Category Archives: Awards

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Back in 2002, which was a long time ago, we were doing just fine.

That’s the year we were a finalist in the Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture, given by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE).

SARE’s mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education.

SARE’s Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture recognizes farmers or farm families who advance sustainable agriculture through innovation, leadership and good stewardship. The award is named for SARE’s first director, Patrick Madden, who was a pioneer in the movement toward a strong, independent agriculture.

I believe the rise in oil prices starting around 2005. It had a lot more impact than is easily identified.

From the Patrick Madden Award page of SARE:


Kea’au Banana Plantation, Hilo, Hawaii

  • 800 acres of bananas on two plantations
  • Long-term view, minimizing agri-chemicals, erosion and water use
  • “Eco-friendly” labels; crew of 70 workers enjoy profit-sharing

“I had a philosophy that we should take a long-term view of how we affect our workers, our community and the environment. So far, this also has meant profitability for our company.”

Richard Ha


Richard Wins Distinguished Alumni Award

Richard was honored recently as a 2011 Distinguished Alumni of the University of Hawai‘i.

“This award was less about me and really about all of us,” he told me. “I was pleased to be able to acknowledge June’s contributions, as well as my family’s – especially Mom and Pop.”

He was happy, too, that he had a chance to talk about the “common sense” value of using geothermal energy here in Hawai‘i.

He said it was hard to follow Chef Alan Wong and Dr. Henry Yang. “They are both very, very special individuals,” he said.

“Something like this award was beyond my wildest imagination when I flunked out of UH the first time around,” he said. “It just goes to show: Not ‘no can.’ ‘CAN!’”


Supporting Kids’ Financial Literacy

I recently attended a reception for Richard Henderson, who had just been inducted into Junior Achievement of Hawaii’s “Business Hall of Fame.” It was a nice evening at the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo, and a nice tribute to him.

From the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald:

Henderson was born in Hilo in 1928 and graduated from Punahou High School in 1946. Armed with a degree in business from Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, Henderson returned to Hilo in 1951. He joined The Realty Investment Co., which became his springboard for launching and managing a number of Big Island businesses, including nine theaters, an insurance agency, a wireless phone company, several car dealerships, Comtec Cable Co., KPUA and KWXX radio stations.

In addition, Henderson served for 15 years in the state Senate, often in leadership positions. Over the years he has also supported and served in key roles with many non-profit organizations on Hawaii Island.

It was also interesting to hear more about Junior Achievement (JA). What a terrific organization. I already knew that, but it was interesting to hear that, just here in Hilo and Puna last year, more than 100 of our local business people volunteered several hours each in 116 K-6 classrooms, and reached 2800 students. JA also meet with middle school and high school students.

Junior Achievement’s purpose is to “educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise so they can improve the quality of their lives and their communities.”

Its high school Company Program pairs business leaders with high school kids who create a business and learn how to write a business plan, research their market, efficiently manufacture their products, promote and sell their goods, keep the employees happy and keep the books straight.

Lee Wilson, president of JA on the Big Island, said, “This year, the six companies amassed revenues of nearly $50,000 in a shortened sales window of just over 8 weeks. What recession? I think Mr. Henderson would have been thrilled if a few of his startups had generated that type of volume right out of the gate.”

I think so.


Richard Inducted into Shidler College of Business Hall of Fame

I was inducted into the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Shidler College of Business Hall of Honor this past Thursday evening.

The people I was inducted with are giants in industry. People would recognize them right off. I have no idea why I was nominated, but it must have to do with sustainability.


(On the stage, left to right) Vance Roley, Dean of the Shidler School of Business; Barbara Tanabe, Mistress of Ceremony; me, and David McClain, President of University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

We had been so busy that we didn’t realize the significance of this event until we arrived at the Hilton Ballroom and realized the company we were in. Connie Lau, the CEO of HEI, came by and gave me a lei. She had been in the audience when the Governor invited us to the alternate energy farm loan bill signing, where I gave a short, fun speech. About food security, I had said that it’s not rocket science: “If the farmer makes money, the farmer will farm.”

At the Hall of Honor induction ceremony, Chef Alan Wong and my former Finance Professor Stephen Dawson gave video testimony about me. Chef Alan said I was a down-to-earth person who even went to see the Governor in shorts. He also said that I was a visionary. All I know is that I have worn glasses since returning to school at UH. When I tried to sit at the back of the room, my usual place, I couldn’t see the blackboard, so I started sitting at the front of all my classes so I could see. I don’t know how Alan could have known about that!

