Waimea’s Got it Going in Ag!

Seminar 1 Day 4 Hawai‘i

Our first site visit in Waimea was at WOW Farms, just a few minutes outside of the center of town. There we had the pleasure of meeting Mike Hudson and his family who live on Hawaiian Homestead land. Mike told us how he got started in agriculture — a form of pressure release from a high-stress job — and grew a business for his wife, Trisha.

From one greenhouse there are now more than 40. And from knowing nothing about growing tomatoes, is perhaps, a world-expert in growing some of the sweetest tomatoes Hawai`i has to offer. Make no mistake about it, it’s not by chance, but rather from years of research, trial, error, and success.

Mike is working with many others in his community and from other agencies to build a bigger dream of a 30 acre farming community for 300 small farmers, right in Waimea. It’s quite a vision and we are all rooting for him and everyone involved, as it would make a huge impact on agriculture not only on Hawai’i island but throughout the state as a model of what can be done. Wow!

We then went to Saffron restaurant to hear our next speaker, Corey Gillins from Big Island Dairy.  He spoke to us about the business he and his partners have revived. There were once more than 40 dairies in Hawai’i and now there are only two, both on Hawai’i Island. While the dairies produce more than 95% of the milk for the island, there is not much left for other islands. Therefore Hawai’i as a state imports more than 95% of our milk. Big Island Dairy will, hopefully, help change that.

Corey talked about the innovations their company is making to be sustainable for the long haul, including growing much of their own feed, producing energy, conserving water, and giving their cows a good life.  Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to visit the dairy in Ookala and see the happy cows on their waterbeds. Seriously!

Our final stop was Ponoholo Ranch in the Kohala Mountains, just 30 minutes outside of Waimea. We met Pono Von Holt, who gave us some history on the ranch and landscape. He has such a wealth of information and shares it freely. We were so fortunate to hear from him.

And we realized how fortunate Chris English, one of our classmates, is!  Look at his office, for crying out loud!  Like Pono, Chris’ family goes back generations, too, in ranching on Hawai’i Island. Chris talked about how Ponoholo Ranch is using innovative techniques to manage their resources and produce high quality beef.  It’s a huge challenge as though the grass looks green, it is only because of the recent rains. This part of the island is still going through one of the worst droughts in history, which means that no stone can be left unturned in finding ways to keep ranching and this tradition alive and well.

Aloha, Hawai’i!

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Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawai‘i
P. O. Box 342066
Kailua, HI 96734