Connecting With Farmers

Marta Lane turned a love of food into a business. Daniel Lane photos

Marta Lane
Tasting Kaua‘i

Tell us about your work and what you do. It’s my job to find the best food growers and makers on Kaua‘i. I also do work for the farm bureau’s Kaua‘i Grown campaign, and I am the farm chairwoman for the 2012 Garden Island Range and Food Festival. Kaua‘i has an exciting food scene, and there is no single place for food lovers to find current information. So I created Tasting Kaua‘i, a website dedicated to providing food news and events, as well as monthly culinary tours. I celebrate good food, and I like to focus on what’s right with the world. I don’t write critiques or reviews. The website features mini profiles, recipes and a farmers market page. I also have a Pau Hana Friday blog post including what farmers bring to market, upcoming classes centered on food and farming, new product releases, restaurant openings, closings, and menu changes. I also list events that are centered around food.

How did you get started in this business and how long has it been going? Before I moved to Kaua‘i, I was involved in the Colorado chapter of Slow Food USA, a global, grass-roots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Through them, I joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, took cooking classes and went on weekend getaways touring wineries and eating meals prepared on a farm.

When I moved to Kaua‘i, I wanted to know who the farmers were, and where to find their food. I wanted to eat at places that cooked from scratch with local ingredients. I wanted to know what foodie events were happening here. And, as freelance writer for MidWeek Kaua‘i, I get to explore that.

In 2005, I became a certified personal chef. I made food for a local yoga studio and birthday cakes for coworkers, but it didn’t bring in the money that I was used to. I also have a Word Press website (my husband, Dan Lane, made it pretty with his food photography and graphics), and I launched it in February of 2012.

Where are you from originally and what role does that play in your business, if any? I grew up in Colorado with my younger brother, my father, who is from Oklahoma, and my mother, who is from Barcelona. Her job was being a mother and wife, and she made home-cooked meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. She made American food for my American father. Sometimes, when school was out for the summer, we’d go to Spain to visit her family. The Spanish are passionate about food. They talk about lunch while they’re eating breakfast. They argue over who grows the best cherries or who makes the best bread. My family had a condo at the beach, and I remember spending the whole day with my aunt shopping for fresh ingredients to make paella. About 20 of us would gather at the outside table, shaded by plum trees, and my aunt would bring out a 4-foot-round paella pan filled with seafood, chicken and rabbit. Those experiences left an indelible imprint on me, and I constantly seek to recreate those memories.

What is your specialty? I specialize in connecting with farmers because they are the stewards of the land. Without farmers, we have no food. They have a rough job. Countless hours are spent tending a crop that might get damaged from a 10-minute heavy rain. They don’t do it for the money; they do it because they are passionate about it. I know this because through my work I have met about 50 farmers here on Kaua‘i, and this is one thing that is consistent. I also specialize in food artisans and restaurants who buy from farmers. It’s the hard way, for sure. Sometimes ingredients aren’t readily available, seasons change and some customers like to see the same things on the menu. Restaurants like Hukilau Lanai actually buy a whole pig from Kaneshiro Farms and break it down in the kitchen. The bones are roasted and end up in a rich stock. The meat is made into smoked sausage, and it all comes together in a flavorful dish. It all comes down to flavor — fresh food tastes better.

I admire the food growers and makers who support the local economy by making good food right here on Kaua‘i. So, in the end, I specialize in local food.

What is your educational background? My education is mostly obtained from the school of life. I earned a “certificate of completion” in television production at a local trade school in 1985. I ran camera, set up mobile production trucks, and did audio for television stations, music and sports events, and in studio. I told stories as a video editor for Starz, an international cable movie channel, for 15 years, and I freelanced for the 2007 Country Music Awards.

I took a 12-week organic farming course at Kauapea Farm in Kilauea. When I graduated, I became the CSA manager for the Kaua‘i Farmers Co-op (now Kaua‘i Farm Connection). CSA members buy a share in the farm and get fresh produce every week. The farm gets operating costs up front, which allows the farm to better plan their crops.

One day, I wrote a letter of introduction to MidWeek Kaua‘i. It was a master stroke of fate when MidWeek‘s editor Don Chapman called me and asked me if I wanted to write for the “Tastes of Kaua‘i” column. I started jumping up and down, and inside I was screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Are you kidding me? You want to pay me to eat and write about it?” I wanted to be professional so I said, “Yes, I would love to do that.”

What sets your work apart? I get geeked out by good food and how it brings people together. For me, the perfect moment is sharing homemade food with friends and family, copious amounts of wine, set in a beautiful environment. Every week, I seek those experiences out and share them in MidWeek Kaua‘i.

What is your business philosophy/motto? Tasting Kaua‘i is a culinary romp through paradise. I spread the seeds of aloha by sharing who the island’s best food growers and makers are.

What is your business plan for the future? We just started doing monthly culinary tours, which are a daylong, farm-to-fork experience. Last month, we toured a farm, had a four-course lunch and cooking demonstration at Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and toured Nani Moon Mead. Right now, it’s an east side tour, but I’m developing tours for the west side, north and south shores as well.

I am also writing the ultimate foodie guidebook called Tasting Kauai: A Culinary Romp Through Paradise.

Where can people learn more? People can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, or go to TastingKauai.com, email me at info@tastingkauai.com or call 635-0257.

Editor’s note: Marta Lane writes the MidWeek Kaua‘i “Farmers Market” and “Tastes of Kaua‘i” columns.

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