Category: Features

“Many Hands”: Cultivating Food Security in the Kaua`i Food Forest

Photo ID: Paul Marshall


IN THE BEGINNING, we were hunters, gatherers, and scavengers. It worked well enough that we kept at it for 200,000 years. Then came the era of agriculture. Humans started extensively planting food in the ground only around 7,000 years ago. And perhaps we have now entered a different epoch entirely, one where only a few farm while most get their food from a grocery store. 

It is easy to forget that we live on a tiny chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific with the great abundance of perishables in our local Costcos, Safeways and Foodlands. Our fruit bowls overflow with apples from Chile, grapes from Mexico, bananas from Costa Rica. It is haunting to consider what would happen if the Matson ships stopped sailing. How many of us really know how to till the soil at a subsistence level?


Just past a row of red ti plants, on a road right off Kuhio Highway in Kilauea, grows the Kaua`i Food Forest. Paul Massey and his dog Sage, both undeniably high-spirited, meet me at the entrance and immediately he is concerned about my legs. I have grown gardens, little herb boxes and potted tomatoes, but, like most of us, I have never worked in or even walked through a food forest. I have naively forgotten about the natural occurrence of mosquitos attracted to the moist soil and worn shorts and Locals. Paul lends me a pair of beige work pants and we’re off, Sage leading our pack. 

The Food Forest is not manicured rows of spinach and kale, restrained patches of zucchini and trimmed cucumber plants, nor does it strive to be. At first glance it is a plot of tropical woodland, disorderly with random growth. Then Paul, who plays the role of Food Forest Manager, begins to explain the intentionality of each of the two hundred edible and medicinal plant species that grow in the forest. 

“We’ve created plant guilds that serve a common purpose,” he says (plant guild: think symbiotic relationship), gesturing to three plants which are huge components of the forest. Various colors of Coleus, Sissoo spinach which can act like a living mulch under fruit trees, and comfrey, improving the soil by cycling nutrients and keeping weeds out of beds. “This is a prime example of an agricultural system known as multistory agroforestry: a combination of plants that occupy different positions in the vertical space, from tall canopy trees, understory trees beneath them, shrubs, vines, ground covers, and root crops. Each one of these vertical layers produces a valuable part of the total production of the system, which includes food we eat, soil building organic matter, and habitat for the micro and macro-organisms that really make the ecosystem resilient to the extremes of climate change, like the floods Kaua`i experienced last year, and sustainable in the long term.” 

If it wasn’t already clear, Paul knows what he’s talking about. A certified arborist and resident of Kaua`i for the last 20 years, he has studied at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on island and the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew in the U.K. He is also the host of In The Garden On The Farm, a weekly radio show (Wednesdays, noon-1pm) on KKCR where he is able to both share and learn. 

We walk past a black pepper plant, a pink powder puff, mountain apple, blackberry jam fruit, wing beans, lima beans and a tropical yam growing underground. We stop before an Egyptian Pea tree, growing double overhead and flowering yellow. 

“This is called chop-and-drop,” Paul says, using a machete to cut off low branches of the tree then placing them at the base of a neighbor plant and stepping on them. “The leaf becomes bug food, bug poop becomes plant food, plant food becomes food.” It is living mulch, one plant feeding another. 

A four-year-old cacao tree grows nearby. Paul cuts off a pod and splits it, offering me half. We eat the pulp off the seeds then spit them out wherever — they just might grow. “Cultivating the forest is about compromise,” he says, “When we choose to plant many plants close, for example, it’s an exchange. Protection from strong wind is perhaps more important than full sun.” There are nitrogen fixing trees growing, some plants that supply shade and cool the ground, others that crowd out weeds, more still cycle out nutrients from the soil, a few prevent erosion, and of course there are those that provide food. Suddenly the food forest no longer appears to be growing in chaos but in deliberate harmony. 

Left to Right: Paul Massey, Hunter Beaudreau, Jangee Westphal, Casey Piscura



Photo ID: Paul Marshall

This is not just farming, it is permaculture, a sustainable agriculture. The idea is to cultivate the land with all people, including future people, in mind. Paul emphasizes that this is a long-term project, investing energy into the plot for long-term abundance. He believes it is one of the most rewarding aspects of the food forest, the years of commitment it requires. Several of the trees he has planted will take a decade or more to bear fruit. This is a patient person’s game.

Before this specific land had ever been tilled, it was almost certainly the innards of a dense forest. And because Polynesian settlers tended to subsist along the coast and lowlands until the point of resource diminishment, the uplands may not have been touched for a great deal of time. In 1863, the land was sold to Charles Titcomb by Kamehameha IV and it grew sugarcane from 1880 to 1971 then guava from 1977-2006. The parcel was then purchased by Bill and Joan Porter and cleared, then rested as two acres of mowed grass for five years. Now christened Wai Koa, the land became the site of the Kalihiwai Community Garden in 2009, when the future food forests’ nonprofit Regenerations first got involved to assist in the design.

“The garden design, which initially included both vegetable plots and a mixed fruit and bamboo orchard, was conceived at a two-week permaculture design course that I helped to produce. A local nonprofit, Mālama Kaua`i, had secured the lease for the land where the garden and the forest were eventually developed,” says Paul, “The idea of larger scale plantings never left my mind and I continued advocating for its creation throughout the community.” After years and a series of community discussions, a large-scale planting was at last achieved in December 2012 and the food forest was born.

It is a fact that the Hawaiian islands are overly dependent on food imports. It is a service to the community to provide a venue where people can find inspiration and education on how to establish and maintain a food producing system of their own, increasing their food security. For this reason, the food forest always has been and forever will be entwined in the community of Kilauea, of Kaua`i, and of Hawai`i. It intends to serve as an educational demo site where visitors can become proficient in subtropical agroforestry techniques through hands-on experience and even take home cuttings or seeds to start their own baby food forest.

Photo ID: Paul Marshall


“It is a living, breathing organism that demonstrates our evolving techniques arrived at through experimentation and a keen observation of the interrelationships of the plants and soil,” Paul says. “The food forest is also a living seed bank, generating an ever-increasing diversity and quantity of planting material for establishing these elegant food and soil building systems in backyards and farms around the island.”


While visitors can explore the food forest any day of the year, weekly workdays are held every Saturday from 9am-5pm where all are welcome to cultivate the land, get their hands dirty and learn through experience. Green thumbs and novices alike can interact with the food forest, and, “both figuratively and literally, enjoy the fruits of our efforts,” Paul says referring to the weekly group meal, made with food harvested from the forest. Possible menu items include: wild chicken stew, giant yams, curried coconut soup, and almost certainly pickled vegetables.

At this point, the forest represents thousands of people’s work. Passionate community members and volunteers, the nonprofits of Regenerations, Mālama Kaua`i and Sanctuary of LUBOF, Paul and his right hand men from the beginning, Marshall Paul and Rob Cruz, and all of those who have donated seeds and cuttings; it takes a village to grow a forest.

On our way back to where we began, Paul hands me a rollinia fruit, a relative of the soursop. It is pale yellow and delicate, bruising easily. He tells me it is ready, to eat it soon. We stop briefly so he can pick himself some edible hibiscus, or lau pele; this will be Paul’s dinner tonight, he will steam them. He plucks the leaves tenderly, like this plant is an old friend. After so much time and energy spent in the food forest, perhaps it is. “I’m in love with this place and what it keeps revealing to us,” he says. [eHI]



The trio behind Three’s Bar & Grill and Fork & Salad in Maui grew their passion project into a booming enterprise against all odds. Through it all, they’ve learned that cultivating a business founded in friendship means never giving up.

After their lives intersected in the kitchen of Longhi’s Wailea, a popular Italian seafood restaurant in Kihei, Maui, Travis Morrin, Cody Christopher and Jaron Blosser became thick-as-thieves surf buddies with another serious hobby in common — a deep-seated love of cooking. During “board meetings” in the water, they often daydreamed about what a future fixated on food might look like. They itched to create something that would let them surf and cook as much as they wanted, and in 2009, the friends decided to go all in on building their dream business with a commitment to not only make great food, but also to do right by their customers and collaborators. 


Before they could talk themselves out of it, the foodie friends powered forward with Three’s Catering — the name, a nod to the idea that each partner brings unique strengths to the table that perfectly complement the whole. Three’s offered Maui clients an eclectic combination of cooking styles — Hawaiian, Southwestern and Pacific Rim — and service was just as essential as fresh ingredients and inventive dishes. Their new venture garnered such positive response that after just a few months of catering events, in 2010 the budding entrepreneurs were able to rent a brick-and-mortar space at Kalama Village in Kihei for their first restaurant, Three’s Bar & Grill.


