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The Tortilla Machine Blew Up


Faith Chase, a 50-year resident of Maui, is a mother and grandmother who has testified at many Maui County and Hawaii State hearings. Her interest in island agriculture inspired her turn from graphic design to writing.

If you don’t know this remote Maui region, its tricky to fully understand the obstacles of off-the-grid living. The Kahikinui Hawaiian Homestead does not have water. Homesteaders must drive 30-45 minutes one way to an Ulupalakua water source. This feat alone is laborious and costly.

The region suffers from hydrophobic soil, which makes growing anything extremely challenging.

With an all or nothing attitude, one Kahikinui homestead, Zenuru Ho‘olako farm ranch, has been working hard on a soil remediation proof of concept. To fix the moisture stressed mountain the animal kingdom plays a critical role.

The ability for rotational grazing to inoculate the soil with beneficial microorganisms is scientifically advised and by starting with pigs, the results have been astonishing. In seven months the dry and dusty area boasts soil that resembles the texture of chocolate cake. With the success of the initial pig pen proof, larger pens were built, pigs had piglets, more animals were adopted and the operation grew.

There is feverish excitement as animals rotate to greener pasture pens and farming begins. While the progress brings hope for this remote, often forgotten region, the struggle of other homesteaders trying to raise animals has fallen on the shoulders of Zenuru Ho‘olako farm ranch. Neighboring homesteaders have found themselves not able to maintain the ability to water and feed their animals.

It has been difficult to keep up with the unexpected expansion of livestock. The expense to haul water and buy feed from Central Maui has been a burden because the costs of both fuel and feed have risen over the last two years.

During the same time as the farm struggle and ranch trouble, a local tortilla factory was also experiencing stress. During the covid alarm, a tortilla machine mechanic that was needed from Mexico couldn’t come to Maui due to travel mandates. One thing led to another and a faulty fix blew the machine apart making it inoperable. It was an unfortunate ultimatum for the business owner to have to close shop.

The question remained, what to do with the hundreds of pounds of masa flour? As luck would find it and blessings be told, the corn flour concoction was gold as feed supplement for the pigs. There were also some unsellable packages of tortillas that served as Frisbee-like snacks and some expired pandesol rolls that served as sweet relief. Truthfully, without the masa flour, the farm would have suffered. With the delay of a farm grant and the delay of an emergency drought relief water delivery grant, the struggle has been real.

It’s been one complete year of concept building. While it remains a challenge to farm and ranch in this remote region, the proof of success is in the soil. And it will never be forgotten how the tortilla machine blew up but it helped save the farm.

Tax-deductible contributions towards feed & fuel can be made via Venmo handle @hoolako #GivingTuesday #FunStory #Farm #Farming #Ranch #Ranching #FarmLife #RanchLife

Mahalo for helping this small scale Hawaiian Homestead farm ranch with animal feed and ranch vehicle fuel.