Category: Spring 2014

Saving Seeds For Our Future

By Jon Letman

Photos Courtesy Of Regenerations Community Seed Bank
Perhaps you have a few acres in Pāhoa, or maybe just some papaya trees and a couple of small planting beds in your cramped Honolulu backyard. You can still take steps toward more sustainable living by learning how to save your own seeds.

Although some are smaller than dewdrops and lighter than a tuft of grass, seeds are more valuable than gold and more powerful than armies. But in a world beset by global crises, these tiny genetic storehouses—like the plants they become—face an uncertain future.

Today, the world of seeds increasingly revolves around profits and patents in a high-stakes industry where the demands of shareholders take precedence over the needs of cultures and communities. The wealth of crop diversity is also plummeting. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 percent of the world’s crop diversity was lost during the 20th century. Nearly one-quarter of wild potato, peanut and bean relatives may fall victim to climate change by 2055.

Here in Hawai‘i the understanding that we depend on outside sources for food and energy is fueling greater interest in becoming more self-sufficient. Many local farmers and gardeners say that one of the best ways to move closer to the goal of independence is to save seed. They argue that the majority of commercially available seeds developed for the continental U.S. are ill-equipped for the Hawaiian climate, soil conditions and growing assemblage of harmful pests.

Saving your own seed, even as a weekend gardener, also allows you to seek out varieties best suited for where you live. Farmers and gardeners in Kekaha, Kāne‘ohe and Kula have very different needs. Networking and exchanging seeds with like-minded growers in your area, and on other islands, gives you the chance to compare notes and share your own knowledge and experiences—something that doesn’t happen with a seed packet.

Know what you sowKauai Seed Bank

With so many variations in soil conditions and rainfall amounts characterizing the micro-climates of Hawai‘i, it’s important to seek out seeds well-suited to your area. Seed savers say that collecting and storing seeds, when done correctly, can result in better food and the preservation of traditional or obscure crop varieties that might otherwise be lost. But seed saving takes time, commitment and knowledge.

One of the most active, island-wide seed networks is the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative (HPSI), a program of The Kohala Center. Along with HPSI program director Nancy Redfeather, program coordinator Lyn Howe partners with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Services at the University of Hawai‘i to educate future seed savers across the state. These “seed trainers” help spread knowledge even further. Howe says it’s essential to select and grow the right seeds in order to preserve maximum viability and perpetuate good genetic material suitable for Hawai‘i.

“One of the best ways to store seeds,” she says, “is to grow them out repeatedly.” Rather than relying on mainland products from seed giants like Seminis (the world’s largest commercial fruit and vegetable seed producer and a subsidiary of Monsanto), Howe urges Hawai‘i growers to learn how to preserve crop diversity. For those who want to buy commercial seeds, she recommends companies that have taken the “Safe Seed Pledge” found on the Council for Responsible Genetics’ website.

Howe encourages growers to choose seeds proven to grow well in Hawai‘i. She says that, like landrace varieties saved by indigenous and traditional cultures, seeds that thrive in a changing climate and despite environmental stresses like prolonged drought, extreme rainfall and more frequent coastal flooding will best serve Hawai‘i in the future.

Howe gives her own example, a seed she calls the “tax man bean.” Her accountant gave her beans that had been handed down through generations in his family. With so many people having immigrated to Hawai‘i from Pacific and Asian nations, Howe says that many lesser known but valuable seed varieties still exist in the Islands, in backyards and small farms, shared between family and friends.

Banking on another kind of currency

On the north shore of Kaua’i, Paul Massey directs Regenerations Community Seed Bank and Library. Since 2008 Massey and others have held seed saving workshops and plant and seed exchanges around Kaua‘i.

Regenerations’ seed bank is run by its staff and volunteers (contact them to find out how you can get involved). Massey expects the operation to move from its current location in Moloa‘a to the Wai Koa Plantation near Kīlauea by next year. There, Regenerations will build a permanent seed center with a seed bank, lab and office space and fields for growing out seed, composting and maintaining perennial plants. His goal is to produce as much seed as possible for distribution.

Massey encourages people learn more about seed saving, saying that with the right training and tools—air-tight plastic containers, silica gel and a refrigerator—most people can properly save a modest amount of seed.

While it may not be realistic to expect every gardener to save seeds, Massey says for anyone interested in sustainability, growing at least some of their own food and seed saving go hand in hand. He sees community stewardship of agro-biodiversity as the key to a healthy future for Hawai’i: “The only way the seeds and plants that we have [will] represent the needs and desires of the local community is if they’re created by the local community.”

Home grown

kauai_seed_collecting 3
Not all seed savers are part of an organized movement. Some, like certified organic farmer Ellen Sugawara, have been saving seed independently for years. She says it can be done, but requires understanding the dos and don’ts of proper selection and a serious commitment of time, space and energy.

On Sugawara’s east Moloka‘i farm she keeps 300-foot beds where she grows vegetables out to seed. She’s been saving since at least 1980, after studying with plant pathologists who taught her the importance of examining planting beds to determine which seeds would survive. The best way to build a large gene pool is to constantly grow out huge numbers of plants, she says, and to select traits you want.

In the 1960s Sugawara studied under English horticulturist Alan Chadwick. She still remembers his words: “Any good gardener saves his own seed.” Chadwick, she recalls, aimed for the “middle seeds”—not the youngest or oldest, not at the top and not at the bottom.”