In 2013, Travis, Cody and Jaron’s little catering experiment hit a big break when they won the bid to cater all of the Pacific Whale Foundation’s snorkel charters, a gig that would help keep them afloat through all the challenges that lie ahead. Then the friends took a gamble and introduced one of the first-ever food trucks on Maui — before it became a hot trend — and were stoked to see how much people loved casual, cost-effective food truck weddings. With some stability, the guys felt confident enough to move forward with a fun new concept they’d been tossing around — a farm-to-table, fast-casual restaurant they called Fork & Salad that would make eating healthy and eating local convenient and affordable. In July of 2016, Fork & Salad debuted in Kihei touting over 50 local ingredients and won the “Friend of Agriculture” award given by the Maui County Farm Bureau. Shortly after, Three’s Bar & Grill was featured in an episode of Food Network’s hit show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” In June of 2018, they opened a second Fork & Salad location in Kahului, Maui. 

In all likelihood, the eager chefs’ headfirst dive into restaurant ownership should have been nothing more than a flash in the pan, especially since none of the three had any real business experience. (Deciding to break into the food industry during the worst part of the recession didn’t help, either.) But something about their formula worked. Building three successful local eateries from the ground up and growing a handful of staff to a team of over 100 wasn’t easy, but the co-owners put everything they had into the business with no shortage of elbow grease and grit. 

“Being naive was the best thing we had on our side,” says 39-year-old Cody. “If we’d started out with smart business sense and looked at all the numbers, that would have talked us out of it quicker than anything. We necessarily didn’t care; we just wanted to open a restaurant with our best friends.” 

Photo caption: Fork & Salad, Kahului, Maui, HI


Growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Cody’s family was big into barbecue, and he was constantly immersed in the Cajun and Creole styles of cooking. He recalls the particular night his infatuation with the world of food began, around age 10:

“My Uncle Chip was getting married and the reception was held at this fine-dining French restaurant in Houston. It was a 15-course meal and the chef came out and introduced himself, then brought me back into the kitchen and let me ask questions. Those swinging doors, the yelling, the fast pace of it all, and the smells

of all the different spices — I knew right then I wanted to be a part of it.” 

After graduating from the culinary program at the Art Institute of Houston, Cody worked at a two Michelin Star restaurant in Oslo, Norway, then spent time in California surfing and learning from experienced culinary experts to become what he calls “a well-rounded chef” — as adept at baking as he is at grilling. 

The first three years of running a restaurant were an uphill battle, Cody says, but he and his cohorts were able to weather the obstacles largely because they were all willing to do whatever needed to be done. “You’ve got to wear a lot of hats, and the cooking is the easy part…” he says. “If it meant washing dishes, if it meant climbing under our building and fixing a busted pipe because we couldn’t afford a plumber, we just did it.” With help from countless YouTube videos, Cody’s been able handle a lot of building, carpentry and welding for their spaces. 

In year two of being open, Three’s Bar & Grill succumbed to a kitchen fire that forced them to shut down for 41 days. “At 6 am that day I got a call from the chef and I knew the whole kitchen must be on fire. There was no time to panic; it was step one — the Pacific Whale boats are going out this morning we need to make sure that those are stocked, and step two — we need a place to cook tomorrow morning. So I’m making calls to use our neighbor’s kitchen, Jaron’s talking to the general contractor about the rebuild, and Travis is making sure the catering keeps rolling.” When a crooked accountant made off with $30,000 of their hard-earned profits later that year, no one would have blamed them for throwing in the towel. But the partners used the adversity as fuel to hustle even harder. “If anything, the fire and the theft were wake up calls that it was time to stop ‘winging it’ and get serious,” says Cody. “From then on we were focused on knowing our business inside and out.” 


A native of Maui, 31-year-old Travis Morrin was always around the hospitality industry, since his dad held the general manager position at a local hotel. He has fond memories of watching a French cooking show with his mom almost every afternoon and remembers how therapeutic it felt to watch people work with their hands as they transformed ingredients from one state to another. “It’s really an art form in a sense; you have to balance a lot of elements: texture, flavor, appearance, the whole nine yards,” he says.

At 20 years old, Travis attended the culinary arts program at the University of Hawaii Maui College, and he was still in school when the opportunity came to open up Three’s Bar & Grill. “I actually don’t remember a lot of it because it was so difficult,” he says. “We were making like $300 every two weeks and a lot of people thought we were crazy.”

Their scheme worked, Travis believes, because of how well each partner complements the other two. “It’s easy to knock down one person, but it’s a little harder to knock down three,” he says. “Jaron is very good with numbers and he brings us down to earth in terms of what we can actually do and how we can be smart about it. I’m the creative, entrepreneurial guy and Cody is an incredible chef and a tremendous builder.” Always one to pitch new concepts for expansion, Travis says they’ve always stuck to the law of “majority rules” when deciding what direction to move in next, making sure to put the partnership first.

Once a week, Travis holds meetings with the upper management teams, providing an open floor to discuss ideas and issues and check in on the numbers. “The regular face-to-face interaction really helped turn our business around because we were finally setting some short-term goals to pair with our long-term vision,” he says. “They continually inch us forward and keep us growing in a healthy, sustainable direction.”


Growing up in Durango, Colorado, Jaron Blosser’s family sushi outings every Friday night were his first taste of how food could command an audience. “I would order a simple roll — just rice, nori and crab — and I would be hooked because of the flavors and presentation. We would go to Benihana and I remember wanting to be one of those chefs doing all the tricks.”

Right out of high school, Jaron attended Scottsdale Culinary Institute, then earned his chops as a cook under accomplished chefs in Durango, Seattle, and Olympia, Washington, in the niches of Japanese, Pacific Rim and French cuisine. As far as what makes a great meal, he answers: “You need good ingredients and a balance of flavors, textures and temperatures, but what truly makes a difference is passion in the process and in the details. Some of my favorite dishes had very few ingredients, but it was the character of who prepared it, or the way it was served, that made it meaningful for me.”




Ever the pragmatist, Jaron says the most stressful part of running a restaurant is the less glamorous stuff — like negotiating the lease with the landlord, talking job scope with the contractor and collaborating with the architect. “The entire future of the restaurant depends on the proper execution of these things, and if we make a mistake, there’s no going back,” he says. 

These days, 37-year-old Jaron supervises much of the business’s financial aspects and building projects, or as he sees it, “I mainly solve problems all day as needed!” His biggest takeaway from years of putting out a steady stream of fires? “Just because something appears to be bad, it might end up being a really valuable lesson,” he says. 


Now that they’ve made a big splash in the Maui market, the brain trust behind Three’s is expanding to the mainland to show people “the niche of aloha” with a third Fork & Salad opening in Orange County, California, this spring. The guys have also partnered with FranSmart, a powerhouse in franchise development, to expand their brand even farther across the country and even the world. At the end of the day, their biggest motivator for continued growth is not money, or even love of food, but rather a sense of duty to their extended ohana:

“I’m sure that there are better restaurants out there, but this is our little slice of what we’ve carved out in this world,” says Cody. “We have the responsibility to make sure that our people have a place to come and work so they can take care of their own families. And as long as we do the right thing by our team and our customers and give back to the community, we’ll keep moving forward.”




ONE WOMAN’S HARD WORK AND VISION dedicated to the community feeds small business, farmers and a growing number of families.

In oversized sunglasses and a flowy, long sundress, Pamela Boyar, owner and director of FarmLovers Markets, glides in and out of booths at the Kaka’ako Farmers Market. Between taking phone calls and discussing projects with vendors, she greets regular customers with a kiss on the cheek and a smile that balances warmth with business. 

As Hawai’i works toward feeding itself and relying less on imports, farmers markets continue to grow – there are over twenty-five plus markets on O’ahu alone. With more sustainable farms emerging and residents shifting to eating local, Boyar works passionately to connect farmers to customers.


The smell of Maui Mokka coffee wafts into the street, beckoning customers to the Saturday Kaka’ako Farmers Market (Ala Moana & Ward Ave.). A local band, Hui Malama, plays hits like “Island Style,” and bandmates banter with shoppers snuggled under nearby café tents enjoying steaming breakfast burritos, spicy shrimp musubi, and lilikoi -dragon fruit slushies. 

Ma’o Organic Farms’ interns hawk “Sassy Salad, a mixture of spicey greens.” Ashley Watts from Local I’a cracks open a cooler to reveal the fresh fish catch of the day. Bryan Mesa of De La Mesa Farms located in Hawaii Kai & Waimanalo lovingly snips microgreens for a customer. Davanh from Lovan Terrafarm in Waialua, O’ahu helps me select a perfectly ripe Rapoza mango.

I bump into my friend Kara, who treks across town every Saturday to enjoy the Kaka’ako Market’s conviviality. We agree: This isn’t just where we come for weekly groceries. It’s our community. 

The market’s local vibe also attracts other regulars. “It’s tailored for a local crowd and we welcome visitors,” customer Howard Miller explains. “There are more vendors selling just-picked produce, local meats, etc. Kaka’ako has more of a ‘market feel’ and less of a carnival feel .” 

Boyar strives to create this connection between residents and vendors. “I take a lot of time curating the markets with the right fit of vendors,” she says.

Expanding the availability of locally grown, healthy foods to residents, supporting family farms, and stoking neighborhood economies by increasing foot traffic around the island are some of the driving forces behind Boyar and her markets. 

“The passion of helping other people from a conscious place is so rewarding, and I base my business on that,” she says. 

For Boyar, this is not some fun-in-the-sun gig. She is elevating Hawai’i’s well-being – a role she takes seriously. Running a network of farmers markets is complex, as Boyar balances securing venues, paying rent, staffing, ensuring safety and efficiency, marketing, running a legal business, and managing over 100 vendors. 

But Boyar is no stranger to the hustle. She thrives off it. She is the past president of O’ahu Chapter of Hawaii Farmers Union, a current member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Hawai’i and an active advocate championing for farmers across the state.

After adopting a raw foods diet in her 20s, Boyar started her first business, making and delivering fresh juices in her native Los Angeles, CA to customers such as Cher and Don Henley. After outgrowing her door-to-door business, she launched an organic produce company in Los Angeles as well. 

“In 1986 I was the first organic forager that picked up at the local farms and delivered directly to the restaurants on the same day,” she remembers. 

Thanks to Boyar, the Santa Monica Farmers Market grew, and chefs such as Nancy Silverton and Wolfgang Puck started featuring local farms on their menus. 

“Pamela was on farms and at the farmers market at the beginning of the farm-to-table movement, advocating fiercely for the value in terms of flavor and quality of life for farmers,” shares Laura Avery, retired program manager for the Santa Monica Farmers Market. “For her, ‘farm-to-table’ was a mission, not a slogan. Pamela was a familiar sight in the early days of the Santa Monica Farmers Market, in a short skirt and cowboy boots, working diligently to connect farmers with chefs and produce buyers.” 

Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, when local produce still arrived at your door, sparked Boyar’s passion for farm-fresh ingredients. “We had a produce man that would come twice a week named Mr. Powell,” she reflects. “I loved that man. He was the typical 6’4” skinny farmer with overalls. You would think that a straw would be coming out of his mouth. He had the best produce.” For Boyar, these interactions ignited a lifelong respect for farmers.

Boyar continued connecting farmers with restaurants after moving to Austin, Texas, but she soon identified a missing piece: community. Not just a community linking consumers and food through trucks and restaurants, but a place to offer nourishment, laughter, music and meaningful human interactions.

With farmers markets, Boyar could introduce her customers to a healthier lifestyle and see the effects. She started two farmers markets in Austin, Texas – including the Sunset Valley market, which garnered national acclaim. 

Boyar next followed her spiritual path to O’ahu. Here, she has developed one of Hawai’i’s most impactful chains of farmers markets.

When Boyar arrived in Hawai’i in 2006, farmers markets were rare. She attended all of them weekly to support and get to know the farmers. 

Boyar immersed herself in the scene for three years, when the Chamber of Commerce asked her to develop her own farmers market in Hale’iwa in 2009. What started with 25 vendors grew to 65, eventually attracting international recognition and over 2,500 attendees weekly from across the island. 

Since then, Boyar has opened locations in Kailua, Pearlridge, Hale’iwa in Waimea Valley and Kaka’ako. She prioritizes the growth of her vendors alongside her markets’ – even when it means declining vendors. “I don’t want them to come and not be successful … it’s a waste of their time and money,” she explains. 

Behind Boyar’s dynamic, boss-lady exterior, her heart beats for family farms and small businesses. As former president of the Oahu Farmers Union, she frequented Hawai’i’s Capitol to facilitate the success of bills and funding that benefited family farms. She continues to petition the federal government for more funding for them. 

“The work I do is helping them get loans, helping them get land so that they can be successful in their endeavors,” she says.

Boyar focuses her attention on Hawai’i. “We’re so far away from everything, I think our energies need to be right here right now,” she says. “I feel diversified ag is so important for Hawai’i right now, and that’s what all these new farmers coming up want to grow. The plantation-style agriculture is done, and we are here to create food sustainability in these islands in the next few years. I want to be a big part of that. I can do that through the markets.” 

Boyar’s 2019 mission is to realize the potential of all FarmLovers markets. She strives to amplify customer attendance, offerings, exposure, vendor profits and food security. Strategies to boost vendor success include free business training. Social media maven Melissa Chang and tech evangelist Russ Sumida already taught a class on increasing visibility via social media, while international entrepreneur and business adviser Paul Arinaga taught a class on creating viable business plans. 

In Kaka’ako, Boyar intends to increase the number of vendors at the Saturday market from 60 to 80 and is adding a second sunset market in the same location, on Wednesdays from 3:00 P.M. to 7:00 p.m., starting March 20, 2019. 

To increase exposure, FarmLovers Markets has adopted a new logo – a heart-shaped beet – and will host several events, including chef demos, Easter egg hunts, and a coffee festival spearheaded by local coffee expert Shawn Steiman PhD. 

The symbol of the “heartbeet” is fitting for FarmLovers Markets, a system that pumps life into our communities by promoting personal, financial and social well-being. Boyar intends to nurture this life force for years to come. [eHI]

Food Security: What Happens When The Boat Stops


MORE THAN ANY YEAR in recent memory, 2018 underscored the need for Hawai‘i’s 1.4 million residents to be better prepared for sudden or prolonged disruptions to imported food.

From record flooding in April to ongoing volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and wildfires over the summer, Hawai‘i’s annus horribilis continued with hurricanes and near misses. Again and again, Hawai‘i has been reminded that while its vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters is not unique, Hawai‘i’s location makes those vulnerabilities more challenging to overcome.

If you live in Hawai‘i, you’re probably familiar with the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency’s preparedness guidelines that recommend stocking at least two weeks’ worth of non-perishable food, water, and other critical supplies. It wasn’t always like this.


Prior to Western contact in 1778, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) built a culture anchored in self-sufficiency. That conservation ethic of being prepared for scarcity is reflected in the Hawaiian proverb, E ‘ai i kekahi, e kāpī i kekahi (eat some, salt some).

Even if Hawai‘i can’t return to that degree of self-sufficiency, few would question the need to achieve greater food autonomy. It may be instructive to look back to the recent past, using the sugar plantation-era as a model of preparedness.

Alberta de Jetley, publisher of the Lanai Times newspaper has lived her whole life on Moloka‘i, Maui, and Lāna‘i. She remembers when people lived closer to the earth and grew more of their own food. Today, however, she says that’s just not a realistic proposition with limited land available for farming on Lāna‘i.

De Jetley believes that in the event of a major food crisis, community-organized kitchens, combined with hunting and fishing, would keep people fed, at least temporarily. But de Jetley ran her own 18-acre farm for a dozen years, and she thinks very few of Lāna‘i’s 3,400-plus residents are in a position to grown their own food, heavily reliant as they are on weekly barge deliveries.

Lāna‘i is almost wholly owned by tech billionaire Larry Ellison who is building Sensei Farms, equipped with hydroponic greenhouse facilities reportedly costing $15 million. Considering Lāna‘i’s high cost of living, the farm could offer local residents some relief.

Not far from Ellison’s operation, David Embrey owns Kumu Ola Farms, a two-acre organic aquaponic vegetable farm- one of just four farms operating on Lāna‘i. When the weekly barge that serves the island was halted last summer due to passing hurricanes, Embrey was able to help feed the island’s people. When facing emergency food shortages, he suggests focusing on a handful of crops.

“There are certain vegetables that I have on my farm, that if a hurricane came here, wiped out the whole [thing], we won’t get a barge for two months. We can survive just off my little farm. I can probably feed three thousand people.”

If someone wanted to grow just a few highly versatile, nutrition-packed crops that could feed a family during a food shortage, Embrey recommends the kalamungay (Moringa oleifera) tree, ong choy (water spinach), sweet potato, taro and cabbage. All of these vegetables can be prepared as soups and stews which is the key to feeding people, Embrey says. “Any time you have a disaster, you’re looking at soups.”


In the event of a crisis, it’s not just local residents who would face empty shelves. Hawai‘i’s tourism numbers have risen sharply from 7 million arrivals in 2010 to over 9 million in 2017, with more than 10 million expected in 2019.

With over 80,000 hotel, timeshare and other tourist-targeted units across Hawai‘i, the question arises: What responsibility do lodging providers have to feed their guests in times of crisis and food shortage?

Both the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association were contacted for this story, but neither responded to requests for comment.