Steve Dawson said that of the 150 or so finance students he taught that semester in the mid-70s, he remembered me clearly. Must be because I was kind of old for a college student. I took the long way around, having flunked out my first time in school, and then going to Vietnam and then back to school for a second try.

What made me happiest about this really prestigious award was that June was there to share it with me. Without her, none of what I do happens.


Hawaii Business Hall of Fame

Richard was inducted into the Junior Achievement Hawaii Business Hall of Fame a couple weeks ago, and Penny Mau took some lovely photos at the Waikiki ceremony.

Penny (now a school principal on O‘ahu) and her husband Ron (a well-known entomologist with an illustrious career at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH Manoa) were neighbors and good friends of ours back in the early 70s, when we lived in apartments overlooking Hilo High School.

We’ve stayed friends all these years, and I invited them to be with us at our table at the awards ceremony. Ron was in China, on assignment, and couldn’t make it, but Penny came with her brother Terrance. Tracy and Kimo were also at our table, as were Dan Cabrera and Edna Bartolome. Dan was Best Man at our wedding; we attended UH together in the late 60s.

See Penny’s photos of the event here.


We Already Knew It But Now It’s Official: Alan Wong’s Restaurant is Great

Richard Ha writes:

Gourmet magazine has just ranked Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Honolulu as the Eighth Best Restaurant in America. That’s on its most recent list of the America’s Top 50 Restaurants, which it publishes every five years.


That’s pretty impressive, but Chef Alan—who uses Hamakua Springs tomatoes and lettuces at his restaurants—treats his farmers like they are the ones who are the celebrities. When Tracy and Kimo, the next generation of Hamakua Springs farmers, went to eat at his restaurant on O‘ahu recently, they were treated like celebrities.

The respect Chef Alan shows for the farm products we provide his restaurants has a big impact around here. Our people on the farm want to do a better job knowing that Chef Alan will handle our products in such a spectacular way.

When June and I attended the Tomato Fest in Carmel recently, we brought back some incredible new varieties of heirloom tomatoes. We cannot wait to harvest them and bring them to Chef Alan.

Recently, Chef Alan invited me to sit in on a product development meeting with his staff. They were discussing lettuce, and I learned a lot about how important every lettuce leaf is. I pay attention now to each leaf in every salad I eat, and all because of the attention that Chef Alan pays to our products. He truly makes us better farmers.

We know that being named Eighth Best Restaurant in America is a big deal. And we know that Chef Alan makes us farmers want to do the best job we can do. For that, he’s number one in our book.


Shedding Pounds and Picking up Awards

Richard Ha writes:

I lost .5 lbs. this week.

My goal: To lose one pound per week for 39 weeks

Today’s weight: 200.7 lbs.
This week’s target weight was 201.6 lbs. 
I am .9 lbs. ahead of schedule

Starting weight on 5/23/06: 214.6 lbs.
End goal, on 2/18/07: 175 lbs.
Since 5/23, I have lost 13.9 lbs.

On 5/23, my resting heart rate was 65 beats per minute
Today’s resting heart rate: 57 beats per minute.* (after 2 cups of coffee)

* This goes down as one gets into better shape. Lance Armstrong’s is said to be 32. George W’s was reported to be 47 beats per minute. Out of shape, mine is in the 70s. My best was 52 many years ago.


I lost half a pound this week. I started riding my bike, and because of the increase in intensity I had to rest for two days. Based on how rested I feel today, I should be back on track with my workouts this week.

On Wednesday, Rodrigo and I rode our bikes from the farm down to the ocean and back. We went over the highway and down Banyan Tree Road through an open gate–the same one featured on the front page of the Tribune-Herald a few days later because it was blocked with boulders—and down to the ocean access road. We headed north and stopped at the main fishing spots to see what was going on.

The coastline is falling into the ocean there and pine trees with most of their roots exposed are barely hanging on. We saw a few turtles floating on the surface, and even a flock of seabirds gliding in and out of a sea cave as if with the wave motion.

Rodrigo’s comfortable pace is much faster than mine. Of course, he’s a couple of decades younger than me. If he had not stopped to wait for me, he would have been halfway home by the time I reached the top. It was a good reminder that I still have a ways to go with my training.