Sugawara grows five varieties of lettuce including rodan, little gem, sangria and a green oakleaf she calls “Wally.” She also grows cucumbers, eggplants, okra, endives and herbs. Her beet and chard seeds still sprout after 20 years.

The lifelong gardener says people need to closely follow the proper protocols of seed saving, “otherwise you’re just digging yourself into a hole because you’re passing on bad seed.” She adds that if you don’t look at the whole bed and plants in relation to the other plants, you might not get something worth saving.

If you want to save seeds, she recommends concentrating on one plant you love. Lettuce, eggplant and peppers are fairly easy but require time. “You’re supposed to grow out your seeds to make sure it’s what you want at least eight times before you sell.”

That’s where the value of creating seed exchange networks comes into play—provide planters with a good, mixed supply of seeds. Most small gardeners don’t have the room needed to grow multiple crops to seed.

Still, Sugawara says that people on Moloka‘i can’t just drive to Whole Foods to buy organic produce—so more farmers and gardeners save their own seeds.
“On Moloka‘i, if you want it, you have to grow it yourself.”

Learn more by contacting the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative or Regenerations Community Seed Bank and Library. The 13th Bi-annual Kaua‘i Community Seed & Plant Exchange will take place at Waipā on Saturday, April 19 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  (808) 652-4118

Behind The Cover Spring 2014

EHI_Spring 14_cover final (no bleed) copy

We take selecting the cover of each issue to heart. We like the cover to be edible in some way and to reflect Hawai’i.


Many times the cover is obvious, meaning as we are putting the magazine together the cover image emerges and it’s just completely obvious. Not a word needs to be spoken – it’s like a secret language that we all know and we give each other that look and a head nod.


Other times we struggle. We can’t find that perfect image. Sometimes we have several images to choose from and we haggle. Each of us getting louder as we pitch our reasons why our selection is the best choice.


Sometimes we allow others to have their say and acquiesce to another. And that’s what happened with our Spring 2014 cover. The sunflower photograph was taken by Kirk Michael Surry of, A Maui based non-profit that is really creating positive change in the community through public school gardens.


The image slowly grew on me. And the more I looked at the bight yellow color and abstract quality the more I fell in love with the image. But it took me quite a while to get to a place of letting go.


Mainly the lesson for me was that I’m not always right but if I allow room for others to share their opinion and create a creative place that it always works out.

Something Good Is Sprouting Up In The School Yard

Story by Jade Eckardt

Photos by Kirk Surry

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
Claude Monet

A resurgence of school gardens in Hawai‘i isn’t just connecting students with the joy of getting dirty. The growing renaissance of outdoor learning is bringing a holistic awareness of health and nutrition to students and their families. What the kids learn at school translates into the home, where long-term changes can happen.

School gardens are not a new idea in the Hawaiian Islands. Until the late 1960s, they were common in Hawaii schools. Yet somehow, student grown gardens became far and few between, for decades. “I’ve spoken with so many kupuna [elders] who remember working in their school gardens, bringing the harvest to the cafeteria, and eating what they grew,”says Nancy Redfeather, Director of the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network.

In the last decade, classrooms in the form of school gardens have been rebuilt to inspire future farmers, hands on learning, and nutrition. According to a 2012 report on school gardens in Hawai‘i, the state boasts 168 campus gardens involving 21,577 students and 830 teachers on 30 acres of land. Redfeather says that Hawai‘i Island has more school garden teachers than any other island, while 96 percent of Big Island schools are home to a learning garden.

For decades, student-run gardens were typically implemented at the local level. Today there’s a national movement to get students growing their own fruits and vegetables. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is inspiring schools to plant food through its Farm to School Program, which includes research, training, technical assistance, and grants.

“They’re really trying to reconnect kids with the land and the source of food,”says Redfeather.

Thanks to a new program called Hawai‘i FoodCorps, a national AmeriCorps program that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, Hawai‘i is experiencing an influx of school garden teachers. The Big Island’s Kohala Center, a non-profit, community-based center for research, conservation, and education, has been chosen to be the Hawai‘i host site for the program.

In late 2013, FoodCorps service members were chosen to work in eight schools on four islands. Selected college graduates are dedicating one year of full-time public service in school food systems, where they will expand hands-on nutrition education programs, build and tend school gardens, and help bring high-quality, locally produced foods into schools.

Redfeather, who is also the program’s host site supervisor, says eight positions were filled out of over 1,000 applications. “We have to raise up the quality of school lunches, and this program is dedicated to change,”she says.

But today, although an ever-growing number of schools throughout the islands are offering up space for gardens, eating the harvest isn’t as simple as a carrying it from the garden to the cafeteria kitchen.

Students do get opportunities to reap what they sow, but Department of Education (DOE) standards prevent the produce from being served in the cafeteria. It takes some creativity to find ways to serve the harvest. Organizations like Grow Some Good on Maui have found fun ways for students to prepare, cook, and eat what they grow.

“We do a pop up café in the school garden. The kids harvest the produce, and are then assigned to a kid-friendly work station at a harvest festival,”says Kirk Surry, co-founder of the nearly seven-year-old organization that works with 2,500 students across seven different Maui schools. He says that chefs from notable Maui restaurants assist the young farmers in creating a meal for everyone to enjoy.

‘Aina in Schools, a branch of the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, has found a unique way for students to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The raw ingredients come from the fifth grade Three Sisters Garden, a Native American inspired bed composed of squash, beans and corn. “At the end of the unit the students harvest it all and prepare a stew for everyone,”says McKinney.