When Hurricane ‘Iniki struck Kaua‘i on September 11, 1992, JoAnn Yukimura was mayor. She recalls that in the early 1990s, many on Kaua‘i were already used to “living in the woods” and were a bit more self-reliant than people in urban communities. After ‘Iniki, Yukimura remembers neighbors coming together, sharing and helping each other.

In the quarter of a century since ‘Iniki, Hawai‘i’s population has only swelled, resulting in greater reliance on imported food. With only a 7–14 day supply of imported food, what will people do when the barges stop and the shelves go bare?

One person who has given this scenario careful consideration is planning consultant Juan Wilson of Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i. Living off the grid since 2014, Wilson draws water from four sources: a ditch that feeds his taro fields, rooftop-collected rainwater, a 500 gallon well-fed tank, and county water. “I never think about buying bottled water,” Wilson says, “It would never even occur to me.”

On just three-quarters of an acre, Wilson and his wife Linda grow kalo (taro), cassava, and ‘ulu (breadfruit), all of which produce nutritious starchy food that can be stored frozen. They also grow their own citrus, papaya, pineapple, avocados and bananas.

Together with chickens for eggs and bees for honey, macadamia nuts, and cacao, Wilson reckons he’s prepared for almost anything. So are his neighbors who hunt, fish, and grow food. Wilson explains, “…the local people in my valley are related to each other and pull together to get things done. They generally don’t look to the government for advice or help.”

But Wilson argues that preparedness is more than just having a pantry full of Spam or growing your own vegetables. He thinks it’s time to re-examine how Hawai‘i’s land is zoned.

“One big problem in the expanding, small-plot suburbia of Kaua‘i is you must have a car and be in debt,” Wilson says. “You aren’t permitted to do the things needed to have your own food, water, energy, and a livelihood.”


Wilson admits that being well-prepared comes at a cost—both financially and in the time required to plan and build home infrastructure and maintain crops. It took him about a decade to reach the point where he has created a softer landing in case of a sudden catastrophe or crisis. If that sounds alarmist, think back to the morning of January 13, 2018 when cell phones across Hawai‘i lit up with the message:



False alarms notwithstanding, in a crisis or perceived crisis, well-stocked stores can be stripped bare, gas stations pumped dry and a jungle order can descend quickly. Mayhem is not limited to post-Katrina New Orleans or economic collapse in Caracas, Venezuela.


Megan Fox, executive director of Mālama Kaua‘i, a nonprofit that advocates for a more sustainable island, says it’s useful to create your own local resources to reduce reliance on imported food. “As we start seeing more frequent weather and transportation disruptions, more people are starting to pay attention,” she says.

Fox adds that when possible food disruptions are predicted — as in the case of a hurricane — it can be helpful to be in contact with farmers who may be rushing to harvest and sell fresh produce quickly to avoid a loss.

Another Kaua‘i resident, disaster preparedness consultant Bart Abbott, says that while local diversified agriculture can buffer Hawai‘i against imported food shortages, crops like taro can be decimated by a natural disaster, especially if they’re being grown in flood plains.

Abbott urges people to learn how to preserve their own food. Whether canned, dried, pickled, or fermented, he suggests starting with nutritious foods you already eat — things like kimchi or preserved root crops such as taro, sweet potato, and other foods that can be stored for a long time.

A crisis needn’t be apocalyptic to interrupt food imports. Abbot points to climate disruptions and economic malaise as factors that could lead to imported foods becoming unavailable or unaffordable for extended periods. Those in lower income brackets would most likely be the first to feel the pinch. Ironically, they are the people who can least afford to prepare for food shortages.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, nearly 10 percent of Hawai‘i’s population lives below the poverty line, with rates much higher in specific communities. The Hawai‘i Food Bank reports it provides food assistance to one in five island residents.

Abbott suggests a greater emphasis on family and community farms and making more land available for small farmers. If imported food disruptions become common, he imagines it could lead to people reducing their normal 5-day work week to three or four days, allowing them time to tend their own food gardens.

Empty Produce Shelf:
Photography by Denise Laitinen


Denise Laitinen lives in Puna on Hawai‘i Island where she has over a dozen years’ experience volunteering with disaster preparedness groups. Laitinen has seen empty grocery store shelves caused by something as simple as a delay in barges.

“At any given time, any supermarket on the Big Island only has a 20 day supply of food on hand,” Laitinen says. “Add to that the fact that every airport in the state is in a tsunami inundation zone.” Because imported items are largely routed through the port of Honolulu, the whole state is, to a degree, dependent on one port.

Laitinen says that while kama‘aina know how food-insecure Hawai‘i is, newcomers don’t fully appreciate Hawai‘i’s geographic isolation. “That reality doesn’t fully set in until you are actually faced with no power for two weeks,” Laitinen says. “You think that you will respond to a disaster in a certain way, but then when that disaster happens, things may not go the way you had planned.”

She recalls tropical storm Iselle in 2014 when Big Island residents were trapped in their homes, main roads were blocked, and keeping ice frozen became a major concern, not only for food, but medicine as well. Fortunately Hilo had power and although people were eager to help for the first few days, as Laitinen points out, enthusiasm can flag as the weeks drag into months.

Last May, after the Kīlauea volcano began erupting, over 500 people in shelters instantly needed to be fed. In response, affected residents created ‘Pu ‘uhonu o Puna, a hub to help the community. As roads were cut off and stores became empty, some residents were forced to flee their homes to avoid becoming isolated by lava flows. Others, Laitinen says, were already growing and raising their own food and had no reason to escape.

So if you have food trees, crops, a few goats or chickens and a reliable water source, will you be ok? What about the rest of the state? Juan Wilson in Hanapēpē says even people living in urban and suburban communities can take steps to cushion the blow of a major food disruption.

First, he urges people to collect as much energy and water from their roof as possible. Invest in a Berkey or similar filtration system, at least to get you through a few weeks without county water. Next, grow food in raised beds in your yard or even some potted leafy greens in an edible lanai garden. Even better, connect with a community garden. Wilson also urges people to live in a community where they aren’t dependent on cars to get around.

Wilson suggests people “energy up” as much as their property and finances will allow, even if it is minimal. You don’t need a mega-expensive system to improve your ability to weather an extended power outage. Even a $125 wet cell battery, $100 panel, $75 inverter and a couple of light bulbs will improve your ability to weather a disruption. Start small and build up as you see fit. “It’s a huge difference if you have lights or don’t,” he says, in case things really hit the fan.

Empty supermarket shelves, Wilson believes, could lead to serious unrest, possibly riots. Being prepared, he says, is finding ways to be independent of those things that, if they come down, will be life threatening.

“You’ll have what happens the day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday,” Wilson says. “That’s the problem — that is the future.” [eHI]

River: Wailuku River Photography by Hokuao Pellegrino August 2018



WHAT IS A GROCERY STORE? How does it differ from a market? How have supermarkets evolved over the decades in Hawaii? And how will people get groceries in times of disaster?

Look up market in the dictionary and you’ll find, “a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock, and other commodities.” Grocery store is defined in more simplistic terms as, “a grocer’s store or business.”

Hawaii residents, like people throughout the country, tend not to spend a lot of time thinking about their local grocery store. They wonder what’s on sale, what food staple they need to pick up on their way home from work, and what they need in order to prepare family meals for the week.

Depending on where you live in Hawaii, your definition of a grocery store can have vastly different iterations ranging from a large Costco style store with a cornucopia of produce to a locally owned shop.

Ask people about supermarkets and the names of several large national chains are usually the first to be mentioned. Yet it has been the local family-owned stores, often times started by immigrants to Hawaii, that have supplied island families with food for generations. These small stores, woven into the fabric of island communities, supported local sports teams, civic clubs, and other organizations. The past year has seen the closing or sale of several of these stores, some nearly 100 years old.


Hawaii’s earliest grocery stores were general stores, carrying a little bit of everything. Take, for instance, Oshima’s on the Big Island. Founded by Kanesaburo Oshima who immigrated to Hawaii in 1907, Oshima’s opened its doors in 1926 on Mamalahoa Highway in Kainaliu, the heart of the Big Island’s coffee belt. The market was known for its diverse array of groceries from freshly caught fish to beer, plus a little of everything else, including a pharmacy. Oshima’s so epitomized the feel of old Hawaii that when Disney’s Aulani Resort on Oahu built a historic general store on the premises, they modeled it after Oshima’s. The store was owned and operated by the Oshima family until it closed in 2018 after 92 years in business.

Nearby in Holualoa, the Keauhou General Store also closed in 2018, after serving the community for 99 years. For decades the store sold everything from bread to bicycles, providing groceries and sundries to the families that worked on nearby coffee plantations. In more recent years, it had charmed legions of visitors, while still providing necessities for local residents.

