Don Heacock is a lot of things. He’s just retired from 40 years as an aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. He’s an advocate for sustainable agriculture that cultivates things like yerba mate, awa and taro alongside tilapia aquaponic projects on his 25-acre Lihue farm, called Kauai Organic Agroecosystems.
It’s a long drive down a steep, dirt road to get to KOA Farm. A high, wooden bridge takes visitors out to the kalo, or taro, lo‘i, and to the food forest-style collection of avocado, rambutan, Thai longan, ulu, papaya, coconuts, macadamia nuts, banana — just to name a few.
Walk through the taro, past some fruit trees and habitats for Muscovy ducks and free-range chickens, and you’ll find Heacock’s new pride and joy, though: three water buffalo calves.
The floors of Koke’e Lodge were shaking in early November, as a crowd gathered in the mountains for the third annual Kauai Old Time Gathering, an event that boasted string bands from all over the country.
Dancers packed into the lodge in the evenings, practicing new steps and musicians wove through the rug-cutting to join jam sessions scattered all over the grounds.
Taro fields have grown in around a boardwalk that stretches from a new parking lot to Ke’e Beach at Ha’ena State Park on Kauai. Ancient caves still stand near the highway to get to the park and the views are still breathtaking. But, the park has changed since 2018, when a massive flood wiped out a majority of the parking lot and caused devastation on the Kauai North Shore. Now, the state partners with a community group to manage the Ha’ena State Park and surrounding areas, and entry and parking fees are in place.
In 2017, Ha’ena State Park played host to the Hawaii House of Representatives finance committee, the first time members have returned since 2017. I tagged along for an interview and to see progress on the park. The following is the result: