Small Kine Farm in Waimanalo
Since 2008, Fung Yang Has Been Farming USDA Certified Organic Mushrooms-What Can Our Island Community Take Away From This Local Farm?
By Jordan Caputy
Published 2016.11.25 11:00pm
Nestled in the small town of Waimanalo on Oahu’s windward coast is a farm with a captivating story. Small Kine Farm established and run by Mr. Fung Yang is one of a kine. He grows crimini mushrooms –called keiki portabella and the larger portabella mushrooms he calls tutu portabella, which can grow up to 6in in diameter. Yet his story and entrepreneurial adventure is far from over.
Before Mr. Yang became a mushroom farmer he worked for Oahu Community Recycling driving a truck picking up loads of organic waste all over the island. Then as Mr. Yang puts it he had a “light bulb moment”. He figured waste doesn’t exist in nature. Nature doesn’t have landfills or waste dumps. That’s a human thing. What does nature do with waste? After doing some research Mr. Yang found that the majority of the waste he was collecting was organic and could be reused as fertilizer. That fertilizer, being nutrient rich, could then be heat-pasteurized and create the ideal environment for mushroom/fungal growth mimicking a forest’s natural floor. After five more years of research, with leading specialists and PhDs from University of Hawaii and California, Mr. Yang found just how possible mushroom farming in Hawaii could be. From that conclusion Small Kine Farm was born in 2008.
Currently Hawaii imports almost two million pounds of button mushrooms alone per year. Mr. Yang is only producing a couple of thousand pounds of mushrooms a month. This isn’t making the kind of impact necessary for substantial change towards an autonomous mushroom agricultural community in Hawaii but it is a start. Currently Mr. Yang supplies restaurants including Town, Roy’s, and Alan Wong’s. His mushrooms have also been sold at Foodland, Whole Foods Markets, Kokua Market, and Down To Earth.
After visiting Mr. Yang’s farm and taking part in one of his now ongoing Wednesday afternoon tours, the following was found: Mr. Yang’s yields and facilities are modest. Mr. Yang is diversifying his business by selling his fertilizer after one cycle of mushroom growth; mushrooms rob very little nutrients from the soil. Secondly Mr. Yang is trying to promote his tours of the facility as another dependable stream of income. Both of these initiatives show little in terms of fixing the problem of to small of a yield. Yet there are substantial opportunities to fix the problem perhaps through further research studying similar mushroom operations such as Hamakua Mushroom Farm on the Big Island or Hawaii Shitake also located on the Big Island or even pivoting farming initiatives to sell to a more specific mushroom market. A mushroom such as Agaricus subrufescens also known as the “Mushroom of God” can be sold for medical use at a much higher price than; just the initial factors of taste and quality. There are many potential avenues that could be taken to lead to greater success.
“Creative Media students produced a video for the Hawai‘i Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations farming campaign. It focuses on the diverse farming industry and the viability of farming as an occupation.” We know that community-farming initiatives like Mr. Fung Yang’s must blossom within Hawaii’s communities in order to secure a sustainable future for these islands. The stories we tell and the dogmas we believe must resonate within ourselves and our communities. Local farming initiatives put forth by local farmers is the first step in bring back the mythos of the town square or the community hall, which has been replaced by online chat rooms and email databases. Our communities suffer because of a relative disconnect between people reality and the environment. Grass roots local farming initiatives are the first step to brining people back to reality and into a environmentally conscious community.
- Farm Friday: Small Kine Farm in Waimanalo, by Catherine Toth Fox, 03/04/16, honolulumagazine.com
- Small Kine Farm, Theme by SiteOrigin, 2014, smallkinefarm.com
- Mushrooms That Fight Cancer and Boost the Immune System, by Tony Isaacs, 07, 14, 2008www.naturalnews.com/023633_cancer_mushrooms_health.html
- Hamakua Heritage Farms, Hamakua Mushrooms 2016, hamakuamushrooms.com
- Hawaii Shiitake, 2016, hawaiishiitake.com
- Fung Yang, Small Kine Farm Tour, 2016
- A Tale of Two Farmers: Terry Shintaku and Fung Yang, Think Tech Hawaii, by Justine Espirutu and Matthew Johnson, 09/17/15, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlY_maZ7Ap4