In April 2018, Ishihara Market, a Kauai favorite in Waimea known for its fresh poke, announced it was being sold to Kalama Beach Company, part of the Sullivan Family of Companies, which also owns the Foodland chain of supermarkets. That store will remain open and retain its original name.

The recent spate of grocery store closings/sales caps nearly two decades of grocery store consolidation in the industry in Hawaii.

The past 20 years have seen some chains close, be sold, and merge. Founded in 1926 on Kauai by two brothers, Saburo and Furutaro Kawakami and their wives, Big Save Markets went on to become one of the largest and oldest retailers on that island with six locations. In 2011, Times Supermarkets bought Big Save with five of the original Big Save stores still in operation today.

Times Supermarket has also gone through its share of changes. One of the largest supermarket chains in the state, it too was founded by two brothers, Albert and Wallace Teruya, whose parents immigrated to Hawaii from Okinawa. Launched in 1949 with a single store on Oahu, Times Supermarkets has grown to 17 Times supermarkets on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, the five Big Save Stores on Kauai, plus Shima’s Supermarket and Fujioka’s Wine Times, both on Oahu. In 2002 the locally owned Times chain was bought by PAQ Inc., a California-based firm.

Maui has also seen its share of local, family-owned grocery stores fall by the wayside in the past 15-20 years. In 2005, Ooka’s, Maui’s last big locally owned grocery store closed its doors in downtown Wailuku after 64 years, leaving the community without a grocery store until Safeway built a store nearby. That same year, Ah Fook’s Supermarket, a Kahului landmark since 1917, burned to the ground. Other family run grocery stores like Azeka Market in Kihei and Nagasako Supermarket in Lahaina preceded their closings.

While many of Hawaii’s mom and pop style grocery stores are now gone, replaced by larger chains, such as Safeway, Costco, and Whole Foods, there are still many independent grocery stores and multi-generational supermarket stores that continue to flourish.

Indeed, natural food stores, such as Down to Earth, which operates five stores on Oahu and one on Maui, Mana Foods in Paia, Maui, and Papaya’s Natural Foods in Kapa’a, Kauai have been operating for decades. In fact, Down to Earth, which started as a small store front in Wailuku in 1977, recently opened a new location in Kaka‘ako on Oahu, is expanding their Pearlridge location, and plans to move their Kailua store to a larger space, occupying the former Macy’s building in that community.

Locally owned supermarket chains also continue to hold their own. Foodland is the largest locally owned supermarket chain with more than 30 supermarkets on four islands, plus a chain of smaller stores called Malama Market, with three locations on the Big Island in Pahoa, Ocean View, and Honoka‘a and two markets on Oahu, in Haleiwa and Kapolei. Foodland, which was founded in 1948 by Maurice Sullivan, an Irish immigrant stationed on Oahu during World War II, and Malama Market are independently managed and operated but are part of the Sullivan Family of Companies that encompasses 150 businesses across 11 states.

Perhaps the oldest family-run supermarket chain in the state is KTA Super Stores on the Big Island. Founded in 1916 in Hilo by husband and wife Koichi & Taniyo Taniguchi, the original 500-square-foot store has grown to seven supermarkets across the island.

Ask independent grocery store owners the secret of their longevity and they point to their community involvement.

“I think the organization has always had a deep connection to the community,” says KTA President and Chief Operating Officer Toby Taniguchi, great-grandson of founders Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi. The Japanese have a saying, “okage sama de” meaning, “we are what we are because of you.

“It’s because of our community, our business partners, and our store associates that we are able to exist. We’re very grateful and humbled to be afforded the opportunity to serve the community and we’ve never taken that for granted.”

“My great grandfather, grandfather, and my dad all felt that the store has an obligation to participate in and support the communities that we reside in. The communities are what support the stores and therefore the stores must support the communities.”

Russell Ruderman, owner of Island Naturals, a chain of three health food stores on the Big Island in Hilo, Kona, and Pahoa, says it is only natural for

locally owned stores to have a deeper commitment to the community.

“I think any locally owned business is going to stick it out because it’s easy for a chain to close a store, whereas if you are locally owned it’s all we have,” explains Russell. “Secondly, our ties to the community are much deeper than a mainland chain.”

Friendly Market Center, Molokai, Maui County. October 2018

Laura Orr, owner of Harvest Market in Hanalei, Kauai, echoes the sentiments of Russell and Toby, referring to Harvest Market is an “old school natural food store” where close to half their produce is grown on Kauai. “We’re community oriented and focused on customer service. We’re not like Foodland or other large supermarkets and I like to keep it that way.”

At the other end of the state on the Big Island, “about 60% of our produce is locally grown,” adds Russell. “In our kitchens we are using a lot of produce that is all local and 20 percent of peripheral items, like eggs and juices, are local.”

At KTA in Hilo, Toby says roughly 50 percent of the entire produce department is locally grown, with that number climbing to 98 percent when it comes to leafy greens and 20 percent of the their fruits and vegetables locally sourced.

In an effort to support local farmers and food producers, KTA launched its own line of food products, called Mountain Apple Brand®, in 1992. Today, the brand includes more than 200 products from 50 vendors all grown, processed, or manufactured on the Big Island.

With the growing popularity of farm to table cooking and organic foods, it’s encouraging to see so many local food markets committed to selling a large percentage of locally grown food.

And yet, as the world’s most remote island chain, these stores play a critical role in Hawaii’s food security when it comes to natural disasters.

“There’s no large warehousing of food in the islands that I’m aware of that would last more than two weeks,” says Russell. He should know. In addition to being the owner of Island Naturals, Russell is also the State Senator for District 2 on the Big Island, representing the district of Puna and the town of Pahala in Ka’u, an area encompassing roughly 500 square miles (as a point of comparison, the entire island of Oahu is 597 square miles.)

Island Naturals, Hilo, Hawaii Island


Hawaii saw its fair share of disasters in 2018 with historic floods impacting Kauai and Oahu and the Kilauea lava eruption on the Big Island destroying 700 homes, covering major roadways and inundating entire subdivisions. Locally owned grocery stores became a lifeline in hard-hit rural communities providing fresh produce and a smile to customers even as their own staff were being impacted by disaster.

“We stayed open for the sake of our employees and our community,” says Russell.

When a lava flow threatened Pahoa in 2014 forcing other markets to close, Island Naturals stayed open. “Back then we made arrangements to bring in generators. We also got assurances from HELCO and our suppliers that we could maintain power if lava crossed Highway 130 and our suppliers told us they would continue delivering. When we got those assurances we made the commitment to stay open.”

Misakai’s Grocery, Molokai, Maui County. October 2018

It was a tougher challenge in 2018. At least six employees at the Pahoa natural food store lost their homes to lava and 15 employees had to evacuate their homes and relocate. Numerous daily earthquakes occurred for months forcing Pahoa Island Naturals staff to place masking tape across the front of shelves holding glass bottles to prevent them from falling on the ground.

There were days when the air quality in Pahoa was so bad from toxic, volcanic gases being emitted in nearby Leilani Estates that the store had to close and send employees home. Even mail service was cancelled on some occasions due to the poor air quality.

“The stress was palatable. You could see it on people’s faces,” notes Russell. “Our business was down 40-50 percent with the 2018 lava threat but we never considered closing.” Despite the downturn in business, Island Naturals worked with its vendors and donated food and beverages to organizations such as Pu‘uhonou o Puna, Sacred Heart Church, and World Central Kitchen. “We were able to weather the storm and our commitment to our communities is very strong.”

Laura says it was Harvest Market’s commitment to community that helped them deal with the historic floods that devastated the region last April.

“The floods were devastating for everybody,” says Laura. “It was unbelievable. I had three to four employees that were stranded in Haena.”

She notes that while the store did have to close for a couple days they did not have problems with deliveries coming into Hanalei. That enabled them to make sandwiches and snacks for all the volunteers that were helping to take food out to residents stranded in Haena. They went above and beyond during the flooding to serve the community and are still recovering months later.

Given the state’s geographic isolation and reliance on food being imported into Hawaii, it’s a good thing that many of Hawaii’s grocery stores are committed to serving their communities. Because in Hawaii, it’s a matter of when, not if, disaster will strike. [eHI]

Kai Store, Hilo, Hawaii Island



MASTERS IN THE ART OF SURVIVAL, coconut trees have been around for millions of years, surviving— even thriving—in harsh conditions and natural disasters brought on by an ever-unpredictable Mother Nature. In fact, this tree arms us with tools we need for survival, too.

Coconut trees are nature’s jack-of-all-trades and a completely renewable resource. In one fell swoop, they can provide a family or community with potable water, a caloric food source, rope and shelter supplies, charcoal for cooking, and topical and internal medicines.


