and outside shower. Sweet! Sign me up. So after a few days of fun with others at the hostel, I bought a 2-person tent for $20 off a fellow traveller and hitched a ride to Kilauea Farms. It was getting dark when i arrive and the rain was impending, so I was thankful that the tent was easy to set up, and that my new friend Kelly had offered to help. Fortunately I had sort of lucked out on this deal. I was able to set my tent up within a larger outside tent, and someone had left a mattress on wood beams, so when I put my tent on top of that, it was well, more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.


Kelly left to go back to the hostel, but we made plans to meet up the following afternoon for some more exploring of the island. I felt good knowing I wouldn’t be stranded there. I crawled into my tent and zipped up quick to keep out the other things that had made home within the larger tent- mosquitos, HUGE Cane spiders and god knows what else. I crawled into my sleep sheet and put my earplugs in. I could make it a week, couldn’t I?
It rained the entire night, and the sound of the water hitting the top tarp was loud even through my earplugs. It had cleared by the morning, and I awoke with the roosters and the sun, and luckily, the tent was dry. I made coffee and got chatting to Marco, a mid-40s Italian man who has been living on the farm for the past 3 months. He was a character, explained how he had maxed out all his credit cards, was in a mountain of debt and so was living off the land and the handouts from the local foodbank. It just got weirder from here.
In a yurt to the side of the farm and the main house lives Sarah, a 30 something single mother of 2 darling kids, Canyon (7) and Story (4). Ok, now I know I’m with full blown hippies. Sarah works on a couple of farms around the island. Story and Canyon show me around their yurt, and Canyon and I get to talking about his friends and I ask him who his best friend at school is and he looks at me and says, “I ain’t ever gone to school.” ?
I’m sort of dumbfounded at this point. I finish my coffee and Mary comes to find me and show me what needs to be done. I spend my morning planting lettuce seeds and mulching. I convince myself again that this is going to be a new, fun experience. Around 11:30, Kelly comes to collect me and we head to Ke’e Beach with a few others for a 6-hour coastal hike that takes us to isolated beaches and huge waterfalls. It was an awesome afternoon. I don’t want to go back to my tent.
The following day, I am up early and back out mulching the lettuce beds. I decide to stay put for the afternoon, relax, read, catch up on a few phonecalls (yes, there is at least cell phone reception). That afternoon I meet Will, the other farm dweller. He’s been in Hawaii for years. I’m not really sure what else these people do. They hop around from campsite to farm, from foodbank to any other handout they find. In an afternoon conversation, Will tells me he hasn’t been around cause he had to go spend 2 days in the slammer. Alrighty then.
At this point in time, I hear from my friend Katie, who I met my first day on Kaua’i. She mentions she just got a new apartment and offers for me to come and stay for a few days if the farm gets too much. I thank her and tell her I’m going to try and tough it out for a few more nights. I cook spaghetti for a few of us for dinner and retire to my tent to drink the single bottle of cheap red wine i smuggled in a few days earlier. It gets cold that night and I fall asleep to the sounds of roosters, pigs, cows, ducks and other foreign animals that I’m probably better off not knowing about.

I wake up feeling cold and tired and decide that I really don’t have anything to prove to anyone here. This sucks and I’m in Hawaii, so I’ll be damned if I spend another moment not enjoying it. I text Katie and graciously accept the offer of a sofa for a few nights. I do my morning mulching and chat with Will again, who offers me the use of his knife if i don’t feel safe at night. Yeah, it’s time to go!

I hitch to Kilaeua that afternoon and sit at a coffee shop and feel like I’ve re-entered a somewhat civilized world. I’m thankful I only have one more night at the farm. Katie and I meet up and cruise around the island to pick up a few things for her apartment. She drops me at the farm with the promise that she’ll collect me at 11 the following morning. She asks me if i just want to go with her then, and the knife comment pops in my head, but we decide it’s okay and I’ll just do my last morning of “work” and then go.
I sleep well knowing I’m getting outta there, and I find Mary the next day and tell her that I’m going to town to spend a few nights with a friend. What can I do but tell her the truth- it’s just a little too rustic for me. I plant a few more lettuce seeds that morning and pack my tent up. Katie comes to collect me and we drive away- me knowing i will never look at lettuce again the same way.
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