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Jon Makalea, 8, and sister Morgan, 6, pick broccoli at the Makalea family's Maple Grove Farm southwest of Monmouth Friday afternoon.
July 02, 2012
MONMOUTH -- Imagine trying to grow 80 percent of the food you eat and making a majority of the household products you use.
This involves not just growing a garden, but raising all the meat, dairy and eggs that you eat.
The Makaleas -- Tale and April and their eight children -- have done more than just imagine that. The family has achieved it on its 10-acre farm off Maple Grove Road southwest of Monmouth.
Makalea Maple Grove Farm
Called the Makalea Maple Grove Farm, the homestead includes dairy and beef cows, goats, sheep, pigs, geese, ducks, turkeys and chickens -- as well as two acres of neatly tilled rows of vegetables.
The farm has slowly expanded to the point where up to 80 percent of what the family uses is grown or raised on the farm -- including ingredients for making soaps, household cleaning products and some clothes.
What the family doesn't use, it sells at the Polk County Bounty Market in Dallas or to customers of its CSA (consumer supported agriculture) program.
Aly Makalea, 14, checks on the new mother among the family's herd of cows a sister Morgan greets the others.
Maple Grove Farm is about seven years in the making. April and Tale met in Hawaii -- Tale is from Tonga, a country in the South Pacific -- and moved to Oregon after getting married.
They first lived in Yamhill County and then in West Salem. April Makalea started canning home-grown vegetables, but soon found that she wanted to do more than that.
"We had been slowly changing our life," April Makalea said. "We bought this place with the intention of raising as much of our own food as possible."
They had some idea of what they were getting into as Tale's family had to farm out of necessity and April grew up on a dairy farm in Hopewell.
Handmade soaps are packaged and ready for sale weekly at the Polk County Bounty Market in Dallas.
"I knew it was going to be a lot of work," Tale Makalea said.
And it's been a lengthy process of learning as you go.
Unlike most farms that may focus on raising a certain crop or animal, the Makaleas are growing the majority of their diet.
"We try to keep a good variety so we can meet our needs," April Makalea said.
With the goal of whittling down what they have to buy from the store, the Makaleas are always trying to incorporate something new.
That sounds easy -- in theory.
"We are adjusting to how long it takes to start something new," AprilMakalea said. "If you don't get it right the first time, you have to wait a whole year to try again."
For example, it took three years to successfully breed chickens. The first year, their roosters were infertile. The next year, the chickens pecked at the eggs so no chicks hatched. This year, they finally have baby chickens running around the farm.
Glenna, an Icelandic sheep, waits patiently as Abigayle Makalea, 12, milks her in the family's barn.
With only 10 acres, the Makaleas have learned to maximize the space they have. They interplant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower with onion, which also has the benefit of effective pest control. No pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.
Animals are rotated throughout multiple pastures, with each breed munching different grasses. That allows the fields to recover. Chickens free range in the pastures, eating insects and grains left behind by the other animals.
A large greenhouse gives the farm a jump on the growing season and the family is experimenting with a small, heated greenhouse-like structure in which some plants are kept over the winter.
Making it through the year requires a lot of planning and seasonal work. This time of year consists of harvesting for the farm's CSA and markets.
Taking a stroll up to the top garden field, April Makalea and daughter, Aly, are surprised by what they find -- both in terms of ripe produce and evidence a roaming herbivore has gotten into the field. The two run through a list of possible culprits -- moles, rabbits, deer or even a loose steer. The crafty animal left no evidence -- except some ravaged cabbage.
Jon gives a young turkey a pat after feeding the flock and changing out their water.
April and Aly shrug their shoulders and head back down to the house with the bounty of broccoli and cauliflower to add to the CSA boxes already filled with greens, carrots and other produce.
The rest of the summer and fall will be dedicated to harvest as crops ripen -- in addition to the daily chores of caring for animals. Winter consists of field preparation for the next growing season and "inside" work, such as spinning wool and making clothes and other household items.
"It's a lot of work, but there is a certain simplicity to it," April Makalea said. "It's very natural, organic and has a seasonal rhythm. A lot of that knowledge takes time to figure out, but you start to fall into it."
Nothing can be done last-minute -- even planning for dinner each night.
In fact, meal preparation at Maple Grove Farm begins months ahead of time, really, depending on the ingredients. Milk must be turned into cheese and butter. Meat must be raised and vegetables planted and grown.
"Instant gratification doesn't happen on a farm," April Makalea said.
That's just fine with the Makaleas. The children seem committed to the family's unique way of life.
"We love living like this," said Pesa, 18, the oldest of the children on the farm. "We really do."
April and Tale strongly believe the effort is worth the rewards: wholesome food shared with family and friends.
"It's not an easy thing to do, but it cut down on the cost of food," Tale Makalea said. "And we know where our food comes from: the farm, not the store."