One of our primary objectives at Gingerhill Farm Retreat is to promote sustainability in Hawaii. Making Hawaii sustainable is not a simple operation in recycling or gardening. Rather, it requires promoting a stance on community, health, work, and personal values that is conducive to a thriving natural and social environment. At Gingerhill, we promote sustainability in Hawaii in many ways: we practice composting, reuse and recycle materials, practice mindfulness, connect with nature, and eat off the land.
Our farm community consists not only of our staff, volunteers, and interns, but also our farm animals. Our animals diversify and give life to both work and play at Gingerhill farm. Raising animals is also a tactic for promoting sustainability in Hawaii. Read on to learn more about the animals we care for and how they are integral to Gingerhill’s model of sustainability.
We have a full house—or rather, several full pens—of pigs at Gingerhill farm: one adult male, two adult females, four “pre-teens,” and fourteen new babies. Pigs are friendly, fast growing, and easy to raise. They are also incredibly intelligent and sociable, communicating through grunts of varying tone and pitch. What many don’t realize is that pigs are also incredible assets to a sustainable farm.
At Gingerhill, we sustain a large community and regularly host guests from all over the world. We, therefore, generate a significant amount of organic food waste that is not necessarily ideal for composting. Instead of wasting our food scraps, we feed them to our pigs. In doing so, we are able to avoid wasting precious organic material.
Anyone who lives in Hawaii is familiar with pesky, itchy cane grass. Instead of performing hours of strenuous labor to remove our cane grass, we simply build our pigs pens around it. Pigs love to dig, and they also like to much on the cane grass remains. Strategically placing our pens thus saves us a significant amount of time and energy while making our pigs happy and healthy.
Roasting a pig may be a timely process—a small pig may take six hours to roast—but eating organically fed, ethically raised meat is an excellent way to promote sustainability in Hawaii. In raising and eating our own pork, we divert resources from the toxic, predatory meat industry. Our community is comfortable eating animals that we know had a healthy, happy life.
Finally, pig manure is an excellent fertilizer. We go so far as to call it our “farm gold.” We use pig manure as a soil amendment to nourish the food we grow. We also incorporate pig manure into our compost piles to create a more nutrient-rich product.
We also care for several chickens on our farm, and while we don’t always appreciate our rooster’s 4 a.m. crowing, chickens are an incredible asset to our farm. Chickens function as natural pest control, eating flies, mosquitoes, and other pesky insects that can make farmwork unbearable. Because they favor surface pests and can’t dig deeply, chickens don’t compromise the population of beneficial subterranean earthworms. They also eat food waste, hono hono grass, and clover. Thus, like pigs, chickens help us find use in our organic waste.
We also raise chickens for the nutritional perks. We all know that eggs boast a high protein content and are excellent for stabilizing energy levels. Less commonly known is that free-range, organic eggs contain greater levels of Vitamins A and E, Omega 3’s, and Beta Carotene. They also contain less saturated fat than conventionally raised eggs. Shopping for eggs at a grocery store can be confusing, as many consumers don’t know how to differentiate between “free range,” “cage-free,” and “naturally raised.” If you raise your own chickens, you know that they were provided with optimal nutrition and living conditions. Sourcing your own eggs revokes support for unethical and environmentally toxic factory farming operations. Therefore, keeping chickens is an essential component of sustainability in Hawaii.
Chicken manure is also one of the most beneficial manures. With a Nitrogen content of 2%, chicken manure is an excellent fertilizer for gardens and orchards.
Goats, like pigs, are friendly, easy to manage, and are great for clearing grasses and invasive plants. Many people keep goats instead of purchasing expensive, gas-guzzling lawn mowers. In helping farmers to decrease their use of fossil fuels, goats inadvertently foster sustainability in Hawaii.
Goats can be used for their meat, milk, fur, and hides. Goats’ milk, in particular, is incredibly versatile and can be used to make yogurt, cheese, and even soap. Though we use our goats primarily for field clearing and entertainment (you would be surprised how much charisma these animals have), keeping goats opens up several venues for cooking and crafting.
We wouldn’t forget to mention our two dogs, Izumo and Ipo, who are 18 years old, and Spam, our sweet stray cat. Keeping animal companions around enriches our lives and completes the farm community, making for an incredible vacation and living experience.