Meet the Many Faces Behind the Event The Taste Planning Committee Members

Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range & Agricultural Festival is a yearly event which takes many months to plan.  The people behind the event are dedicated volunteers from different organizations, community members and supporters of sustainable agriculture.  We welcome you to meet them!

CTAHR and Kulana Foods
The volunteers on the Planning Committee who began the “Taste” 16-years ago and continue to support this event are from the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources (CTAHR) and Kulana Foods.

Representing CTAHR which began the Mealani’s A Taste of the Hawaiian Range are:

  • Hawaii County Administrator, Russell Nagata, who advises the Board and Planning Committee members with overall goals.
  • Marla Fergerstrom, Interim Manager of Mealani’s Research Station in Kamuela.  Marla has been with the event since it’s beginning under the guidance of Milton Yamasaki with the logistics of the event.
  • Susan Miyasaka, Researcher and Treasurer who is also an amateur photographer can be seen taking many of our photos!
  • Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Extension Agent, Glenn Sako, can be seen busily setting up educational displays and booth vendors.
  • Retirees from CTAHR are former County Administrator, Wayne Nishijima, and recently retired from Mealani, Milton Yamasaki.  Both men are seen with volunteers, culinary students and helping in anyway they can to make sure you are enjoying the “Taste.”
  • Mary Kaheiki of CTAHR can be seen at our registration table for vendors, chefs, and volunteers.
  • Tom Asano of Kulana Foods continues to coordinate the Chefs who cook, grill and simmer all those tasty treats.  Once again, Sandy Barr Rivera, of Hawaii Community College’s Food Service & Culinary Program is assisting Tom and Chefs with culinary students who can gain experience at the event.

Cattle Industry Representatives
The emphasis on locally raised grass-fed beef has representatives from the cattle industry who are in support of the mission and vision of the organization.

  • Chairperson, Jeri Moniz of KK Ranch is a member of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association and from the Kalopa and Honokaa community.
  • Chris English of Ponoholo Ranch organizes many of our donations from ranchers, farmers and specialty foods such as honey.  Volunteering with him is Alice Fujii who does the beautiful Kamuela Grown display at the Taste.

Alice  Fujii

Community Members
Community members affiliated with the University of Hawaii Hilo are Talaite Petrowski and Leomi L. Bergknut.

  • Talaite volunteers her time with the coordination of ticket sales and making sure info on the event is current.
  • Leomi is the Event Coordinator and Co-Chairs the Trade Show this year.  She is also the organization’s grantwriter and keeps the planning of the event “on-task.” Leomi shares, “Let’s not forget to say Mahalo to Nina Tanabe who chaired last year’s Trade Show which continues to improve every year.”

Intern Students from UH-Hilo
This year we welcome 3-Intern students from the University of Hawaii Hilo’s College of Business Education (UHH-CoBE) and they are:

  • Ashley De Mattos is Co-Chair of the Trade Show with Leomi and contacting vendors for the event.
  • Gaylyn Respecio is developing a brochure for the event and the organization and a member of the Trade Show Committee.
  • Casey Rabago has a background in accounting and is assisting the Ticket Sales committee with projections and marketing of tickets.

The marketing of our event with our website and the press has been coordinated with Cristine Hafner of Hafner Creative Communications.  A member of her team, Fern Gavelek, has also promoted our event and contributes as part of the Trade Show Committee.

From the Hilton Waikoloa Village Assistant Director of Catering, Kristine Gancinia, continues to collaborate and finalize details for the Taste of the Hawaiian Range.

The Taste Planning Committee Members Front Row: Milton Yamasaki, Mary Kaheiki, Marla Fergerstrom 2nd Row : Fern Gavelek, Jeri Moniz, Tom Asano 3rd Row: Cristine Hafner, Leomi L. Bergknut, Chris English Back Row: Kristine Gancinia, Nina Tanabe, Susan Miyasaki Missing: Russell Nagata, Wayne Nishijima, Sandy Barr Rivera, Talaite Petrowski

The dedication and volunteerism of all of the Planning Committee members make the Taste of the Hawaiian Range an event to remember as you mingle with other event goers, smell the aroma of meat being grilled, and taste the textures of food being consumed.  Say “Mahalo” or give them a simple “smile” as you see them!

Tickets go on sale locally on August 1st.  Check the website for our ticket venues and the Hilton Waikoloa Village Ticket & Room deal! See you on Friday, September 30th from 6-8 p.m. this year!