Why Grow Food? Ranchers, Farmers Tell Their Stories in Videos

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!

Palani Ranch

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…”

 

Double D Ranch

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.

 

KK Ranch

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.

 

Kuahiwi Ranch

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.”

 

Parker Ranch

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.”

 

Hawaiian Hogs

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.

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Goat, lamb and chicken producers weigh in on what isle consumers expect in locally produced meats

Expectations for locally produced meats—and the reasons for buying them— vary among restaurants, grocers and home cooks according to Big Isle meat producers. In our last blog we interviewed beef and pork producers, today we hear from those ranching goat, lamb and chicken.

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Double “D” Ranch

“Customers want and expect a fresh product that was just walking through the pasture before it ended up on their plate,” says Joanna Nobriga, co-owner of Double “D” Ranch. “They want a product that has a distinct taste and looks fresh.  They want something with minimal inputs and no hormones or antibiotics.  They get that at Double “D” Ranch.  Our animals are raised in a low-stress environment; they are out there enjoying the Hawaiian sun and grazing grass.”

Double “D” Ranch of Laupahoehoe produces pasture-raised goats, sheep and cattle, plus grain-fed hogs, and for the most part, sells live animals direct to consumers. Per customer request, Double “D” will also send animals to Kulana Foods for processing. They also sell fresh, frozen meat, provide farm services to others and sell calves for finishing on the Mainland. In addition, they grow heart of palm.

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Double “D” Ranch

The Nobrigas started producing goats in 1996 and by introducing new genetics, have improved their herd. Goats are browsers and will eat trees, legumes, forbs (herbaceous flowering plants) and grasses—and your flowerbeds if you don’t watch out!

Regarding the importance of purchasing local meat, Nobriga feels consumers need to know the product is from their “neighborhood.”

Benefits of buying local meat direct

There are multiple benefits when buying an animal direct from the producer. At Double “D”, consumers can come to the farm and choose their animal if they buy the entire animal.  They can also ask questions about the product.

Nobriga adds consumers need to understand it costs more to produce animals in Hawai‘i, so the price tag may be higher. “The cost to get it to market for the producer is higher in Hawai‘i than it would be for a producer in the mainland to raise a similar animal.”

Purchase goats, sheep, hogs and cattle from Double “D” by phoning 808-936-5371 or emailing heartofpalmhawaii@live.com. For more info, visit www.double-d-ranchhawaii.com.

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm
Credit: Courtesy Punachicks Farm

Emily Taaroa, co-owner of Punachicks Farm, feels consumers want to have a connection to where their food is produced. “They want to know the animals were treated ethically and produced with high standards.  Many local consumers prefer to buy poultry and pork from farms that use organic and GMO-free feed.”

Located in Kea‘au and soon to move to a larger farm in Kuristown, Punachicks sells fresh whole broiler chickens, plus chicken livers, hearts, gizzards and feet and also plans to begin marketing lamb. The farm sells to restaurants, retailers and direct to customers who pick up fresh chickens at the farm on processing days.

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm
Credit: Courtesy Punachicks Farm

“Restaurants expect consistent, fresh, high-quality products and are always looking for something new and interesting to put on their menus,” details Taaroa.  “Retailers require special packaging and labeling to make the product stand out on the shelf.”

Regarding direct customers, Taaroa says entire families come to pick up their order and get to see how their food is raised.

“We have been able to develop close relationships with our (direct) customers that we have cultivated through mutual respect and trust.  For those of our customers that live farther away, we also offer a Waimea delivery once a quarter where our customers can pre-order on our website and pick up their fresh chickens at a predetermined time and location,” she continues.

Purchasing local a win-win

According to Taaroa, if you’re able to purchase direct from the meat producer, you get the best prices available while the producer gets the best return for his products.  “Buying local meat keeps your money in our local economy, since farmers love to also buy from other local producers,” she adds. “It may take more effort to buy locally produced meat, but you will be rewarded with a much higher-quality product that you can feel good about feeding your family.”

Chicken products by Punachicks can be ordered direct at www.punachicksfarm.com. The website also lists all the retail outlets selling product as well as restaurants serving it. “We try to make our chickens available for anyone who wants to try them, so they are stocked in almost every health food store on the island for those customers who value convenience and can also be purchased directly from the farm for those who want to get the best price,” notes Taaroa.

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Kahua Ranch

“Quality” and a “readily available, consistent product” are what all consumers expect when it comes to locally produced meat, says Pamela Richards Ketchum of Kahua Ranch.

The daughter of ranch founder Monty Richards, Ketchum says Kahua is currently raising cattle and sheep. “Most of our calves will go to the mainland/continental U.S. to different (finishing) programs. Lamb is kept locally and both are sold out of our meat store on property. These products are pasture-raised and -finished.”

Kahua Ranch Ltd. goes back to the purchase of the ranch from Frank Woods in 1928 by the Richards and Von Holt families. The ranch was split in the 1980s to form Kahua Ranch Ltd. and Ponoholo Ranch. Ranching has been a family business for both families for 88-plus years. Kahua is located between Waimea and Hawi on the picturesque slopes of the Kohala Mts.

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Kahua Ranch

“Our clients range from businesses taking whole animals to personal/private chefs to individual shoppers, including those who have vacation homes here,” she shares. The customer base is also comprised of people seeking a healthy protein on the advice of their physician. “These doctors are looking to have their patients eat a beef product that helps support the body during an illness or medical treatment.”

Ketchum says animals are raised in a very low stress environment and are provided with minerals to meet nutritional needs; however, they are not fed grains.

She adds, “Local meats do not have to travel far.  Here in Hawai‘i anything that is shipped in has already had to travel a minimum of 2500 miles before making it to the shelf of your grocery store.  Local products are fresher and the product has had less handling… Although meat is aged before being cut and sold, it still is a fresher product when it does not have to travel long distances.”

Visit small, onsite meat market

Purchase lamb and beef direct from Kahua Ranch. Shoppers should phone first to insure personnel are staffing the meat market and to ensure desired cuts are in stock, 808-882-4646. “High-end steaks are one of the first items that sell out,” noted Ketchum. For more info, visit, www.kahuaranch.com.

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