Is the juice worth the squeeze? At Cultivate Good Food, a new juice bar and plant based grab ‘n go-style cafe in Kainaliu, the answer to this age-old question is yes.
Started by sisters Jaelyn and Jenaya Rockman early this year, Cultivate offers cold-pressed juices, salads, and wraps in a “farm to fork”-style business model. They source as much of their produce as possible from local farmers, island residents, and from a collaborative garden space on a friend’s property in Honalo.
To see what really goes on behind the bottle, I met Jaelyn early one morning at the garden. She’s harvesting kale and chard for juice, as she tells me the story of how this all came about. A fluffy white chicken joins us for the story, following us like a dog through the rows of greens and flowers. She appears to be quite fond of Jaelyn, who brings fruit and vegetable scraps from the cafe up here for the chickens.
Since moving to Kona in 2004 from Montana, she has been amazed by the bounty of food — mangos, avocados, bananas, citrus, and more that the Big Island provides year round. One of the first places she lived was in South Kona with a “back to the land” landlady who kept a donkey and grew nearly everything she ate. Jaelyn was inspired to start getting her hands dirty and began linking up with other like-minded green thumbs.
Jaelyn recalled, “I’d find myself with pounds and pounds of fruit from a friend’s property and feel like, what the heck am I going to do with all of this?”
This is when she started juicing. The opportunity to take it to the next level came 15 years later when the shop — the former site of Phresh Cleanses — became available for lease. It came with commercial kitchen equipment available for purchase and was located a short drive from the garden.
Definition: 1. a: to prepare land for the raising of crops b: to loosen or break up the soil around (growing plants) 2. to raise or assist the growth of by tilling or by labor and care. 3: to improve or develop by careful attention, training, or study: devote time and thought. 4: to seek the company and friendship of others.
“The name Cultivate is about the seeds we plant not only in the garden but in day to day life,” Jaelyn said.
The company’s motto is “Cultivate a Good Life.” Going to Costco and buying a bag of lemons from California is easy. Yet, it doesn’t require much in the way of social capital. Building relationships with local farmers and families takes more effort and time but has a far sweeter reward — growing the island’s sustainable food culture and strengthening community ties.
As for their menu, Cultivate offers a regular roster of cold-pressed juices with tasty combinations like “Cultivate Happiness” with fresh pineapple juice, cucumber, and mint, or “Cultivate Health” which packs in 1.5 pounds of leafy greens per 16 oz. bottle. They also make custom juices and seasonal specials, like starfruit juice (yum). You can get a salad or wrap and juice combo for under $20.
I have to admit that as someone who usually favors big fat burgers, I am pleasantly surprised when it comes to the food. Their salad and wrap combinations are creative, flavorful, and filling. Their Taste of Thai Wrap is delicious, made with fresh greens, Thai basil, beet, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, quinoa, avocado, and their house-made ginger peanut sauce. I recommend sampling their vegan coconut bacon too.
Cultivate is on the lookout to connect with more local farmers and property owners with orchard crops. They currently source produce from several Kona area farmers including Kealaola Farms and Three Keiki farms. In an effort to help reduce waste, they accept seconds, or “ugly fruits” which are typically rejected by grocery stores due to surface imperfections that have no effect on the flavor.
Moving forward, Cultivate Good Food hopes to bring their juices and possibly more to some of the farmer’s markets in Kona, or maybe even create a fully mobile off-shoot. Connect with them on Instagram and Facebook @cultivategoodfood for the latest. Visit them at 79-7411 Mamalahoa Highway, squeezed in between Donkey Balls Chocolate Factory and Aloha Massage Academy. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Their emphasis is on quick, grab and go service and they offer call or text in orders at 461-3183. View their full menu at cultivategoodfood.com.
Emily Gleason is a member of Business Network International (BNI) Kona Connections Chapter in Kailua-Kona and helps business owners reach their dream clients at www.mthewriter.com. She contributes a monthly business feature to West Hawaii Today.