Molokai in Business: Barking Deer Farms

Community Contributed

By Jennifer Hawkins

The Molokai in Business series focuses on local businesses, both old and new.  It is our way of helping you get to know your local businesses.  Our intent is to support our local businesses, help people who want to start a business, and tell a good story.
What:  Barking Deer Farm, a local grown organic produce farm
Who:  Jamie Ronzello
When:  By appointment
Where:  Located inside the Mahana Garden properties on the Mahana Stretch
How:  658-9935 or barkingdeerfarm@gmail.com

Question:  What do you do and how long have you been doing it?  
Answer:  I own and operate Barking Deer Farm where I grow a fairly diverse selection of fruits and vegetables.  I have been farming on my own since May of 2011.  Although my farm is not certified organic, Barking Deer Farm is what I like to say is “beyond organic.”  I grow utilizing natural and sustainable practices which focus on the health of the soil.  Practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting are utilized in order to condition the soil and create a healthy growing environment.  In addition to growing produce, Barking Deer Farm also has a line of Jams/ jellies, spiced meat rubs/marinades, and herbal teas which can be found at Blue Monkey, Kalele Bookstore, the Molokai Livestock Co-op or directly purchased from me.

Q:  What training or education did you need?
A:  My background is in arts, culture and anthropology.  I have no formal agriculture training.  I do however, have a desire and experience.  I take every opportunity to learn more about working the land and growing food.  I worked on farms and managed farms both here on Molokai and on the mainland and now have about eight years of experience.  Through these experiences I was able to see what worked, what I liked and didn’t like, and determine the practices that I would one day implement when I created my own farm business.

Q:  How did you launch your business?
A:   Because I had worked for several farms, I knew what management practices I wanted to implement when I started in May, 2011.  I knew I wanted to start small, but not being from here, it was hard to find land, especially if you don’t have access to homestead land.  So when the opportunity with Mahana Gardens became available, I jumped on it.  I remember as a child growing up on the farm and having this feeling and connection to the land I could not explain.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when someone shared the following quote with me that finally had the words to describe that feeling.  “Huli ka lima i lalo, ola. Kaula`i ka lima i ka la, `ole.” “Hands turned into the earth, life. Hands drying in the sun, nothing.”

Q:  What’s your advice for someone who wants to start a business in Molokai?
A:  Take Kuulei Arce’s Core Four Business Class at MEO.  The business side of the operation does not come as naturally as the farming side.  If you are interested in farming, intern or work on a farm to get all the hands-on experience you can.  Learn what works before venturing out on your own, and when you do, make a schedule and stick to it.  You have to be accountable to your business and your customers.

Final Words?
Farming is really hard work, but it is one of the most rewarding choices I’ve ever made.  I encourage other to try it.  Find something that inspires you and follow your heart.

To suggest a business for this column, contact Jeannine Rossa at 808-567-6467 or email Jeannine.rossa@gmail.com.


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