This week we feature a guest blog by Chef Olelo pa’a Faith Ogawa. Olelo pa’a helped plan the first Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range 15 years ago because she saw the importance of producing superior, grass-fed beef to feed our island. Today, she is a sought-after private chef by Fortune 500 execs and their families and operates her business, Dining by Faith. The girl who grew up on a Waipahu sugar plantation shares the flavors of Hawai‘i through her distinct Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine™, cooking demonstrations and Glow Hawai‘i Products. Visit www.glowhawaii.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking Back on the First Taste
It was 15 years ago when I was approached by Milton Yamasaki, manager of the Mealani Research Station in Waimea, to assist in getting the first Taste of the Hawaiian Range going. At first I said I was too busy, but I took time to listen to what Milton had to say. I felt his compassion for the ‘aina, the ranchers and farmers.
Milton convinced me to come to the first organizational meeting; then I went to the next meeting and learned more about the cattle industry and how we could have a sustainable and nutritious beef product made right here on the island of Hawai‘i. I asked myself, “Why aren’t we producing superior, grass-fed beef in Hawai‘i?” At that time, most of the calves were shipped to the Mainland for finishing and pricing was susceptible to several uncontrollable factors, like shipping.
Soon, I felt inspired to do whatever I could to promote the idea of producing and enjoying Hawai‘i grass-fed beef. I joined the committee and we put together the first Taste of the Hawaiian Range, in conjunction with a Forage Field Day. The Field Day was an educational program for ranchers on producing grass-fed beef and the Taste educated the public, especially chefs, on using the local product.
Local Food Boasts Superior Quality
Through the efforts of Milton and his research team at Mealani, the quality of beef produced on our island has greatly improved and today, it is superior. In fact, the quality and variety of all locally produced food is better. As a chef in Waikiki in the 1970s, I hardly used any locally grown product—everything was imported in. Today, I’m proud to use our Hawai‘i-grown food as much as I can. It is top quality and offers my clients a true taste of Hawai‘i.
The Spirit of the ‘Aina
I feel the people of the island of Hawai‘i have a pioneering spirit. It’s seen in our farmers, who are always trying to improve their product for consumers. We have several active organizations that encourage food sustainability and awareness. And we also are home to cutting edge resources like Keahole’s Natural Energy Lab Hawai‘i Authority and Waimea’s Mealani Research Station. They help foster our ag industry and the local production of food.
I feel connected to the land and I feel the island has a purpose. When I talk to the spirit of our land it tells me that it wants to grow our food and help us be sustainable. The ‘aina wants to perpetuate living off the land. It doesn’t want to be covered in concrete.
And so, I’m passionate about using local food and promoting those who work so hard to feed us.
Be Proud of our Local Food Producers
When you go to Taste of the Hawaiian Range, feel proud of the food you are eating. It was made here by caring hands and hearts to nourish you. Many local food producers will have exhibits; tell them you appreciate what they are doing. If we had more food producers, we would be eating more fresh, nutritious food and our landscape would be rich with a tapestry of farm-raised crops. If we were to eat good food, we would lower our health cost. We will have a healthier community and less wasteful spending.
Every time I have a memory of the cattle industry in Hawai‘i, I picture the old black and white photos of the paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboys) moving the cattle into the waters at Kawaihae Harbor to be shipped to the mainland for finishing. As a chef, I feel good about using our locally grown, grass-fed beef and knowing that Hawai‘i is moving in the direction of growing more of its own food. We’ve come a long way, and I hope we can continue moving toward food sustainability. Hawai‘i Island is on the leading edge so ‘Imua! Let’s keep moving forward!
Photo credits: courtesy Chef Olelo pa’a