The Maui Ag Festival took place on Saturday, April 6th, at the Maui Tropical Plantation. I flew over for my first neighbor island trip that I’ve had in a little while so that I could explore what’s happening with food, farming, and education, getting ideas and inspiration. The festival was spread out over the land and had several tents filled with various vendors covering the following topics: Ag in the Classroom, A History of Coffee in Hawaii, Grown on Maui (or in other words, a gigantic farmer’s market), Grand Taste Education (many of the islands best chefs participated), Flowers, Keiki Zone, Livestock, and Localicious, Eat Maui food vendors). Hopefully, I’ll be able to convey at least some of the highlights of this well-organized, super-exciting event.

Social Media & Smiles – I’m a big social media geek. Some people think social media is impersonal, but it has been one of the best ways for me to meet new people throughout the community. For years, I have talked with various people on Twitter and Facebook prior to meeting them, and upon arriving, found and met them for the first time, or reconnected with others who I frequently chat with, but don’t often get to see IRL (in real life). It was like a giant Tweetup! We ate and talked, talked and ate. It was a sweltering hot day, and we were melting, so we hid out under this tent as much as possible.

Some of the attendees that I was excited to see and meet were (not pictured, as she was really busy working), (just below, who organizes spectacular ), and . I was also so excited to see that was there and she introduced me to a number of new people (like cute farmers and chefs. Thanks Melissa!). Pictured in the group photo are Peter, Dawn of , , Melissa, and .

and Marilyn are here, on the left.

There are so many more people there that I met and talked with, and connecting with everyone was probably my favorite part of the whole day. The festival ran from 9 am to 4 pm and I was there drinking in every possible moment of it.

If you take a look at and photographs, the first thing that jumps out to me is that everyone is smiling!

More Multi-Sensory Moments – When I landed in the airport, I grabbed all the free touristy magazines I could to see what was happening on the island. I made a list of restaurants that I might want to try or chefs that were notable, and I was happy to see that they were pretty much all featured at the festival as part of the Grand Taste Education, in which chefs were paired with farmers to create dishes with local ingredients. We spent $30 and went to 12 different booths to get samples of the food that they were preparing. I requested vegetarian versions of everything so I could sample the flavors and presentation. Better descriptions are on Melissa’s where she got video of all the details.

carrot tempura (yes, carrots!!)

taro cake over macnut pesto, beets, and salt/pepper marshmallow

ulu, sweet potato leaves, and micro-greens

I also got to meet Chef Sheldon who was recently featured on Top Chef, James Simpliciano of KupuMaui, and saw Brian Schatz.

Chef Sheldon

Walking around, I was breathing in the smells of the Taste Education food cooking, the food from other local vendors, the smell of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the feast for the eyes of colorful and ornamental displays. I ate popsicles made with island fruit and drank strawberry lemonade to cool down and quench my thirst.

Family Fun

What I also loved seeing was all the chefs hanging out with their families, including their children who came to support them during the Taste Education event. Many local families were there taking part in the fun which seemed like a great way to spend the day, train rides and all.

P??ia

The rest of my time was spent reading books, soaking up sun and surf at a gorgeous villa close to Mana foods in P??ia town, shopping and eating even more, including lilikoi gelato!

Sunset Breeze Villa

This trip was a much-needed getaway and inspirational learning adventure.