Who We Are
Country Farms, located on the slopes of Mauna Kea in
beautiful Pepe‘ekeo on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, is run by three
generations of the Ha family.
RICHARD HA is president of Hamakua
Springs. These days he’s at work
researching and experimenting with new products, and concentrating on
the farm’s energy- and labor-efficient systems.
Richard’s farming experience goes way back. When he finished
college with an accounting degree, his father asked him to come run his
40-acre chicken farm at Waiakea Uka. Richard decided to grow bananas on
part of his father’s farm and he talked grocery stores into saving him
banana boxes. He traded chicken manure to other farmers for banana
That was 30 years ago, and that banana business took off and
evolved into Kea‘au Bananas. In 2004, the company expanded to its
present Pepe‘ekeo location, changed its name to Hamakua Springs Country
Farms and started diversifying into additional products.
Although Richard is its president, Hamakua Springs truly is a
family business. “The family members all have a vote, and I have 3⁄4 of
a vote,” he laughs. “To give you an example, when we developed the
cocktail tomato, I did a variety of tests. My favorite was another
variety. I could have said, ‘We’re going with this one,’ because I was
sure I was right. But after we discussed it, I was outvoted. And they
were right. The cocktail tomato was the product that became successful
and started our momentum away from bananas.”
JUNE HA, Richard’s wife, is the farm’s
office manager. Richard says
that June’s strengths are his weaknesses. He tends to look to the
future, he says, and sometimes forgets about the present. Richard—the
accounting major who admits he used to keep all his business records
stuffed in a banana box—is the planner, but he explains that June
manages the money. “If it wasn’t for June watching the practical,
day-to-day stuff, it wouldn’t have happened,” he says. “We wouldn’t
have gotten off the ground.” While Richard and son-in-law Kimo are more
production-oriented, June also signs on new employees and keeps track
of what they need.
And four afternoons a week, she and Richard still
load trucks for their Kona deliveries. June
organizes the different pallets so they are loaded for different
supermarkets. “She points and I have to load them up,” says Richard.
“Sometimes she points too hard in front of everybody,” he laughs.
FLORENCE HA, Richard’s mother, has worked
on the farm since they
planted the first banana. Now 82, she still works five days a week. “I
up in the morning, and if I’m late I get a scolding,” jokes Richard.
One of her jobs is
taking care of banana tissue culture plants in the nursery.
When tissue culture plants arrive, she takes them out of what
look like poi bowls, shovels cinder so she can plant them in one-gallon
pots, and then takes them out to the nursery in a wheelbarrow and lines
them up to grow. In a year, she pots around 40,000 plants.
Florence packed the bananas when Richard and his three brothers
operated a banana farm at Waiakea Uka. And then, when Richard
simultaneously started his own banana farm at Kapoho and brought his
bananas to the packing house at the end of the work day, she stayed
late and packed those bananas into the evening and night.
“She works really hard,” says Richard. “When her granddaughter was 12
years old, she said, ‘Can I see your muscles?’ It kind of embarrassed
her, so after that she’d wear long-sleeved shirts.”
KIMO PA, Richard’s son-in-law, manages the
farm day-to-day, and TRACY
PA, Richard and June’s daughter, is the computer whiz who handles
of the accounting, gives farm tours and handles special projects. Kimo
and Tracy are next in line in the farm’s
Richard says there are several reasons he is comfortable looking
forward to when Kimo and Tracy take over Hamakua Springs. "One of
Kimo's best traits," he says, "is that he is fair. Everybody knows
they'll be treated fairly. And he pays attention to the details; he
sweats the small stuff. Kimo maintains a good balance between
positioning us toward the future while taking care of today. Like me,
he feels that if you're not going forward, you're going backward."
Tracy is a natural-born organizer who masterminds supermarket demos,
farm tours and other special events. Once, after taking a group of
first-graders around and priming them about the farm's bananas, Tracy
asked them: "Now children, when you go to the market with your mommy,
which bananas are you going to buy?" In unison, they responded by
shouting: "Yellow bananas!"
When it comes to working with adults, anyway, Tracy has the knack.
Richard says, "She has the marketing instinct. She just shines when it
comes to marketing and promotion."
“I have absolute confidence in Kimo and Tracy,” he says. “Between the
two of them, they are really serious and
dedicated, and really enthusiastic about the future.”