Although the focus may be on gardens, students learn more than just how to plant and pick vegetables. The Grow Some Good program teaches students holistic farming techniques. “It’s all organic and sustainable farming methods,”explains Surry. “We also make our own compost, do permaculture at many sites, and make bokashi, a compost made with beneficial micro-organisms.

On O‘ahu, students participate in six components of a garden curriculum, spanning kindergarten through sixth grade with ‘Aina in Schools. According to Natalie McKinney, Director of Program Development, grades K, 1, 4, and 5 focus on garden-based lessons, grade 3 learns to compost, and grades 2 and 6 gain nutrition education. ‘Aina in Schools currently has 15 participating schools in their farm-to-school program.

Redfeather notes that hands-on learning helps students retain and apply concepts, and that lessons in campus gardens encompass many different academic subjects. Says McKinney, “Everyone at the school partakes in the garden in one way or another, the administration, the custodial crew, and the cafeteria workers.”

For Surry, the satisfaction comes from watching children become genuinely thrilled in working outdoors with nature, something that’s becoming increasingly hard to instill in youth since the emergence of iPads, video games, and social media. He recognizes that the earlier children get involved, the more genuine their interest is.

“It’s remarkable to see the difference between kids who started in preschool at an age when gardening is magical and full of wonder; they stay engaged. Kids who start a lot later and have never seen organics or eaten many vegetables, it’s tougher to get them into it.”

While student gardeners will someday contribute to a food sustainable future, Surry says the most inspiring part of his job is watching children become more nutrition conscious.

He says the transition some children make is nothing short of amazing. “We’ve watched kids go from not knowing how to peel a banana, to being able to identify heirloom tomatoes, and different kinds of beans, eggplants, and other vegetables.”

This is where Hawai‘i school gardens have a positive effect on a level much deeper than the soil they’re working with. A program that opens children’s eyes to the beauty of healthy, organic food is life changing in a state where approximately one third of children are obese or overweight.

“It’s amazing what a kid can do,”says Surry. “It’s not just about the future, it’s about right now. These kids go home and tell parents what they did in school and ask for homemade smoothies with kale. Then the parents show up and ask us what kale is, and later go and get some. The kids are setting an example that the adults learn to follow.”
Redfeather also sees the long-term affects of students becoming passionate about gardening. She says, “Anything these children grow, they will eat. It’s completely changing the future of food for them.”



Taking A Peek Into The Lives Of Modern Day Farmers

Story and photos by Britt Yap
In the business of growing food, four Hawai’i farmers tell us soil and toil is just the start.

For centuries, farmers have been thought of as people who work long hours outdoors each day tending to their field crops, poultry or livestock. Yet, the reality of a modern day farmer is much different.
Successful, 21st century farming requires knowledge not only of the latest techniques for raising crops and farm animals, but also of how to operate a successful business. Farmers are now being stretched to embrace creative business models that include diverse product sales, social media, branding, marketing, teaching, and agri-tourism.
Edible takes at look at four different farms to get a better understanding (and respect) for the workload of a modern day farmer. Sustainability, diversity, and niche markets are common themes among these farms. Another is the push to create and sell value-added products. (Hey, if life gives you a surplus of tomatoes, take it to market as marinara.)

Surfing Goat Dairy

In upcountry Maui, Thomas Kafsack and his wife Eva run a very successful goat dairy farm. In fact, it’s the only one on the island and one of two in Hawai‘i. The couple moved to Maui from Germany 15 years ago with the intention of creating a much smaller farm. Because of demand over the years, they now have 22 employees and the farm generated $1.25 million in revenue last year.


“We are growing every year and we are by far the biggest goat dairy in the state,” says Thomas Kafsack. “We are producing to our limits. There are even hotels on the wait list for our products.”
Surfing Goat Dairy produces 30 different gourmet goat cheeses, truffles, soaps, and gift baskets. Two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from retail product sales and farm tours. The other third comes from sales to wholesale accounts: hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Kafsack says that the major hotels on Maui and in Honolulu continually source Surfing Goat Dairy. Most recently, the MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas placed orders for Kafsack’s truffles and gourmet cheeses to use as amenities.


“We sold 70,000 truffles last year. People are hooked after they try them,” laughs Kafsack. The flavor is so much better, he explains, because regular truffles contain a lot of heavy cream and butter. The Kafsacks use goat cheese instead, which carries the flavor much better.


The Kafsacks have really found their niche. Not only that, they’ve figured out a way to capitalize on Maui’s agri-tourism industry by offering daily farm tours. Tourists and locals alike visit the Kula dairy farm and pay $7-$25 depending on the tour they choose. At the end of each tour, guests are offered samples of some of the truffles and cheeses. The majority of the time this leads to a purchase. The YELP reviews for Surfing Goat Dairy—which have awarded the company an impressive four stars—say that guests cannot resist making a purchase after sampling the products.


Some of the challenges the company faces are drought and shipping costs. “If you buy a 50-pound hay bale in Washington, you’re paying around $5. We are paying $33.75,” says Kafsack.
Meanwhile, the Surfing Goat Dairy website has been a huge asset. Most of the sales are made online and the Kafsacks ship to all parts of the world. They have turned to social media to help get the word out about their tours and products. “In one day, we had 90,000 clicks on our Facebook page,” he says.

Hawaiian Fresh Farms

Hawaiian Fresh Farms faces a similar challenge to Surfing Goat Dairy with keeping up with the demand for their products. The small farm in Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu is owned and operated by Tristan Reynolds and several employees that he likes to refer to as “agripreneurs.” He employs a group of young, motivated individuals who want to learn the business and one day start their own company.
“Diversity and niche marketing is the key to being a successful modern day farmer,” says Reynolds.


