Working on the Farm

I received another good question by email recently:

I am a 23 year old Californian trying to move to the island. I had met a friend that had a brother of the same age that had just moved to the island and was working on a farm, that fed him and gave him a place to stay as long as he worked 3 hours a day. If he wanted to make any money he could work more than the mandatory 3 hours. Don’t know what kind of farm but I figure three hours of hellish work is alot better than 8 hours of boring work. I was given his phone number but it seems his phone is disconnected. So I was wondering if you had ever heard of anything like this or similar to it. Was actually trying to move to costa rica before I heard this but now I am very interested in Kauai. Thanks for all the help you can give.

Here’s what I know: a good number of young people of alternative lifestyles (aka “hippies”) live and work on the organic farms of the North Shore. More specifically, these farms are located in the region between Moloa’a and Kilauea, or actually starting at the smoothie stand at Koolau Rd on the way to Moloa’a. I’ve heard they do work trade for food and lodging, but I’ve never known the specifics, though I have heard the lodging is often just a tent on a platform out of the mud.

Googling “kauai organic farm” led me to two websites where you can find contact information. I suppose you could write and ask if they offer work-trade arrangements or know anyone who does.

But then I found a link to WWOOF Hawaii: “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” (the fact that they have to specify “willing” makes me wonder what they are trying to differentiate themselves from). On their page of listings for Kaua’i, they have a dozen listings such as “We are busy and can use good help. For ten hours labour per week we offer a shady camp spot with a water source.” Sounds like what you’re asking for. They also have this advice:

Kauai is a very beautiful island and “attracts” MANY young alternative people. Many young people find their own “scene” here. Recommend going to Kapaa [hostels] first …

It was very difficult accessing info on the organic farm scene here. Many young people have “found” work/trade exchanges on farms here, yet these farms are reluctant to become WWOOF hosts. There seems to be a real problem with accommodations for volunteers here, yet the island is full of young people. If you are “attracted” to go to Kauai – it offers some spectacular hiking possibilities and beaches – be prepared for a different scene.

I suppose what they are saying is that it can be somewhat of an irregular situation, I assume because there are some rules being bent, which doesn’t surprise me about Kaua’i. It seems like they only charge $20 to get their booklet, so that’s not too expensive for some more contacts. But it also sounds like they suggest just to go there, ask around, and meet some people who can hook you up. It’s a small island and that’s how the “scene” works.

But one last thing I’ve heard: a friend there said the “hippies” seem to be leaving Kaua’i now. With the economy down, and restaurants closing, there may not be as much demand for produce, and hence less opportunities on the farm. Then again, you might just find some other gig.

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  1. dave campbell says:

    Hey thank you very much for the insight. Not to keen on the hippie scene but want to get out of california. Thanks again for all your help.

  2. shiva says:

    If you’re not into the hippies scene, I suggest not going.

  3. Tom says:

    Kauai is an awesome place !!
    been here 2.5 years
    best place i ever lived or traveled to

  4. eli love says:

    my boyfriend is all in the earth realm, so i was wundering, since he know how to farm , who to call when we gwt to kauai, regarding work exchange, i feel it could be a wunderfull experience also for me, that have not much experience …blessings!

  5. Andy says:

    Some of the specific links from this old article may not be valid anymore, but you can certainly search online for any new websites covering farming on Kaua’i. There is an online “newsletter” (now in blog format) for the “alternative” community on Kaua’i: It focuses on services and events, but sometimes there are housing arrangements listed.

    I still think the advice is accurate: you may not be able to find something from afar, but if you come with some savings, you can make contacts on Kaua’i and get leads for farm work. Some places to look are the local bulletin boards. The ones at Papaya’s Natural foods is probably the biggest I’m aware of, but I think Java Kai and Small Town Coffee have one too. All of those are in Kapaa. The organic farms are mostly located in Moloa’a and Kilauea, so maybe the local gathering places there have useful boards as well.

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