The Hawaiian term for coconut, kumu nui directly translates to “great source.” Every anatomical part of the tree holds incredible value, from the trunk down to the coconut itself. Coconut trees can live for the better part of a century, and they’re always in season. The tree is constantly producing fruit, or drupes, that can be harvested at different points in their lifecycle for specific uses.

At six months, pop one open and sip on the refreshing, electrolyte-filled water. Wait a few more moon cycles, and you’ll have a mature coconut that’s ready to eat. There are several layers to a fully mature coconut: an outer skin, a husk, a hard inner shell, and the edible inside. Fresh copra (coconut meat) packs a big vitamin-and-mineral punch, and can be made into dairy-free milk or cream. A current craze in both cooking and beauty care, coconut oil is also made from processed copra.

After about 14 months, coconuts will naturally drop from the tree and, if future generations are lucky, will take root. According to ancient proverb, ”He who plants a coconut tree, plants vessels and clothing, food and drink, a habitation for himself, and a heritage for his children.” Lovingly known around the world as ‘the tree of life,’ ‘the tree of a thousand uses,’ and ‘the most sustainable plant on earth,’ the coconut tree graces us with its gifts, all the while defying nature.


Many farmers and landowners hand-plant coconut in various types of soils, but nature has a way of spreading the seeds, too. When a mature coconut drops, it may be swept out to sea and washed ashore on a near or distant shoreline. It can remain buoyant for up to 120 days, protected by coir until it’s ready to germinate on land.

Handy and versatile, coir is the stringy husk between the outer skin and hard inner shell. Once primarily used for ropes and kindling, it’s now a large commercial industry. From scrub brushes to your welcome mat, coir is cultivated for a range of products. It’s also a common gardening supplement, as its nutrient dense, fibrous quality aerates the soil and helps seeds to grow. This is exactly what nature intended it to do—it was designed to house the inner part of the coconut, protecting it from intruders and salt water while granting it safe passage on its journey.

Once sprouted, a baby coconut palm will grow rapidly and can begin fruiting within six years. Reaching great heights and producing dozens of coconuts year round, coconut trees have the ability to thrive in environments that are inhospitable to others: rocky shores and sandy beaches. These grounds force a shallow, yet thick, root system unique to this genus of tree, and act as an anchor in the (likely) event of a storm.


We’ve all seen the newsreel: gusts of winds, torrential rain, debris swirling through the air. And a shoreline dotted with palms that bend to the elements—but rarely seem to break. Coconut trees are found in tropical regions close to the Equator—which, in the Atlantic, is known as the hurricane belt. From solid root systems to nimble trunks, they’ve evolved for millions of years to take these storms in stride.

Technically speaking, coconut trees are trees—but they have more in common with certain types of grass. The supple trunk, or stem, is an intricate network of strong, sponge-like fibers, which gives it tons of flexibility. Standing at 50-80 feet tall, the palm stem can bend 40-50 degrees without snapping. When milled for lumber, the sheer strength and malleability of these fibers make them well-suited for shelter, furniture, and canoes. Gusty winds and heavy downpours are no match for palm fronds, either. Engineered for such inclement weather, the tough leaves have a central spine, allowing the fronds to fold in half so water pours right off. Their durability and resistance to water makes them ideal for thatched roofs, too, which provide welcome respite from rain.

TIP: If you’re hunkering down for a hurricane, grab a rack of coconuts for emergency food and water; they can be stored in a cool, dry place for weeks at a time, depending on maturity.


In addition to adapting to sandy soils and rough tropical storms, coconuts can take some heat. While the tree is easily set ablaze (think nature’s tiki torch), coconuts may actually withstand wildfires, thanks to the hardy inner shell.

Used in home kitchens for thousands of years, the husk and shell can be burned for kindling and charcoal, respectively. That activated charcoal supplement in your medicine cabinet? It’s likely made from coconut shells. Activated charcoal is made by adding oxygen to charcoal, and is known for its ability to bind to various poisons, heavy metals, and toxins and flush them from the body.


Natural disasters are increasing at unprecedented rates, causing ecosystems to shift and resources to dwindle. Renewable, sustainable resources like the coconut tree are important to note in the current climate. The more we understand about the resilience and sustainability of what’s in front of us today, the more we begin to understand its value for the future.

Want to see them in action? Book a tour at Punakea Palms on Maui. You’ll leave with a first-hand appreciation of the coconut tree in all its glory—and a quart of freshly made coconut milk in hand. Tours operate rain or shine. [eHI]



We invite a community member to Talk Story and share a personal experience related to our issue theme.

Growing up, we had a thing at my mom’s house called, “Fend for Yourself Night.” It always came unexpectedly and way too close to dinner time. Amidst all the fast food, candy, and processed junk we ate, we were lucky enough to have dinners cooked from scratch on the regular – except on Fend for Yourself Night, when all bets were off. I loved cooking and relished the challenge to use the latest techniques I had learned from watching Great Chefs of the World or Yan Can Cook. This usually manifested itself as me putting on a chef’s hat and splashing balsamic vinegar and random herbs onto mac ’n cheese. It was a start, but no where close to what I eventually came to understand as Fending for Yourself.

The importance of this concept became apparent recently, just before Hurricane Lane was expected to hit, when I opened my pantry to take inventory. Although I’ve been called a fatalist, I tend to under-prepare for potential natural disasters, perhaps as a subconscious objectification of real threat. I want to believe we will all be okay, that the mainland will bail us out, or we will all get by and get back into our college beach bods just in time for the ice cream aisle to be restocked. This is called denial.

What I know is there are simply too many people, too much imported food and too much reliance on infrastructure, technology, and fuel for all of us to be okay if we do experience the worst of the worst. I contemplated this reality during Hurricane Lane while staring at my chest freezer full of food, and wondering why I had sold my generator last year; it could have kept my potential, new best friend alive through catastrophe. My concerns were muted the following day when not a single drop of rain fell at my house, however the impacts of the threat lingered. Shelves had gone empty almost instantly and the docks remained closed for days. What would have happened if serious damage to our main ports had occurred?

This is really just one scenario of many that has the potential to affect our food supply. Climate change is predicted to completely alter suitable farming zones and leave our agricultural industry vulnerable to food shortages. Drought could prevent anything from growing, and our lack of attention to protecting healthy top soil is a recipe for disaster in and of itself. But regardless of the doomsday models, I have to believe in us. Believe that supporting our local agriculture will increase our food security, believe that our islands have the ability to feed us if we just encourage them too, and believe that big changes are happening to support the people that harvest our local food. That being said, I’m prepared to fend for myself.

I started this preparation after discovering that my post college job didn’t support my KCC farmer’s market weekly budget, so I began a journey to produce my own food. I started with a garden, added an aquaculture system, learned to forage on hikes, and started my search for fishing and hunting mentors. This was an exhausting process that I relentlessly pursued and often failed at. Along the way I picked up skills here and there, and made friendships with amazing people that showed me how possible it really was to fend for yourself.

I suppose not everyone wants to know their food source as intimately as I do, but in the event of a catastrophe you may wish you’d known how to use a three-prong to spear a fish, known how to fillet that fish, and known how to build a fire to cook it on. You may want to own a weapon and learn to hunt one of the invasive species (like axis deer or wild boar) that over-populate many of our islands. You may want to know how to dress and cure that meat. You may even want to get a pressure canner and learn how to preserve food for up to a year. You may want to do this in the event of a catastrophe or you may want to do this just to truly value your food and connect with your local food sources. You could even just grow some sprouts for a start, definitely the least green-thumb-necessary gardening you could choose (I somehow still failed at this in my first attempt).

Local Fisherman, Noah Joseph Katz searches the shoreline for bait fish.

If tasking yourself with all of that doesn’t seem likely, you will be happy to know that there are people doing these things for you, and you can support them so that they grow and have the ability to produce more food. These are the ranchers, the farmers, the fishermen, the hunters, and the people producing food that isn’t reliant on imports, fossil fuels, feed, or chemicals. One thing we all know about Hawaii is that community is strong here in the islands. When people are in need we will come together to support each other and share what we have. If we continue to increase our personal self-sufficiency and challenge ourselves to go above and beyond the supermarket model, we can get there. Volunteer at a farm, grow a garden, learn to hunt, go dive, make friends with a fisherman, and support your local food providers. Let the threat inspire you. [eHI]

JESSICA ROHR is the owner of Forage Hawaii, a local meat purveyor, O’ahu-based. She grew up on O’ahu and Colorado. Jessica is an avid fisherman and slow-food lover with an endless curiosity about everything food related. 



“I’m very, very particular about what cup I use to drink my coffee,” laughs Melissa Newirth. She doesn’t take herself seriously, though her immaculate kitchen shelves reflect a devotion to aesthetics. Each cup, vase, and bowl has the authority of a work of art. “I love Japanese pottery,” she says, “because it’s so light and the rims are so thin.” She holds up a porcelain mug by Yumiko Iihosi. Feather-light, it’s the color of midday clouds, with a handle as plain as a wedding band. “The handle has to feel good on my finger and the rim on my lips,” she says. “That’s what I look for.”

