When Jeff and Miliana Johnson started talking seriously about getting married and starting a family, the two discovered they both had dreams of farming. “We wanted to farm in a place where it would make a difference, where farming would be helpful. We chose a CSA (community-supported agriculture) model in part because it directly serves the local community,” says Miliana.
Customers subscribe to the home-delivered produce plan. “It comes with a newsletter and recipes. Every season is different and we enjoy testing a variety of crops no one else is growing—things you can’t find in a grocery store or even at a farmers’ market. We bill our service as a culinary adventure.” Miliana outlined.
‘Ohia Fields Farm is located at Ho‘okala, on the Hāmākua Coast, which historically gets a good amount of rainfall. “Since we’re completely off the grid, we needed to be in a place where we could collect enough water to raise our crops,” said Jeff. “Miliana’s mother lives here (born and raised in Hawai‘i), and we wanted to be within driving distance of one set of parents.”
The farm strives to keep its customers satisfied. CSAs typically have a high turnover rate. “We greatly appreciate the 60-75 percent of customers who do return (which is a higher rate than average on the mainland),” says Miliana.
CSA customers are people who want to eat healthier, support local agriculture and the local economy—those who know that food grown nearby is nearly always going to taste better and be better for you than food flown in from 3,000 miles away.
Jeff is from New Jersey and Miliana is from Honolulu and Los Angeles. Jeff has a degree in literature and Miliana holds two degrees in environmental architecture. Miliana had summer farm experience in high school and in between degrees, and Jeff has a magical green thumb, says his wife. When the economy took a downturn Miliana lost her job in architecture and they used the opportunity to farm full-time, planting crops and raising sheep and egg hens.
“We strongly feel that, by building a business that is off the grid, that supplies a locally-made product and that sells to local customers, we are being a part of the answer to the issue of sustainability on the island. ‘Buy local’ has far more impact than we realize,” says Miliana. “We’re proud to be part of a fundamental, empowering shift in the way we think about ourselves and what we can do with and for each other as a community.”
Location: O’okala Mauka, Hāmākua Coast