I started farming almost by accident. Seventeen years ago, my husband and I bought three acres of land with nothing on it. No water, no electricity, no house, nothing. It was my husband’s goal to start a chicken farm. I was just along for the ride.
My husband wanted trees to give his chickens some shade, so I started growing everything from Meyer lemons and Tahitian limes to calamansi, papayas, avocados, and a variety of mangos. Before that, I taught at Nānākuli High School for 16 years and had been a vice principal at Mā‘ili Elementary School for three and a half years. Farming was different, but it was a transition that came easy to me—nobody talks back. I enjoyed the change that it made to my lifestyle. I would be up at five o’clock in the morning pulling weeds and singing, Green acres is the place to be, farm living is the life for me.
Once the trees grew, we asked ourselves, “What are we going to do with all this fruit?” I began giving it away, and eventually selling it too. In the beginning, I used to have to beg stores to buy my produce. But as people became more interested in health and wellness, they saw the value in farms growing chemical-free.
Farming taught me how valuable organic products are. Most people my age rely heavily on pharmaceutical drugs, but I believe people should try and work with their doctors to get off the drugs and instead find long-term, natural solutions.
When I see other people my age, I notice how much younger I look and feel. I attribute that to my diet of fruits and vegetables—they are full of antioxidants, and we all need high levels of antioxidants to neutralize all the toxins that bombard us daily.
I believe my purpose in life is to get people healthy: growing fruit on my farm, volunteering at schools in the area to teach kids about health and nutrition—things I was never taught at their age. If I could leave people with one piece of advice, it’d be to grow your own fruits and vegetables, whether in a pot or in the ground. It doesn’t have to be much, but do your body that favor: Feed it foods that are nutrient rich.
Lily Cabinatan is the founder of Top Notch Farms in Waiʻanae, where she grows lemons and limes year-round and papayas and mangos in the summer. Her farm's mission aims to educate people on the benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables in order to build a healthier community. After retiring from a long career in education, Lily Cabinatan found a way to continue to serve her community by growing healthy, chemical-free fruit on her family farm.
Find Top Notch Farms' fruits in stores island wide, including Foodland and Down to Earth, or contact the farm directly. Follow on intagram @topnotchfruitfarm.