Newirth looks for and finds exceptional ceramics, textiles, and housewares from around the world for her online shop, Cloth and Goods. Her taste hews to Japanese, Scandinavian, and mid-century minimalism. In particular, she seeks out artisans who use ancient techniques to create modern, useful objects. “So you have both beauty and quality,” she says. Her selection of bizenware exemplifies this. For nearly 1,000 years potters in Bizen, Japan, have fired reddish-copper clay in kilns, producing unglazed vessels famous for their water resistance and resilience. These rustic artifacts are precious; Newirth sells sets of Bizen cups and pitchers for upwards of $300. Her website offers equally exquisite indigo pillows and throws.

Originally from New York, Newirth migrated west through Santa Cruz and Portland to land on Maui. She and her daughter bought two acres in Hā‘iku and built a cottage (for mom), a house (for daughter), and a barn (for the whole family). The barn serves as headquarters for Cloth and Goods and a gathering place for friends, community events, and pop-up shops. Reminiscent of a Nordic farmhouse, it’s tall and narrow with a dark grey exterior and sliding wood doors. The clean, stark lines make a statement while embracing the surrounding mountains and ocean. “If it wasn’t going to be architecturally interesting, I didn’t want to do it,” says Newirth, who also works as an interior designer.

Her own interior spaces are spare, white, and sensual. Her commitment to simplicity manifests in every corner of the property—from the tufts of bunchgrass along the driveway to the open cabinetry stocked with ceramics. While she loves a cup with a delicate handle, it really depends on her mood. She picks another favorite from the shelf—a small, vaselike tumbler—and cradles it in both hands. “Sometimes,” she says, “I want to hold my coffee like this.”

What’s New in Coffee Across Hawai‘i


Twenty years ago, the only word associated with Hawai‘i’s coffee industry was “Kona.” For the better part of the 20th century, Kona was the only region in Hawai‘i growing significant amounts of coffee; even though a few other regions were producing coffee again by the 1990s, Kona was all anyone thought about. Today, not only do people know about the other nine growing regions across five islands within the state, but the industry is doing innovative and fun things. Hawai‘i is once again on the cutting edge of the global coffee industry!

The innovation is happening not just on farms, but at every stage of the production chain. This article will explore a few of the ways Hawai‘i is keeping pace with the rest of the modern coffee world, and even doing things few other places are. It will look at how Hawai‘i farmers are striving for unique flavors and maximizing efficiency in their farming practices. It will touch on Hawai‘i’s coffee house scene, barista culture, and the myriad competitions and educational opportunities taking place in the island chain. Finally, it will explore products made from coffee and coffee material, going beyond the traditional black brew.


Hawai‘i coffee farming has been at the forefront of efficiency and technological advancement since the 1960s, when agricultural scientists at the University of Hawai‘i were busy conducting groundbreaking research and passing it on to farmers both local and abroad. When plans were being made to plant large, mechanically harvested farms across the state, the university paired with those nascent farm operations to conduct the research that would facilitate those plans, while the Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center began developing its own coffee expertise and research agenda.

By the 1990s, not only were those large farms in production, but some small farms in Kona began the transition to estate farms. These new estates focused on selling roasted coffee directly to customers rather than selling the coffee fruit to a processing middleman. The maturation of the Internet also played a significant role, allowing farmers to learn more about the coffee industry and connect directly with consumers.

All the while, the specialty coffee industry was growing; by the early 2000s, it was a significant and important segment of the global coffee industry. Specialty coffee, while tricky to pin down, has become defined by its attention to quality and the meaningful relationships that develop along the coffee production chain.

As all of the different pieces came together, Hawai‘i residents began to recognize the new business opportunities related to specialty coffee, and started seeking out more complex and interesting coffees to work with. There was, however, a major hurdle they needed to clear: creating products and doing business in Hawai‘i is expensive, so locally made products came with a high price tag for the consumer. The only way to survive was to innovate – increase efficiency, create high-quality, diversified product lines, and get consumers excited.


For coffee farmers, competing on the world stage means producing a bean that, when well roasted and brewed, results in an inherently complex cup of coffee. In other words, the coffee shouldn’t taste simply like coffee, but it should have additional flavor experiences. These flavors can be reminiscent of all sorts of things: flowers, fruits, herbs, caramel, honey, spices… Essentially, these are coffees that deliver more than mere caffeine, and are interesting enough to be worth thinking about. These are the coffees Hawai‘i farmers are aiming for.

There are certain hard-to-control, environmental factors – like climate – that influence a coffee’s flavor. While farmers can’t do much about these, they do have power over some other factors, such as choosing to plant varieties that have the potential to generate complexity.

All farms in Hawai‘i grow the species Coffea arabica. Most farms are planted with a variety called ‘Typica.’ It can produce extraordinary cups, but it has limitations. This has led some farmers to try planting varieties more common in other parts of the world in hopes of discovering fun, new flavors. Some of these varieties are ‘Bourbon,’ ‘SL28,’ ‘Margogype,’ and the famous ‘Geisha.’

One of the most important research projects that came out of the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center was a breeding program to produce high quality varieties unique to Hawai‘i. Some of those varieties are now being grown and have been very well received. Two varieties of note are ‘Pohihiu,’ grown at Waialua Estate Coffee and Cacao on O‘ahu, and ‘Mamo,’ grown at Greenwell Farms in Kona.

Variety selection isn’t the only tool a farmer has to produce quality coffee. Fine-tuning cultural practices can also lead to healthier plants, which often produce better tasting coffee. Kauai Coffee Company in Kalaheo, the largest coffee farm in Hawai‘ i, is implementing modern technology to do just this, while increasing the efficiency of their operation. They’ve installed water sensors in the soil throughout the farm that wirelessly transmit data for quick feedback on water availability for the crop. They use drones with infrared cameras to help measure crop health, and they’ve installed cameras on their mechanical harvesters to give instant feedback to the operators, enabling them to make immediate changes to optimize the harvest.

A third area where Hawai‘i farmers are delving into new territory is in cherry processing. The coffee we brew is the seed of a fruit. To get to that seed and prepare it for roasting, the coffee fruit, or cherries, must first be processed. How that occurs will influence the final flavor of the coffee.

Kona View Coffee in Holualoa has been experimenting with the pulp dried method (a.k.a. honey process). While most farmers dry their coffee on patios, they’ve built a shed that allows them to manipulate the drying conditions, thereby allowing them to create a red honey coffee – a coffee that is sweeter and has a defined acidity relative to other processing methods.

In the parchment dried method (a.k.a. washed process), a handful of farmers across the state are spiking the fermentation tank with known yeast strains, rather than letting ambient populations control the process. This practice is a very active area of scientific research around the world but only a relatively small number of farmers in other countries are experimenting with it. This purposeful addition of yeast strains tends to contribute a slight, often positive flavor enhancement.


The industry’s modernity goes beyond developments on the farm. Hawai‘i’s coffee houses, once purveyors of caffeine and third spaces (after home and work), now celebrate the ideals of specialty coffee: celebrating a coffee’s origin and brewing it meticulously. While no census of Hawai‘i’s coffee houses has ever existed, anecdotally it seems like there are a lot more coffee houses in Hawai‘i than there were ten years ago. As an example, look at Honolulu’s Salt at Kaka‘ako, it contains five different coffee houses within a single city block development!

These establishments employ people who have chosen coffee as a career path. They brew coffee using novel, though often simplistic, methods. In many coffee houses, a customer can order a cup of coffee brewed just for them. Typically, the coffee is sourced from specific farms around the world (including Hawai‘ i) and customers are provided with details about the coffee, such as what varieties it may contain and the elevation at which it was grown. These new coffee houses are highlighting the origin and taste of coffee, a relatively new concept in the global coffee industry.

Perhaps the most novel territory is the opportunity for a vertically integrated, farm-to-cup operation. An example of this is Kona Coffee & Tea, a 20-year-old farming operation in Kona that, 15 years ago, opened its own coffee house to share the coffee the company grows, processes, and roasts. Since opening, they’ve transitioned from just brewing and selling their own coffee to being actively involved in the global specialty coffee community.


A hallmark of an advanced and mature coffee industry is the presence of competitions that celebrate coffee production and the skills of coffee industry workers. Hawai‘i has both!

The annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and the Hawai‘i Coffee Association have been hosting cupping competitions to discover the extraordinary coffees grown in Hawai‘i. Within the past decade, both organizations have been following competition systems that are used and recognized throughout the international specialty coffee community. The Festival has even experimented with a novel, locally developed competition system.