The farm grows organic produce, similar to a chef’s garden concept, producing the 15 most-used vegetables and herbs. Reynolds says he sells primarily to local chefs who use the produce in their restaurants.
With the sustainable mindset, Reynolds has come up with several value-added products, such as his tomato-basil goat cheese pie, which he sells at farmers’ markets and out of his company’s food truck. That’s right, food truck. Some items sold from the truck are fish and chips, grilled goat-cheese sandwiches, local grass-fed beef burgers, and the farm’s trademark dish—the loco moco ball. It’s essentially a grass-fed burger wrapped around a hard boiled egg, coated in rice, dusted in panko and deep fried.


The food truck can be booked to cater special events (with options for different menus) and can be found around town at HNL Market, Eat the Street, Spartan Race at Kualoa, Pinch of Salt, and the First Responders Fair.

Nalo Farms

Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms says his focus this year is creating more value-added products. Restaurant orders and produce sales at farmers’ markets have been his main income.
“We cannot survive on restaurants and supermarkets alone. We have to focus on value-added products moving forward,” he says. For instance, he intends to develop some pesto with fresh herbs that Safeway might be interested in carrying. “Also we have three dressings that are ready to go on the market.”


The Waimanlo farm has been extremely successful at branding its Nalo Greens. Most foodies have seen “Nalo Greens” on restaurant menus across the state, thanks in large part to Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Restaurants.


Today, Nalo Farms supplies approximately 130 restaurants with over 3,000 pounds of greens every week. If restaurant owners print “Nalo Greens” on their menu, they get a discount on the produce. Okimoto also sells his signature greens, fresh herbs, and micro-greens at weekly farmers markets.


One of Okimoto’s concerns as a farmer is the survival of neighbor island agriculture. “The costs are so high to transport produce inter-island. Fuel costs and keeping the produce at the right temperature during transport are obstacles for neighbor island farmers. It becomes so uncompetitive for them. The Superferry helped with that at one time, but now that’s not an option.”
This year, Okimoto has plans to expand to 100 beehives. Not only does he want to produce and sell honey, but also cosmetics such as hand lotion and sun tan oil.



Ma‘o Organic Farms

The 24-acre organic farm in Wai‘anae has one of the most unique business models to date.


“Our workforce is not paid by the farm; it’s an internship program. The 35 interns receive an education instead. It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Ma‘o Organic Farms’ manager Cheryse Sana.
How it works: students get their associates degree at Leeward Community College paid for in exchange for working on the farm. The interns work 20 hours per week over the course of 3-4 days. They are also given a monthly education stipend.


“We want young adults who can do the work while at the same time learning life lessons on how to survive and thrive in society. A lot of them leave the program wanting to become teachers in the community,” says Sana. “Farms all over the country are asking us how we do this and make this program happen.”


The farm grosses about $4 million a year, says Sana. One-third is from produce they sell to grocery stores and restaurants, one-third is from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, and the last third is income they make at weekly farmers’ markets and other events.


Ma‘o Organic Farms charges $32 for a CSA box that contains salad greens, cooking greens, herbs, and sometimes fruit. It just depends on what the farm is growing that month. People can either choose to purchase on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. The farm currently has more than 150 subscribers. Nalo Farms and Hawaiian Fresh Farms have plans to start selling CSA boxes this year.



Sana says that in the future, Ma‘o Organic Farms would like to expand their operations to the North Shore. They hope to one day be able to offer upwards of 250 internships for students to work on their farms.



Time to Grow

For the modern day farmer, it’s more than just growing food or a business; it’s also about growing relationships and the next generation of farmers. The folks we interviewed all agree that nowadays farmer also means teacher. They have willingly taken on the responsibility to teach the next generation how to perpetuate ancient farming practices, while being sustainable and futuristic thinking.


“There is a lot of income potential for farms, especially right now because the market is shifting toward healthier life choices,” says Reynolds. Increasingly, people care more about what they eat, where their food comes from, and supporting local businesses. Many are also investing time and money into creating their own backyard garden with fresh fruit, vegetables, and cooking herbs, he adds.


Reynolds currently teaches monthly gardening classes to the public in Hale‘iwa and hopes to offer classes in Honolulu where most of the island’s population resides.
“We want to create the kind of culture of where we have less reliance on foreign products and more sustainable options for people in Hawai‘i,” he says. “We show people that growing their own food is not as difficult as they think and the rewards are great. The goal is to have people be part of the solution.”

Local Food Finding It’s Way To Resort Menus

Story by Melissa Chang

Think of locavore dining and often smaller, independent restaurants come to mind. This is especially true in Hawai’i, although as resources grow, an increasing number of the Islands’ large resorts are able to bring local foods to the table.

While the chef-farmer collaborative is now a common practice, this has not traditionally been the case for hotel chefs. Their food and beverage operations are usually cost-conscious (generally at the expense of providing high-cost food for their guests.) Since Hawai‘i-grown produce tends to fetch a premium, sourcing local has not been a popular practice for large resorts.

Even with the added heft of a resort’s buying power, overall demand for Hawai‘i products is not enough to bring prices down. Charging astronomical prices for everything on the menu would put a resort restaurant at risk of being priced out of the dining market. For hotel chefs, then, sourcing locally becomes a delicate balance between providing great, local food and being fiscally responsible.

But the rewards, as some proactive chefs are finding, are very gratifying.

