Kahuku Farms aims to expand production of lilikoi items

Published: May. 9, 2013 at 10:29 PM HST|Updated: May. 10, 2013 at 1:05 AM HST
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KAHUKU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lilikoi farms are few and far between in Hawaii, but a business on Oahu's north shore has made the fruit its passion.

Kahuku Farms started as a small operation in 1971, however, after recently winning a $200,000 USDA federal grant, it is looking to expand into the 21st century.

"There are times when orders increase a lot and we are such a small operation that some of our crew here are working really late after hours to try and get our inventory built up for the lilikoi," said Melvin Matsuda, one of the farm's owners.

The farm, one of the few in Hawaii that grows lilikoi, has been in the Matsuda family for four generations. Melvin works with his daughters and son-in-law and it's all about the lilikoi.

"We love lilikoi here, so we make a lot of lilikoi things," said Melvin's daughter, Kylie Matsuda-Lum  "Lilikoi smoothies, ice cream, lilikoi balsamic vinaigrette, lilikoi jelly and butter. This is our favorite flavor and we are really excited to be featuring this in a lot of our menu items."

The fruit is clearly one of the farm's biggest money makers and since all the products are hand-made, it requires a lot of attention.

"Hand wash, sanitize, cut open, spoon out the seeds from the fruit and then strain the juice out of the seeds and so, if you are working with 100 pounds, not so bad," said Judah Lum, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the farm.  "If you got 1,000 pounds, this whole process changes and morphs into a different type of animal."

Most of the grant money will be used to address the production and packaging process.

The farm's café only opened two years ago, but products are flying off the shelves and the farm is hoping to keep up with demand.

"We put out close to about 1,200 jars of lilikoi butter a month, probably another 800 jelly and we've been serving our salad dressing like crazy off the café," Lum said. "We are going through probably about two to three gallons a week."

Of the farm's 140 acres, less than one is set aside for the passion fruit, but the Matsudas want to change that soon, so the family business continues to blossom.

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