Farming for Fuel

Inside Monyca and Ola Eleogram’s organic fruit farm on Maui.

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Growing up as neighbors in Hana, Hawaii, Monyca and Ola Eleogram spent their formative years like most Maui kids, roaming the island in search of surf. In their teens and early twenties, both began traveling the world as professional surfers.

But shortly after their wedding in 2013, the young couple set their sights on a new goal: building an organic farm. At the time, they were living with Monyca’s parents, who had some extra land on their property. Ola began planting fruit trees: lychee, mango, avocado, citrus, and coconut, among others.

But what began as a hobby quickly developed into a passion project with the potential to turn a profit, so the Eleograms decided to expand. After months of searching, and some stretching of their budget, the two purchased a 5-acre plot of land in Hana that already had a collection of fruit trees—an orange grove in need of some TLC, as well as a few avocado, banana, and mango trees—and plenty of space to plant more.

“We were traveling a lot at the time,” says Monyca. “Gardens need to be tended to every day. While fruit trees still need a lot of love, if you take a little hiatus, they’ll survive.”

The sweetest fruits? The ones that come directly from your own labor, of which the Eleograms are in  no short supply. Photograph by Tony Heff.

With Hana’s tropical climate—warm weather and heavy rainfall—they decided to focus their farm on exotic fruits typically found only near the equator, such as longgong, rollinia, lilikoi, and red bananas. Ola began scouring the internet, poring over any and all information about fruit farming that he could get his hands on. He also consulted longtime family friend and farmer Chuck Boerner, who had over three decades of experience running one of the largest tropical fruit farms in Hawaii. The decision was soon made to ditch any type of pesticide, and instead go 100 percent organic. 

“We’ve always been advocates for organic,” says Monyca, “because it doesn’t make sense to poison your food when you can just take care of it. It’s not healthy for you or your environment.”

Slowly, Olamana Organics began to blossom. Fast-forward six years, and the farm is now home to hundreds of exotic fruit trees. The Eleograms regularly give fruit to their family and friends, trade for food they don’t grow themselves, and sell their produce at local farmers markets. 

“It’s really gratifying to grow your own food and live off the land,” says Ola. “There are a lot of people who live here that don’t have tons of fruit, so we trade with them for eggs, meat, and fish.”

In addition to running their farm, Ola works as a carpenter and Monyca is helping OneWheel build their team, as well as modeling and riding for Roxy. Their workday is typically spent harvesting fruit, stocking their roadside stand, and doing maintenance. But if the waves are good, the couple still finds time to sneak away from the plow to surf. Between climbing trees, weeding, and picking, the Eleograms find that farming keeps them in good shape. In addition to nursing and growing the few clusters of trees the land came with, the property is now home to coconut, starfruit, papaya, soursop, avocado, lilikoi, and a variety of other trees. New plants are constantly going in, and the plan is to continue planting, growing, and harvesting fruit for years to come.

“I certainly had no idea what we were getting into when we started,” says Monyca. “But I’ve learned that it’s a lifelong journey, and there is no finish line. We’re going to be working on this passion project for the rest of our lives.”