Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm: The Legacy of a Master Gardener and Visionary
By Kent Coules, Publisher
Lav•en•der - Noun
1. a small aromatic evergreen shrub of the mint family, with narrow leaves and bluish-purple flowers.
2. a pale blue color with a trace of mauve.
Lavender is known to represent purity, silence, devotion, serenity, grace and calmness. When you read reviews from visitors to the Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm, you see these same words and their synonyms to describe the experience.
Fragrant lavender growing at Ali‘i Kula
“Lavender comes from the Latin word ‘lavare,’” says Sarah Adams, Customer Service Supervisor at the farm. “On our guided tours I tell guests that the ancient Romans picked up on lavender’s cleansing properties. The word means ‘to wash or to cleanse’ and forms the root for the word ‘lavatory’ as well. The Romans would use lavender in their baths.”
The plant, which originates in the Mediterranean, has approximately 200 species, of which 20 are on display at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm. “Ten of our species bloom year-round,” says Adams, “the Spanish and French lavenders. The English perennial varieties bloom from late June through August.”
I want to know who decides to plant 55,000 lavender bushes on the slopes of Haleakalā. “Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms was the vision of Ali‘i Chang,” says Adams. “He was a master horticulturist and true visionary.”
Chang came by his green thumb naturally. He grew up on a 20-acre farm in Kāne‘ohe, on the fertile windward side of O‘ahu. He watched and learned from his grandmother, who could grow anything and who had a recipe for every crop.
In school, Ali‘i excelled in art and agriculture. At home on the farm, he was surrounded by his grandmother’s orchids and antiques, and she made sure he learned table manners and other social graces. The boy’s soul and his artistic tendencies grew in tandem along with his agricultural skills.
Their idyllic setting offers up breathtaking views
After many successful ventures, Chang opened Ali‘i Gardens in March of 1976 in Nahiku, an isolated community along the winding Hāna Highway. He began exporting flowers all over the world and by 1989 the business had grown too big for comfort, so he sold it to a Japanese company. Around that time, he purchased the land that would become the Kula Lavender Farm. “It was a protea farm and already a garden, with a pleasant farmhouse,” says Adams. “Unlike Nahiku, on the rainy side of the island, Kula is in a drought area. Ali‘i decided to plant something that would not require a lot of water.”
At about the same time, Chang read a magazine article announcing that the International Herb Association had named lavender the 1999 Herb of the Year. “I didn’t know much about lavender,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was an herb.”
Anyone that visits the farm will see, and smell, immediately that the chronic drought conditions of Kula are perfect for growing lavender. The lavender sips moisture from the mist that often settles over the Kula mountainside in the late afternoon.
“Ali‘i Chang passed away in 2011,” says Adams, “but his legacy and presence are felt everywhere. The farm remains in the family and many of the employees worked here when he was alive.
When asked about the most common reactions from guests Adams responds, “A lot of our guests wish they had budgeted more time. This is truly a place to slow down, take in the amazing views and drink in the beauty and aromas of the farm.”
“One of our most popular activities is our ‘Lavender Treasure Hunt,’” says Adams. “Our guests are given a stamp card and map and wander out to find the ten places where we’ve hidden stamps. When they bring the fully-stamped card back to our gift shop, they get a prize. People say they love the hunt because it takes them to places on the farm they may not have visited otherwise.”
The farm is famous for its lavender products. “We promote a ‘lavender lifestyle,’” says Adams. We offer everything from culinary to jewelry, bath and body and aromatherapy. We even have a small apparel line.”
The Kula Lavender Farm is easy on the vacationer’s budget. Admission is only $3 per person—free if you bring a copy of This Week Maui and mention this story—and daily guided walking tours are only $12, with a $2 discount for those who book online.
If your ideal vacation includes slowing down and relaxing, then the Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm is the perfect place to while away the time. For more information, visi their website at www.aliikulalavender.com.
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