“We try every way we can to get as much local goods into our properties and on to our guest’s plates,” said Starwood Hotels & Resorts chef de cuisine William Chen (of Beachhouse at the Moana). “Our guests love hearing about how the tomatoes they are enjoying are from over the mountain, or how the beautiful fish and meats are locally sourced. It gives them a much deeper connection to Hawai‘i and the cultures here.”

With this in mind, resort chefs must go far beyond being great cooks; they must also be savvy businessmen. It’s long been said that doing business in Hawai‘i isn’t completely about what you know, but who you know. The chefs we talked to said they have spent years cultivating relationships with local farmers to get the best prices and to work out the most efficient ways to get seasonal products to the table.

“When dealing directly with specific farmers, we started the process slowly, at a smaller scale and looked at it with a completely different approach,” Grand Wailea executive chef Eric Faivre tells us. “Instead of dictating what we needed, first I asked the farmers to let us know what we could get from them. This helped build trust and more face to face contact between us. Then we started placing standing orders for other, larger departments like banquets.”

Allen Hess, executive chef of Canoe House at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Resort, adds that dealing directly with farmers helps to get better prices, too.
Hess believes the direct contact translates to a higher quality product because he’s able to monitor it himself.  “If the quality is good and you pay the farmer what he wants, you will always receive good product,” Hess explained. “Most hotels run a relatively low food cost so there is always room for them to pay a little more for exceptional quality.”

Supply & Demand

Tidepools hamachi watermelon
Limited land is a challenge for island farmers to yield the quantities needed to keep prices down, let alone simply getting enough products for the resort.
Consider this: even on the tiny island of Kaua‘i, the Grand Hyatt Poipu alone has 602 guest rooms, six restaurants and six lounges that all serve food. They bring in at least 288 pounds of fresh island seafood every day, which comes to 52 tons of seafood a year. Diners at the resort consume 629 pineapples and 850 papaya each week. That’s more than 32,000 pineapples and 44,000 papaya each year. How can supply meet demand?

“Infrastructure and distribution on Kaua‘i is still the greatest challenge for me and the resort,” Grand Hyatt Poipu Executive Chef Matt Smith said. “Produce is a great example. I know there are farmers here on Kaua‘i, but it isn’t always easy to obtain their product on a regular basis in the quantities we would like.”

Smith sees the challenge of island inventory as an opportunity to showcase products from around the State, using long-standing relationships with Surfing Goat Dairy, Ali‘i Kula Lavender, Kaua‘i Fresh Farms, Hamakua Mushrooms and the many specialty farms in Kula. (He developed relationships with Maui farmers when he was the executive chef at Hyatt Regency Maui.) “The inventory purveyors carry here is very limited. In order to get anything different, it’s always a special order. There are so many incredible artisan producers and specialty farms across Hawai’i. getting the goods here is difficult.”

Faivre, although on a larger island, agreed: “The main challenges are still the variety of options available on Maui, but we are working together to increase communication between all parties. We want to make sure the farmers know to keep growing what we’ll always need, but also what we need sometimes…and what we may need one day.”

Chef Matt Smith Photo Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Poipu
Chef Matt Smith
Photo Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Poipu

Grown here, not flown here

In the name of freshness, even in the digital age, customers are becoming more understanding of discrepancies in listed online menus and actual daily menus. Faivre said that the Grand Wailea simply uses broad verbiage on their menus that allows them to switch vegetables or fruits according what is available each week at the farm. He’s found that diners are open to eating more common local vegetables instead of fancier ones grown on the mainland. “So far, its been terrific and I haven’t encountered a client refusing a great seasonal, freshly harvested local vegetable, instead of something else barged in from 5,000 miles away.”

Chen added that frequent communication helps the farmers understand the resort’s weekly consumption; in turn they’re able to give the chefs advance notice when an item may need to be swapped or isn’t available.

The chefs have also been instrumental in introducing local products that have previously been deemed unfavorable. “When I started at Canoe House I said that we would be putting grass-fed beef on the menu, but no one wanted it,” recalled Hess. “The response was, ‘we know our customers, and they don’t want it.’ I brought it in anyway, did a taste test, then brought in the rancher, and explained the health benefits of grass-fed beef. We also showed sample menus from high-end mainland restaurants that have Hawai‘i beef on their menus.

“It  took a few months, but they understood. Now they go to a table with knowledge and confidence that we serve a superior product,” said Hess.
Chen is also pleased to see more Hawai‘i grass-fed beef on his menu. “We strive to have as much on our menus that is locally sourced as possible. We have had great success highlighting a new beef program from Hawaiian Ranchers located on Hawai’i Island. Normally a grass-fed product isn’t very well received with people who aren’t familiar with the taste profile, but we have had amazing responses.”

The chefs all try to form strategic partnerships with local farmers. Once a week, for example, Faivre and his team go to Kumu Farms to visit Grant Schule and Manu Vinciguerra to discuss the specific harvests, projects coming up, brainstorm on what’s next from on menu creations, ideas, promotional opportunities and more. He found that these visits energize his team and builds camaraderie between the farmers and chefs.
“It’s great to see their ‘work space’ and get a feel for what the farmers do on a day-to-day basis,” Chen said. “Not only are we putting faces to the farms but also getting a better understanding of their passions and stories. This allows us to bring that passion back to our venues and menus.”
Faivre sums it up nicely: “We have to make sure this farm-to-table awareness is a permanent reality rather than just a trend.”

Allen Hess
Chef Allen Hess of Canoe House Photo courtesy of Canoe House at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Resort

Food Entrepreneurs

Growing Business
Three island food entrepreneurs share their recipes for success.