The week before, Rodrigo had ridden the Kulani trails for the first time, and he commented on how challenging and active the trails were. In Tucson, he used to ride to work on a 15-mile loop several days per week, and he’s been riding a similar trail since they moved to the Big Island a couple of months ago.

He said that the Kulani trails are different in that you tend to be outside your comfort zone. The terrain is varied and the trail is such that one needs to accelerate, decelerate, maneuver though and around roots and rocks and trees and branches the whole way. To make it more interesting, the person he rode with was an advanced rider/racer.

My goal is still to ride in Kulani and have fun. In order to do this, I need to weigh no more than 175 pounds and be in good aerobic shape. I’ve got a long way to go. But I do know what I need to do.

We have some news and here’s even a bit of entertainment:

We were going to wait to announce that Ha Ha Ha! has been selected as a Typepad featured blog and will appear on its homepage on September 1st.

But when we started checking out Typepad’s featured blogs, we enjoyed this one from the San Jose Mercury News so much that we wanted to share it.

It features two Chinese guys lip-synching to Jessica Simpson, the Black Eyed Peas and others. These guys are big in China and they are hilarious. Check it out.

We’ll come back and tell you more about the Typepad thing when it’s time.


Blog of the Day


Ha Ha Ha! has been named “Small Business Blog of the Day!”

Whew, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but we’re excited over here.

Brian Brown is an authority on blogs and maintains a website for small businesses interested in blogging. On his site he monitors the state of the art and he also selects the “Small Business Blog of the Day.” Today he selected us.

Brown said a lot of nice things about Ha Ha Ha! Here’s a snippet:

“I really love this blog. First of all, even though all blogs follow a pretty routine format (or at least they should), Ha Ha Ha! is particularly clean and beautiful. Secondly, the posts are very much on-task, each one contributing to the overall goal of adding to the personality of the farm. Even the posts about Richard’s diet add to this aspect by humanizing the company, as well as showing how the company’s products are contributing to his health.”

Brown’s site is called “” because–oh, how we love the computer life–he often works comfortably at home. While we might prefer this commendation was from an organization called, say, “The United Nations Committee on Excellence in the World,” we, ahem, have heard that other chief bloggers sometimes work in their pajamas and we understand completely.

Read more about Ha Ha Ha! as the Small Business Blog of the Day here.

And now we’re going to go eat a celebratory banana.

–Leslie Lang, chief blogger


Short Pants

Welcome to our new blog. You can click on the “About” button at right to read a bit about us, and enter your email address at right if you’d like to get an email whenever we update the blog.

And if you’re just getting to know us here at Hamakua Springs Country Farms, let me start you off by explaining that we’re pretty down-to-earth around here.

Especially Richard.

When our fearless leaders Richard and June Ha were honored recently at Washington Place—that’s the governor’s mansion in Honolulu—the Hawai’i-style farmer wore what he always wears: short pants.

They were his good shorts, of course. And he wore a nice Aloha shirt with them.


(From left to right: Governor Linda Lingle, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, Speaker of the House Calvin Say, June Ha and Richard Ha)

The Washington Place luncheon was to recognize founding members of the new Hawai‘i Seal of Quality program, a statewide branding program to protect and promote Hawai‘i-grown and Hawai‘i-made products.

Richard says he looked around and saw that Hamakua Springs Country Farms is in good company. “It’s a wide range of products, but the common thread is everybody is acknowledged as a good company,” he says. “High quality. It’s good to be in with this group. Everybody’s quality helps each other.”


(That’s Richard and June at the top of the second column.)

Check out the mouthwatering Washington Place luncheon menu comprised of the 12 companies’ products (but not if you’re hungry).

Did Governor Lingle blanch when Richard came forward to accept his award in short pants? Nope. Richard says he got two reactions to his choice of formalwear, neither of them negative. One was anticipatory (someone told him he’d wondered if Richard would show up in shorts) and the other, envious.

Richard has worn shorts as far north as Edmonton, Canada, where he says it was “pretty cold” but he’d do it again. And he once wore shorts throughout England, where he said he really stuck out (but when people found out they were from Hawai’i, he was instantly forgiven).

He’s speaking at a high school graduation soon, and says that’s the only time he’ll bend his rule and wear long pants. “That to me is serious stuff,” he says. “Everything else is pretty light.”

Re: the shorts. Would he do it again? Definitely, he says.

“If I met the president of the United States, I would have to really think hard,” he says. “But that’s about it.”