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A socially conscious farm venture moves to Koloa

KOLOA — A family farm is moving to the South Shore, just beyond the shadow of Ha‘upu mountain.

The change in location is the latest in a flurry of steps taken by Koloa resident Sally Rizzo, who is working to make a living as a socially conscious commercial grower.

“Our main goals are to regenerate and revitalize the soil and environment while creating a productive and sustainable farm operation that provides the local community with fresh, high-quality food,” she told The Garden Island prior to conducting a tour of her new property on Tuesday.

The multi-acre Koloa site, leased from Grove Farm, represents an exponential increase in scale for Rizzo, who currently operates a 30-by-100-foot greenhouse on the Westside.

She’s changed the name of her business to reflect this, officially rebranding her Stay Small Kaua‘i Farm as Old Koloa Regenerative Farms earlier this week.

There is much work to be done before the operation’s relocation is complete.

Rizzo and her partner, Koloa native Julian Marquez, have begun by clearing approximately two acres of guinea grass for Old Koloa Regenerative Farms’ first round of crops.

These will include vegetables and herbs already spoken for by local restaurants, and a large, community-supported agriculture (CSA) plot scheduled to launch sometime this summer.

Rizzo anticipates her pending CSA will be a hit. She built a loyal following last year when she participated as a student in the University of Hawai‘i’s 2021 GoFarm Kaua‘i cohort.

The incubator program requires members to operate a seven-week CSA plot on land located behind Kaua‘i Community College.

“I prioritized my CSA. They got really spoiled,” Rizzo recalled. “They’ll be the first people to tell you that I really loved up on them. Because I knew I was establishing something, and here, if you stoke out the community, they’ll spread the word for you through coconut wireless.”

Up to 50 individuals have already joined Old Koloa Regenerative Farms’ CSA waiting list.

Rizzo has big plans for the revitalized program.

“It’s gonna be lots and lots of different things: a salad kit, root vegetables. It’s gonna change every week,” she said. “There’ll be some consistency, but I’ll also keep it interesting. There’ll be ITAL Brassicas, like kale, broccoli. I’ll try for cauliflower.”

Rizzo has also spoken to Kaua‘i farmers, chefs and artists, to discuss possible additions like pottery, bread and eggs.

But one thing is certain: Old Koloa Regenerative Farms will strive to offer affordable options, according to Rizzo, who describes her own household as “not very wealthy.”

”I really want to make my CSA accessible to the low-income community,” she said, noting her agricultural principles include equity, consistency and transparency.

The program will likely offer food boxes along a sliding scale, to accomplish this in the short-term.

Eventually, Old Koloa plans to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Rizzo credits a long list of Kaua‘i community members with the success she and Marquez have experienced so far. Helping hands have included Keala Foundation founder Aaron Hoff, heavy-machinery operator Keali‘i Ka‘imina‘auao and 90 donors who have contributed nearly $14,000 to Rizzo’s ongoing GoFundMe fundraiser.

The “game-changing” UH GoFarm program also made Old Koloa Regenerative Farms possible.

“If you’re serious about growing on any scale or scaling up, you should do GoFarm,” Rizzo said.

But Pomai Weigert, a Maui-based GoFarm consultant, thinks Rizzo’s whirlwind expansion is due to the farmer herself.

“She’s a go-getter,” Weigert said. “Sally will be successful in whatever she does because she has a can-do attitude … She has a lot of hustle.”


Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or
Source: The Garden Island

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