By Heidi Pool

Ono PopsJosh Lanthier-Welch can recite every ingredient in every flavor of popsicle he’s ever created. As chief operating officer and executive chef of OnoPops, headquartered in Hawai‘i Kai, Josh has progressed from pouring his fruity concoctions into molds and freezing them at home, to producing up to 2,700 frozen delights per day using sous vide machines, blast chillers, and a state-of-the-art Carpigiani batch freezer.

It began in the fall of 2009 with a call from Josh’s brother Joe, OnoPops’ chief financial officer and director of sales. “Joe called from a gourmet popsicle shop on the east coast,” Josh recalls. “He left me a rambling message about how he was eating a basil-blueberry popsicle and couldn’t believe how good it was. He said we had to do this in Honolulu.” Josh was working as a chef in San Francisco at the time. “My first response was, ‘There’s no way I’m moving back to Honolulu to open a popsicle company.’”
But Joe persisted, and when the restaurant Josh had been working in closed due to the recession, and their parents’ ‘ohana unit became available, “I had no more right of refusal,” laughs Josh. “It all added up just like that.”
In April of 2010, the two Punahou School graduates launched OnoPops with eight initial flavors, all made with local ingredients. Within six months, consumers could purchase OnoPops at Whole Foods and Foodland. In September of 2013, OnoPops was named Whole Foods’ Partner of the Year. “We were struggling to break even, and at a point where we were wondering whether or not we should keep going,” says Josh. “This recognition from Whole Foods gave us a new wave of optimism. They offered us an opportunity to participate in their small producer loan program, and with this kind of partnership we can keep going.”
This spring, OnoPops expanded to the U.S. Mainland in 35 Whole Foods stores, and the Welch brothers have dreams of franchising their brand. “The heart of OnoPops will always be our three core ingredients—Waialua Estate chocolate, Kona coffee, and Mauna Kea green tea—no matter where in the world OnoPops are made,” says Josh. But the rest of the ingredients will always be sourced locally.”
Josh opens up a chest freezer, the vapor dissipates to reveal OnoPops in every color of the rainbow. “We have a repertoire of 75 flavors, with 25 to 35 on hand at any one time,” he says. “I’m always thinking ahead about new flavors. Josh and I do an eight-popsicle tasting and the hands-down winner, at least in my book, is the Mexican Chocolate. It’s definitely not the Fudgsicle I grew up eating. Creamy, rich milk chocolate is infused with a touch of local cinnamon, vanilla, and mild organic ancho chile powder. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Josh attributes the success of OnoPops to dogged hard work. “I spend about fifty hours a week making popsicles, and between five and fifteen selling them and doing product demos,” he says. “I’ve sacrificed being anyone other than the ‘popsicle guy.’ But I’m not complaining one bit.”


034 Sean M. Hower(c)2014
Dressed in sneakers, denim jeans, and a long-sleeved plaid shirt, Azeem Butt could pass for a Silicon Valley engineer. This is no coincidence. Prior to founding Life Foods, Inc., in January of 2013, Azeem was involved in several technology and telecommunications start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area. “But food has always been my passion,” he says.
Headquartered in Wailuku, Maui, Life Foods manufactures a line of 12 products: patties, condiments, dressings, hot sauces, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and gomasio—all of which are superfoods-based, 100 percent organic, non-GMO, vegan, and soy and gluten free. “Our goal was to have a strong presence on Maui and Moloka‘i, which we accomplished last year,” Azeem says. “This year, we’ve expanded to O‘ahu, and we’ll add more products to our line.”
The first three months in business, Azeem didn’t sell a single product. Instead, he tested his goods at farmers’ markets. “We did more than 7,000 tastings, and handed out surveys to obtain feedback,” he says. “Our chefs continuously made refinements based on the comments we received. By the end of March, people were asking, ‘Where can I buy these patties?’ and, ‘I love this ketchup. Where do you sell it?’ When we placed our products at Alive and Well, Down to Earth, and Mana Foods, we already had customers waiting to purchase them.”
Azeem acquires as many ingredients locally as possible, to support what he calls Life Foods’ farm-to-shelf approach. “Our goal is what I call the ‘green circle,’ where we source within 300 miles, and produce from our facility to the shelf within three weeks,” he says. “We’re not quite there yet, because some of our dry goods, plus mung beans, come from the Mainland. There’s currently no local source for these ingredients.”
Life Foods grew from Azeem’s desire to provide healthy vegetarian food options for himself and others. “A lot of good product ideas come from a personal passion for something,” he says. “You can’t just pick what you think is a random need in the marketplace—it should be your own need. Otherwise, you won’t have a connection to it. I actually have people come up to me at farmers’ markets, shake my hand, and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ That never happened to me before, and I think it’s because Life Foods products fulfill my food needs, and theirs as well.”
Azeem’s mission was validated at last year’s Body and Soil Farm-Health Conference, held annually on Maui. “We were one of many vendors selling food,” he recalls. “Right next to us was a company barbecuing locally grown beef patties. The aroma was extremely enticing, and I was sure we’d have a lot of our food left over. Amazingly, six out of ten guests chose our patty over the ones made from beef. It was my most satisfying moment yet.”
Azeem has plans to take Life Foods to the national stage. “I want to establish kitchens that create farm-to-shelf products in all areas of the country,” he says. “The model we’ve created here on Maui can be replicated all around the United States.”


003 Sean M. Hower(c)2014 D80_7285-3000

In 2005, Garrett Marrero, along with wife Melanie, founded Maui Brewing Co.’s  Kahana brewpub, where they produced 300 barrels of handcrafted ales and lagers their first year in business. Two years later, they opened a production facility in Lahaina, where they currently brew more than 20,000 barrels per year. This year, they’ll open a larger production facility, brewpub, and tasting room in the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei, where they’ll be able to double production.
When I meet up with Garrett at his construction site in Kihei, he’s sporting steel-toed work boots, faded jeans, and a bright orange Maui Brewing Co. t-shirt. He tells me he’s always ready to fill in if needed to keep the $17 million construction project on schedule. “One day, my contractor didn’t have a welder to finish a critical job,” he recalls. “So I got in the ditch at nine o’clock that night and shone my truck’s headlights so I could see what I was doing. These guys had never before seen a company owner go out and buy boots and jeans, and pull tools out of his truck.”
Garrett believes his hands-on approach is one of the keys to his success. “In the beginning, Melanie and I did everything on a shoestring budget and wore a lot of hats,” he says. “But this made us very skilled at what we do, and we are intimately familiar with every aspect of our business. It strengthens our team when employees see that we’re willing to do whatever’s required to get the job done.”
Equally as strong as his work ethic is Garrett’s commitment to the Maui community. “Using the best local ingredients available to us is something we do as a matter of course,” he says. “We incorporate local guava, mango, papaya, and even breadfruit in our beers. Our breadfruit beer is still the most requested brew, even though we only made it once because it was such a challenge to produce. Sourcing 3,000 pounds of fruit in just the right stage of ripeness, plus ten pounds of toasted papaya seeds, made it a labor of love.”
Maui Brewing Co.’s symbiotic relationship with local farmers should be a model for all businesses. “We purchase produce from farmers who use our spent grain to feed their cows, then we serve their beef in our restaurants,” Garrett says. Breads and buns served in the brewpub are also made locally with spent grain. “If something can be produced for our restaurants on island, it is. We even make our own ketchup, salad dressings, and mustard.”
Garrett’s beers are distributed in 11 states and four foreign countries. “It’s gratifying to go to a restaurant somewhere in Virginia and see Maui Brewing Co. on the menu,” he says. “It conjures up a ‘we did that’ kind of pride.” Garrett says his best-selling brew in Hawai‘i is Bikini Blonde Lager. It’s easy to see why. With light carbonation and crisp, fruity notes, this filtered Munich Helles Lager brewed with floral hops and Pilsner and Munich malts is appealing to even a non-beer-drinker such as myself. Cheers!

What is it? How Do You Eat It?

Surinam Cherry in hand1Surnim cherry, Brazilian cherry, or Cayenne cherry: E. uniflora L.

The shrub or tree grows to 25‘ high, has slender, spreading branches and aromatic foliage. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit is 3/4 to 1 1/2 “ wide, turns from green to orange as it develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish maroon when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh orange-red and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or 2 or 3 smaller seeds.

The Surinam cherry grows in almost any type of soil–sand, stiff clay, soft limestone–and can even stand waterlogging for a time, but it is intolerant of salt.

The ripe fruits is eaten out-of-hand. Cut a slit vertically on one side, spread open to release the seed(s), and kept chilled for 2 or 3 hours to dispel most of their resinously aromatic character. If seeded and sprinkled with sugar before placing in the refrigerator, they will become mild and sweet and will exude much juice. They are often made into juice, jelly, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine.

The seeds are extremely resinous and should not be eaten. The leaves have been spread over the floors of homes and when walked upon, they release their pungent oil which repels flies.


Recipe Wave: Kauai Shrimp, Clams, and Fresh Island Fish in Thai Coconut Broth



Photograph by Monica Schwartz
Recipe created by Ron Miller in collaboration with Viren Olson and Regie Anical
Course: Main Course
Author: Ron Miller, Viren Olson, and Regie Anical


  • Pan
  • Saucepan
  • Strainer


Shrimp, Clams, & Fresh Island Fish

  • 12 Clams
  • 6 oz. Thai Coconut Broth (Recipe Below)
  • 8 Kauai Shrimp (Peeled And Deveined; Heads Removed For The Stock)
  • 8 oz. Fresh Island Fish

Thai Coconut Broth

  • 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 2 oz. Ginger (Chopped)
  • 1/2 Cup Cilantro (Chopped)
  • 2 Stalks Lemongrass (Chopped)
  • 12 oz. Coconut Milk
  • 6 oz. Sherry
  • 1 tsp. White Pepper
  • 1 Tbs. Tomato Paste
  • 1 lb. Shrimp Heads And Shells
  • 1/4 lb. Onion (Chopped)
  • 1/4 lb. Carrots (Chopped)
  • 1/4 lb. Celery (Chopped)
  • 6 Black Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/2 gal. Water


Prepare Thai Coconut Broth.

  • Combine all broth ingredients and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Pour through a strainer and then use it in the shrimp, clams, and fish preparation.

Prepare Shrimp, Clams, & Fresh Island Fish.

  • Place the clams and broth in a pan on high heat. Once most of the clams are open, add the shrimp and fish. Cook until the shrimp are almost cooked through. 
  • Garnish with fresh Thai basil and chopped cilantro.