Barista competitions seem to now be regular events in Hawai‘i. This past July, Hawai‘i had its second Aeropress Competition, and in August, its first U.S. Brewers Cup competition. Both are preliminary rounds that send a winner to the national competitions.


Without knowledge, no one grows or advances. The local coffee industry has long understood this, and workshops and seminars have occurred sporadically throughout time, mostly for farmers. Now, however, coffee education is available across the state for everyone from farmers to consumers.

There are several companies that offer an array of workshops, seminars, hands-on trainings, farmer consulting, consumer education, or Specialty Coffee Association coffee skills modules. There’s something for everyone, no matter how much coffee experience a person or company already has.

Not all of the education comes from private companies; most farmer or industry associations have educational aims. For example, the Maui Coffee Association, an amalgamation of coffee businesses and enthusiasts on Maui, manages to sneak in education opportunities for farmers and consumers throughout the year. During their monthly meeting, they set aside 20- 30 minutes for a member to teach a new concept or discuss an experiment they’ve recently conducted. The association also brings in experts from around the state, country, and world to share knowledge with members. Most notable, perhaps, is their annual Seed To Cup Coffee Festival, which provides coffee fun for attendees alongside a host of learning opportunities.


Roasting and brewing coffee beans will always be the most common way of interacting with the coffee plant, but some companies in Hawai‘i have recognized that there are other useful parts of the plant, and even roasted coffee can be destined for more than warming a mug.

The fruit that surrounds the coffee seed is edible. While it isn’t the tastiest of fruits, when it is dried down, it can be brewed as a tea (one of the first ways the coffee plant was consumed, in fact). Locally, a handful of companies offer it to consumers, often under the traditional name for it, cascara. Hala Tree, a farm in Kona, sells pure cascara, while Haleiwa Plantation on O‘ahu’s North Shore blends it with other plants to create flavorful, complex tisanes.

Other companies make use of the coffee cherries but not for direct brewing. Kona Red and Hawai‘i Coffee Company use extracts of the anti-oxidant rich cherries to add to their beverages or roasted coffee products, thus capturing the superfood potential of coffee.

With the help of bees, Hala Tree uses a unique part of the plant – flower nectar – to create another unusual coffee-related product: honey. While they can’t guarantee all the honey is made from coffee nectar, most of it probably is. The honey doesn’t taste like coffee, but it does taste different from other honey made on the farm.

Roasted coffee has long been a common additive to chocolate bars. However, a small coffee farm in Puna, Big Island Coffee Roasters, has inverted that paradigm and reinvented the “chocolate” bar. They produce a coffee bar, made similarly to a chocolate bar, but with coffee instead of chocolate.

Hawai‘i has a rare and special coffee industry, as it both produces and consumes coffee. This affords it the opportunity to make connections and innovations in different places all across the industry. Pay attention to what is going on with Hawai‘i coffee; you may not find it happening anywhere else in the world.

Shawn Steiman, Ph.D, is a coffee scientist, consultant, and entrepreneur. His coffee research has included coffee production, entomology, ecology, physiology, biochemistry, organoleptic quality, and brewing. He owns Coffea Consulting and co-owns Daylight Mind Coffee Company. Steiman regularly presents seminars, workshops, and tastings at public and private events. He has authored numerous articles in scientific journals, trade magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. He is the author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book, The Little Coffee Know-It-All, and co-editor and author of Coffee- A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry.

CockTale – A Cocktail Etymology


Stories abound on how the cocktail got its name, but not a single one involves a rooster’s derrière.

If you’ve ever wrapped your lips around a Mojito, an Old Fashioned or a Cosmopolitan, then you know the joy of the cocktail—a concert of flavors blended together to tickle the taste buds and warm the belly. The terms “mixed drink” and “cocktail” are used interchangeably, but die-hard drinkophiles know the difference. Discern the true definition of a cocktail and you’ll have a clever little conversation starter in your pocket, and if you really want to impress your friends, enlighten them with a few theories on how this palate-pleasing invention got such a curious name.

While the phrase “mixed drink” refers simply to a libation involving alcohol stirred or shaken with one or more ingredients, the cocktail boasts a more specific definition. To be a bona fide cocktail, a beverage must combine at least three things—alcohol, a sweet substance and a bitter or citrus additive.


If you’ve got a distilled spirit and a non-alcoholic mixer like soda or fruit juice in your cup, you’re actually sipping on a highball (Gin and Tonic). If the bartender poured you a spirit and a liqueur (sweetened distilled alcohol), you’re downing a “duo” (Black Russian: vodka and Kahlúa). Spirit plus liqueur plus mixer? You’ve just ordered a “trio” (White Russian: vodka, Kahlúa and cream).

Perhaps the word cocktail first cropped up among the tavern proprietors in colonial America. In an effort to economically dispose of the “nasty lastys,” bartenders advertised “cock tailings”—drinks combining the tail end of various liquor barrels in a mash-up that didn’t taste half-bad. The spigots on said barrels were called—you guessed it— “cocks.”

The first print reference using the word as a beverage showed up in the 1803 Vermont publication, The Farmer’s Cabinet, where the act of imbibing a cocktail was said to be “excellent for the head.” Three years later, an official definition appeared in the federalist New York newspaper Balance and Columbian Repository, but with an opposite take on how the concoction impacted a drinker’s state of mind:

Mai Tai

The California Mai Tai? Despite its tropical name, this hero of the Tiki generation was said to have been born by the hand of Victor J. Bergeron, proprietor of the California restaurant chain Trader Vic’s. Bergeron reportedly made it for a few mates who were on holiday from Tahiti in 1944, one of whom offered the Tahitian language compliment Maita’i roa ae!, which means “out of this world!” His recipe had no dark rum float, umbrella or fruit, but today’s version goes something like this:

2 oz dark rum
1 oz light rum
½ oz orange Curacao
½ oz orgeat syrup
¼ oz lime juice
Pineapple wedge
Maraschino cherry
1 decorative mini-umbrella

Shake all ingredients except the dark rum with ice, strain into highball glass and use a spoon to float the dark rum on top.


“A cock-tail, then, is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind—sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.”

An equally convincing cocktail naming anecdote set in the 1800s concerns a Creole apothecary named Antoine Amédée Peychaud, the fellow credited with inventing bitters, an herbal alcoholic potion once touted as a fountain of youth and a cure for malaria. In his French Quarter pharmacy, Peychaud sprinkled his secret bitters formula into a shaker full of bourbon and served it in a French eggcup, or coquetier. Typical Americans butchering the French language, his customers mispronounced it “cock-tay,” which evolved into the “cocktail” we know and love today.

Finally, our favorite alias story comes from spirits historian David Wondrich’s journey down the rabbit hole for his 2007 book, Imbibe. He confidently concludes that the cocktail came to be after the meeting of two ideas: the early English trend of adding a stimulant—often ginger—to liven up alcoholic beverages, and a practice common in the business of horse trade:

“If you had an old horse you were trying to sell, you would put some ginger up its butt, and it would cock its tail up and be frisky. That was known as ‘cock-tail’… It became this morning thing. Something to ‘cock your tail up,’ like an eye-opener.”

And so the silly sounding term was adopted far and wide as a reference to anything that added spirit to a person’s mood, and eventually caught on as the right way to order alcoholic spirits mixed up with the bitters/sugar formula.

The true intention behind the original naming of the cocktail is anyone’s guess. But if you’ve ever sipped a spicy Bloody Mary the morning after a night of spirited drinking, you know why this last version makes perfect sense!

Harvey Wallbanger

Harvey Wallbanger, the Fictional Liquor Salesman. This 1960s gem is as fun to drink as it is to say. Historian David Wondrich credits its inception to a marketing strategy created by McKesson Imports Company to boost sales of Galliano, an Italian liqueur. The campaign included the Harvey Wallbanger mascot, a surfer-type character who helped put a face to the drink.

1 ½ oz (3 parts) vodka
3 oz (6 parts) fresh orange juice
½ oz (1 part) Galliano

Fill tall glass with ice then add orange juice, Vodka and Galliano and stir. Serve with orange slice.


Don’t Mess with a Texas Margarita. Ah the lovely Margarita — so popular, she’s the most widely ordered cocktail worldwide. Some claim the drink originated in Mexico, but legend has it that it was actually head bartender Santos Cruz who first mixed one up in 1948 for legendary sing-er Peggy Lee at the Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. Lee’s nickname was Margaret, hence the adaptation of “Margarita.” Today we enjoy all kinds of creative reimagining with fruit additions, flavored tequilas and various rim spices. (Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita, anyone?)

1 part white tequila
½ part Cointreau
½ part fresh lime juice

Fill shaker with ice, tequilla, Cointreau and fresh lime juice. Wet the rim of the glass with lime and turn upside down in salt to rim the glass. Shake, strain and serve with lime wheel.