After hinting last year through trademark applications
that she was finally getting serious about venturing into the world of organic agriculture, Oprah Winfrey has given the world a peek at her farm in Hawaii — and the renewed joy she's found by growing her own food.
"When I bought this property several years ago, I knew it had been farmland in the past, but I didn't seriously imagine continuing that tradition," she writes on her blog
. "Then one day my friend Bob Greene said, 'What if we give back to the land — and find a way to give back to Maui?' His point was that about 90 percent of the food on the island is flown or shipped in from outside, which makes it very expensive to buy — not to mention the carbon footprint involved in getting it here. We realized if we could grow delicious food ourselves, we could share it."
Winfrey designated 16 acres for a variety of vegetables like kale, tomatoes, potatoes and much more. Working with a local resource management group called Bio-Logical Capital, the 59-year-old also set aside one acre in the shape of a half-moon containing more than 100 species of fruits, vegetables and herbs. While one reason for this arrangement was to assess what might grow best, the other was to improve the diversity of crops — which can improve the soil and nutrient quality of the vegetables themselves.
"Here on Maui, our soil is now so good and so rich that we're already producing 145 pounds of food each week," she writes. "And everything grows five times as big as you'd expect. We can grow tomatoes all year long, and they taste like real tomatoes. We're still figuring out the best way to make use of our bounty, but for now I walk down the road with bags of lettuce, going, 'Hi, would you like some lettuce?' I grew it! I feel like I can't waste it."
In a video posted to People, Bob Greene says that while they love giving the produce away "that's going to change — we'll start to sell it very soon."
In trademark applications filed last year for names like “Oprah’s Organics,” “Oprah’s Harvest” and “Oprah’s Farm," potential products from an Oprah agricultural empire include salad dressings, sauces, soups, dips, frozen vegetables and beverages. Bath and body products would cover soaps, sunscreen, massage oils, hair products and other personal care items.
And while she certainly owns enough land to scale up the production (it's estimated she owns hundreds of acres on Maui alone), it's unclear when or if this farming enterprise will ever expand beyond the local roadside stand or farmers market. Nevertheless, as reported in the Maui News
, some established farmers have already expressed worry that Winfrey's entry into the business could threaten their own livelihoods due to her fame and fortune.
"Some local farmers wondered about how they could survive in a market with Winfrey and her large financial holdings, while others worried about how her farm on Maui could drive up land prices and prevent small farmers from buying more land to expand," the article shared.
Greene, however, says local farmers may find Oprah to be an asset, bringing attention to organic farming and boosting Maui's agriculture industry. "The last thing she wants to do is put pressure on a business struggling," he said. "We want more of these farms to thrive."
Related farming posts on MNN: