Why Nature Rules at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

Why Nature Rules at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

This Hawaii Island farm and retreat celebrates the earth and its bounty By: Marty Wentzel
<p>Richard Liebmann leads guests through groves, gardens and orchards during a guided walking tour of Lokahi Garden Sanctuary. // © 2018 Lokahi Garden...

Richard Liebmann leads guests through groves, gardens and orchards during a guided walking tour of Lokahi Garden Sanctuary. // © 2018 Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

Feature image (above): It takes many hands to keep crops thriving at the prolific Lokahi Garden Sanctuary. // © 2018 Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

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Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

At Lokahi Garden Sanctuary, mango, lychee, papaya and macadamia-nut trees coexist with plots of kale, eggplant, beets and chard. Chickens lay eggs, sheep graze, and friendly dogs urge guests into a game of fetch.

In the midst of this peaceful kingdom on Hawaii Island, Richard Liebmann leads visitors around his organic farm and wellness retreat while sharing its remarkable bounty.

Nearly 20 years ago, Liebmann and his wife, Natalie, launched the 10-acre North Kohala farm on former sugarcane lands. Then, with the help of their children, the couple cleared the overgrown lot, built a house, created gardens and planted 800 trees, from fruit and nut varieties to those that are more aromatic and therapeutic. 

“It’s a labor of love to keep everything going,” Liebmann said. “It takes dedication and a bit of insanity.” 

(It helps that the farm hires a rotating series of workers who live there for short periods of time and lend a hand.)

During one of Liebmann’s guided walking tours of Lokahi — the Hawaiian word for “harmony and balance” — our group got a look at 250 different species of plants and trees. Some are productive, some are beautiful, and some are both. Much of the farm’s products are sold at the Saturday farmers market in the nearby town of Hawi, as well as at local health food stores.

The farm grows everything needed for a great feast. Along with more recognizable crops such as pineapples and bananas, we discovered the natural source of seasonings including turmeric, lemongrass, ginger and curry. Liebmann showed off orchards with riches like kaffir limes, cashews, avocados, starfruit and lemons.

We also saw exotica such as ashwagandha — a popular Indian herb and supplement — and pernambuco trees, whose precious wood is used to make violin and cello bows. As we marveled at stands of dragon fruit, which is a night-blooming cactus, Liebmann described how workers must hand-pollinate each open flower at just the right time.

For guests interested in Hawaiian culture, Liebmann also used the tour to outline traditional uses for the medicinal herbs grown at Lokahi. And, for folks with gardens back home, he discussed some of the finer points of running the farm, from battling bugs to dealing with weeds.

Although the Lokahi tour holds particular appeal for agritourists, all types of clients can get something out of the experience. Children are especially enthusiastic, Liebmann says. Young guests can help collect farm-fresh eggs and feed a few animals.

“Sometimes the kids are surprised to find out where their food comes from and to see how it grows,” he said. 

Located off the tourist trail, Lokahi doubles as a retreat with multiday residential programs aimed at rejuvenation and wellness. It also offers spa and massage treatments enhanced by fruits, flowers and herbs grown on the farm.

“We hope our guests can connect with nature in some personal way,” Liebmann said. “People are so nature-deprived in their day-to-day lives, but here, nature rules.”

A guided walking tour of Lokahi costs $45 per adult and $25 for children ages 3 to 12. After the tour, clients have the option of booking a farm-to-table lunch for an additional $20 (or $15 per child), served with sweeping views of the ocean and the neighboring island of Maui. 

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