Going Organic Gets Easier
Please introduce us to your business. Aiyah’s Garden in downtown Lihu’e opened two months ago. Our goal is to make organic garden supplies more accessible and easy to find for the Kaua’i gardening community. We named it after our daughter Aiyah – she has a wonderful little organic veggie garden in the backyard, and we wanted our shop to reflect her little green thumb.
Where are you from and why did you start this business? I grew up in New England across the road from a farm, so I’ve always been around growing food. My dream was to grow food for my own restaurant so I kept on farming and put myself through college working as a sous chef. Ten years ago I moved to the island and started farming on the North Shore. I got more into organic methods and started my own gardening and landscaping company. Doing that made me realize what was missing on the island (from amendments to tools) and I saw what was needed and what people were ordering online or sourcing from far away.
What can you offer that the bigger, conventional stores can’t? We focus our stock on things you actually can’t get at other stores. Our stock is completely unique on the island. I think for the backyard farmer it may feel more comfortable to come to our little shop, where you might get more help and advice than you could at the bigger supply stores.
What kind of things do you stock? We carry Rene’s Seeds, Down to Earth fertilizers and amendments, Earth Juice liquid fertilizers, all sorts of soil inoculants to prevent diseases, pest controls that you can spray up until the day of harvest, compost starters, and we make our own compost tea from worm castings. We are constantly getting more and more ideas from working with gardeners and farming groups. We hope to grow with people and support them. We learn what we need to carry from what the community needs.
What is the biggest challenge in starting your business? Just having to figure out all the logistics of shipping from the Mainland, finding the right suppliers and getting the stock here. Everything else has been a real pleasure.
Why should farmers switch to organic methods? The obvious reason is keeping pesticides and other containments out of our personal and collective environment. But I think what’s really important is to understand that soil health is the foundation of our health. We need to stress the importance of soil’s place in the food cycle.
What are the keys to a healthy organic garden? Organic gardens have a real vibrancy about them. The soil is dark and healthy; there should be worms, butterflies, bees and other “beneficials” all creating a balance against pests. I think once we balance our personal ecosystem, we’ll realize how vital it is to balance our planet’s.
Aiyah’s Garden is located across from McDonald’s in Lihu’e at 3-3122 Kuhio Hwy., Unit B2. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Wednesdays and Sundays.