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A blossoming legacy at Waimanalo Country Farms

Waimanalo Country Farms shares the multiple uses of growing sunflowers, from sunflower seeds to diesel fuel made from sunflower oil

An older man in a gray T-shirt smiles for the camera in front of the barn.
Dominic Kadooka shares the 75-year-old history of Waimanalo Country Farms.
Photo by Yui Leung

After 67 years of cultivating corn, golden melon and various types of vegetation, the Waimanalo Country Farm started to grow sunflowers to fulfill one of the family members’ wedding plans. Dominic Kadooka, the family farmer who runs the farm, said, “We’ve been growing corn since 1970, but only eight years ago we grew sunflowers. The only reason was one of the family members wanted to be married in the sunflower field.” Kadooka said they didn’t know what to do with the sunflowers after the wedding, so the family decided to call their friends to take pictures and enjoy the field when it was blooming. He added, “People like it and started wanting to come here, and the pictures went all over the world.”

According to Kadooka, the farm has been around since 1948 and has been passed from generation to generation through the family. The family farm just hit its 75th anniversary of operating. He said it started with a smaller field, and as time went on, the farming neighbors gave their plots of land to enable the farm’s expansion. Although the original plan was not to open to the public, he said the family was mindful in responding to people’s interest in enjoying the farm occasionally.

The use of sunflowers

As time went by, Kadooka said he found more ways to use sunflower fields other than just a place for people to take pictures.

First, he said he learned the techniques to make oil from the sunflower seeds. He picked the sunflower, plucked the seeds off of the flower and then pressed it until the oil came out, Kadooka explained. He said the oil can be used as a cooking oil, but more importantly as a farmer, this oil can be used as a diesel fuel to run his tractors. He said the oil can absolutely replace diesel fuel and is very eco-friendly to the environment.

A group of people harvest sunflower seeds onto a table from a group of sunflower tops.
Kadooka shows the Ke Alaka'i staff how to harvest sunflower seeds, explaining the many uses for sunflowers.
Photo by Yui Leung

Kadooka said the blooming sunflowers really attracts honeybees. So, over time, he said the farm has created a place for honeybees to nest in the field. This allowed the farm to harvest pure sunflower honey to be sold to visitors or at the local farmer’s market. “Other than that, the sunflower seeds can be used to feed the flocks in the farm, so nothing is wasted,” Kadooka explained.

“Many might not know but sunflower is also edible. Perhaps this is the only place you can try the sensation of eating sunflower in Oahu,” Kadooka expressed. On this farm, they sell grilled sunflowers with butter and parmesan cheese on top. There are several ways to eat it, Kadooka said. People can scrape all the seeds off the sunflower and eat that, but if they want they can also eat the shell and everything because it’s very soft. Kadooka said it tastes like artichoke hearts or corn in the cob when it’s salty. But if people want to make it as a dessert, Kadooka shared, they can add sunflower honey to the sunflower to add a sweet sensation.

Sharing the farm with others

Cheylee Souza, one of the family members who helps run the farm, said this farm means a lot to her because she has grown up in this farming environment and has many childhood memories. She said, “In early 2000, when I was a little kid, there was a live nativity during Christmas. We had a pastor come to the farm and had a nice Christmas celebration.” She said she loves that this kind of activity still occasionally happens on the farm.

Souza added, “We open three or four times a year during spring, summer and in the month of October, but the date would vary, depending on the harvest time.” She explained how people can use the farm to celebrate birthdays or family gatherings, as well as have a picnic party or meal by making reservations. She suggested those who are interested in visiting to check the Waimanalo Country Farms Instagram page or website for the dates and times it is open and reservation information.

During the month of October, there is a harvest festival, not only for the sunflowers, but also for pumpkins and corn. They will have several interactive activities such as hayrides and plucking sunflower seeds. Visitors can also buy products and souvenirs in their country’s market.

A field of sunflowers set against the background of green mountains.
Waimanalo Country Farm shares their sunflower fields with the public at various times throughout the year so locals can take photos with the beautiful plants.
Photo by Yui Leung