Doing the Right Thing: Ron Miller of Hukilau Lanai

Story by Marta Lane
Photography by Dan Lane

“The more successful the farmers are, the more successful we all are,” says Ron Miller, owner and executive chef of Hukilau Lanai.  This April, Ron and Krissi, his wife and business partner, will celebrate their fourth year as owners of Hukilau Lanai, an open-air, fine dining restaurant in Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. In that time, the Millers have learned to ask themselves four questions when evaluating their options: Is it good for the customer? Is it good for the employees? Is it good for business? Is it good for the environment?

“Buying local is a priority,” says Ron. “Every year, we make more connections and it just keeps getting better and better.” The couples’ success, they feel, is a result of building and nurturing those commitments. Their loyalty to regional growers is transparent: their menu reveals numerous island sourced products. Their annual anniversary festivities revolve around their Earth Dinner, a tradition started to honor Kaua‘i food growers with a meal created from their harvest.

“We’re learning how to answer the environmental questions better,” says Ron. “I think it’s best to do your own research and learn, instead of accepting what’s common.” The Millers have numerous eco-friendly practices in place at the restaurant, assessing everything down to the crayon stubs left at the table by sticky-fingered toddlers. (They’re given to a local candle maker!) After exhaustive recycling and composting measures (food scraps, cooking oil, office paper, wine corks), close to nothing goes to waste from the restaurant’s daily operations.

Ron got his start in restaurants as a dishwasher and busboy at The Sun Porch in Hopwood, PA back in 1982. He upgraded to the kitchen a few years later. The creativity and camaraderie were appealing to the young, self-proclaimed hippie. He decided to make cooking a career.

Honing his craft at the Allen Room, a homey, 35-seat restaurant in Pennsylvania, Ron learned to make each meal from scratch. Every day he produced a new, handwritten menu and had at least five stocks simmering on the back stove. He learned how to turn a restaurant into a successful business while working at a giant 400-seat restaurant in northern Virginia. It was here that Ron met and married Krissi. In 1997, they moved to O‘ahu, where Ron worked at Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai, an award-winning pioneer of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. An opening at Gaylord’s at the Kilohana Plantation brought the Millers to Kaua‘i. When Hukilau Lanai opened in 2002, the Millers joined the team; eight years later, they bought the restaurant.

As an innovative chef who likes to push his culinary boundaries, Ron actively cultivates his passion for learning. On a recent trip to San Francisco, the Millers ate at 10 restaurants in five days. A traditional Burmese pickled tea leaf salad, called Lahpet Thoke (pronounced “la-pay toe”) caught Ron’s fancy. To add it to his menu at Hukilau Lanai, Ron sourced Cloudwater Tea, the only tea farm on Kaua’i that produces whole leaf tea grown without herbicides or pesticides, harvested and processed by hand.

Ron rang in the new year by hosting a charcuterie class at Hukilau Lanai taught by Francois Vecchio [[visiting from where?]], a skilled craftsman with great passion [[for what?]]. In three days, Vecchio showed Ron and his staff, as well as other notable chefs from O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, how to turn whole, local hogs into a wide variety of charcuterie, including aspic, sausage and salami.

Incidentally, adventurous eaters craving the Hukilau Lanai charcuterie plate, a revolving medley of headcheese, pâté, and mortadella, must be added to a wait list for the housemade delicacies. The Miller’s skilled staff also makes knackwurst and bratwurst for their annual Oktoberfest Fest menu.

Ron MIller & Outstanding In The Feild Outstanding In The Field, a national pop-up known for its elegant al fresco dinners, scheduled a Kaua‘i event this past January. It was no surprise that the organizers called on Ron to create the locally-sourced, six-course meal. About forty guests dined together at the long, open-air table set under the shade of mango and tangerine trees at Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy, a certified organic goat farm in Kilauea.

At the dinner, chef Vecchio was honored and charcuterie was served, along with big salads of pickled vegetables and Kunana Diary goat cheese. Fresh mahi mahi, braised goat, Kaua‘i clams and shrimp, ‘ahi, and Koloa Rum were also featured through the meal.

With characteristic aloha, Ron has graciously shared a few of his recipes from that stunning dinner with us here.

Edible-Ron_Miller-opening shot

Homemade Mayonnaise



Homemade mayonnaise comes together in minutes, requiring just a few ingredients on hand in most kitchens. Get a feel for the simple preparation and skip the store-bought stuff. For flavor, homemade cannot be beaten. Actually, it will be beaten, but how is up to you—and the topic of heated debate amongst our staff. Blender, hand whisk, immersion blender…we each employed our own technique to whip up this humble, handy condiment. Experiment to find your preference, and you’ll have a great base for easy sauces, dips, and salad dressings. Our favorite things to blend into our homemade mayo? Handfuls of fresh herbs, green garlic, chipotle peppers, or curry powder. Happy cooking!


  • Blender


  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • cup Light Olive Oil (Or Other Oil Of Preference)
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt (Or To Taste)
  • 2 Tbs. Lemon Juice (Approximately. 1/2 Lemon Or To Taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dry Mustard (Optional)


  • Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Separate egg yolks from whites.
  • Place the egg yolks in the blender jar, adding the salt, a splash of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the mustard, if using.
  • Give the mixture a few quick pulses to start the blending.
  • Very, very slowly drizzle in the oil while blending. This process should take 2-3 minutes.
  • Blend in the rest of the lemon juice. If the mayonnaise appears loose, keep in mind it will further set as it chills in the refrigerator. Tip: If the mayonnaise breaks (separates after the oil is added) it can be saved! Place an egg yolk and 1 teaspoon tepid water in a clean bowl or blender glass. While whisking/blending, slowly add the broken mayonnaise until incorporated, then whisk/blend in about 1/4 cup more oil.