A new video detailing the reasons why eight Hawai‘i Island food producers work to feed our island and choose an agrarian way of life was shared at the 2016 Taste.
Screened on several monitors throughout the event, the footage offered interviews filmed on location at Palani Ranch in Kailua-Kona, Double D Ranch in Laupahoehoe, KK Ranch in Laupahoehoe, Kuahiwi Ranch in Na‘alehu, Parker Ranch in Waimea, Hawaiian Hogs in Waimea, plus Best Farms and Robb Farms at Lalamilo Farmlots in Waimea.
For ease in online viewing, the video was split into seven, shorter segments; each one is about 1.5 to 2 minutes long. We share a sneak preview for each video; find their links below and tune in!
According to Palani’s president Britt Craven, the Kailua-Kona Ranch has been in operation for six generations as a cow-calf operation (calves are sold for finishing on the Mainland) while providing 100 head annually for local consumption.
Craven says Palani’s ranching family “loves what they do and the land” that’s entrusted in their care from previous generations.
“It’s about cattle ranching and that tradition, that heritage, of carrying it forward,” he emphasizes. “We’re stoked how the public has embraced locally produced proteins and vegetables and hope that continues…”
Joanna Nobriga feels its important for her children to be raised on a ranch as she says “they become better people knowing the amount of hard work they have to do on a day-to-day basis… just to maintain what we have on the ranch.”
She and husband Darcy raise cattle, sheep, hogs and hearts of palm in Laupahoehoe, plus goats in Puako. A fourth generation operation, Nobriga admits there’s always work to do and she and her husband can never leave the ranch to take a vacation together.
However, she prefers the ranch setting. “Where else can we go and have a beautiful office like this?” she asks.
Jason Moniz and his family ranch 750 mother cows and their calves on 5,200 acres of leasehold land on the northeast slopes of Mauna Kea near Honoka‘a. Moniz says it was “hard work” to get the pasture to the condition it is today.
KK Ranch markets calves different ways for finishing on the Mainland and keeps 30-40 head “home” annually for finishing locally. Moniz says his family got into ranching for a “second income,” as he had the background and education for it. In addition, it was something the family could do together.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I find it enjoyable having the family close…especially the days we spend together on the ranch,” he shares.
Siblings Michelle and Guy Galimba, who grew up in the dairy industry, oversee 1,600 cattle on 9,000 acres in Na‘alehu. The animals are predominately sold to the local market, providing 900 head a year for island consumption. In operation since 1993, Kuahiwi sprawls on former sugar cane land.
“We’re raising our kids in the industry,” notes Michelle. “When you buy local beef you’re supporting local working families who take care of the land.” Guy adds, “Every day is different and can be frustrating, but I love what I do.”
Jason Van Tassell came to work in 2014 on a new grass-finishing beef program at the sprawling Waimea ranch in partnership with Ulupono Initiative. He says the program allows the ranch “to use good quality forage on the ranch” to finish animals locally. Sold as the Paniolo Cattle Company brand, the grass-finished beef has received good feedback, he says.
Brought up around horses and cattle all his life, Van Tassell cherishes watching cattle in the pasture and all facets of ranching, saying it’s not just a livelihood, but a life choice.
He adds, “I am really satisfied when I see an animal reach its full potential and end up in a restaurant or supermarket with our label on it. When I walk past that meat, I’m proud of what that product looks like.”
A second-generation hog farmer in Waimea, Lloyd Case has 600 pigs, including 300 feral hogs. His son has shown an interest in taking over the farm someday and he hopes that happens.
“I call it a labor of love,” he grins. “We don’t really get rich and it’s one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever do. But it’s in my blood.”
Case’s typical workday begins at 2 a.m. He picks up the discarded food waste from local hotels, cooks it and feeds it to the pigs. Then he checks all his feral traps and brings the captured animals to the farm, getting home around 5:30 p.m. Other jobs include de-worming the feral pigs and caring for them until they are sold to local restaurants who appreciate their “wild” flavor.
Explaining the importance of food sustainability, Case notes the Big Island produces superior quality food—beef, pork and vegetables. “We take care of our animals, that’s one thing that makes a difference…we are proud of what we do and what we raise.”
Best Farms and Robb Farms
Located in Waimea’s Lalamilo Farmlots, these operations produce a variety of produce. Best Farms grows lettuce, cabbage, persimmons, melons and green onions while Robb, a certified organic farm, offers lettuce, broccoli, beets, fennel and sweet onions.
A third generation farmer, Earl Yamamoto of Best Farms said it takes “years” to create good, arable land and due to varied terrain and rocks, all the land can’t readily be utilized. Chris Robb of Robb Farms feels the scarcity of good farm and water resources makes farming a challenge.
“The beauty of Lalamilo (Farmlots) is the state had the foresight to utilize the upper Hamakua Ditch to allow us to farm in arid Waimea,” details Robb. He says the convenience of the on-site cooperative allows growers to load shipping containers for transport to nearby Kawaihae Harbor. “We can get our produce to the other islands in 24 hours.”
Regardless of the challenges, Robb finds the positive feedback from consumers gratifying, along with supplying the basic needs for people. “We have accomplished something…we employ people and keep money circulating here in our economy.”
Yamamoto gets satisfaction in watching things grow. “For me, it’s like raising kids or pets. You get a seed and every day you watch it grow until ready for harvest. Every day and every crop is different.