We were happy to donate Hamakua Springs bananas recently for participants at the sixth annual EMS Run over Memorial Day weekend. That’s an event supporting the Hawai‘i Fire Department and Hospice of Hilo that drew nearly 500 runners and walkers to beautiful Lili‘uokalani Park.

Despite having taken a wrong turn, Germain Ortiz led the way and was first overall at 17:22. His detour added a few hundred yards to his route before he jumped a fence to get back on course. He regained his lead at the turnaround point.

After having won the last four EMS runs (wow!), Jason Thorpe came in second this year at 17:48. Lyman Perry was close behind (17:56). In sixth place overall, and placing as first overall female at 18:40, was Kona’s Rani Tanimoto. She was followed by Caitlyn Tateishi (21:13), who just beat out Angie Miyashiro (21:15).

We were impressed to learn that 7-year-old Ziggy Bartholomy zipped through the 5K course in 22:49. Another nod of the head goes to Bill McMahon, who warmed up by cycling from Volcano to Hilo and then still posted a very respectable time of 19:10.


This was also the first year for an EMS Keiki Run. Kids were split into two heats—3-5 years, and 6-10 years—for a hilly, quarter-mile course through the park. In the older group, a glimpse of the Big Island’s running future: Ziggy Bartholomy and Kirah Cooke pushed past the pack and raced the last 50 yards neck and neck to a photo finish, breaking the tape together.

EMS run

Hamakua Springs is happy to support this good cause. Go run or walk the EMS event next year—support your Hawai‘i Fire Department and Hospice of Hilo—and maybe we’ll see you there.

There’s a full list of run winners here.

— Leslie Lang



At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 11:

Goal: lose one pound per week for 39 weeks
Starting weight on 5/23: 214.6 lbs.
Goal: 175 lbs.
This week’s target weight: 211.6 lbs.
Today’s actual weight: 209.3 lbs.
I am 2.3 lbs. ahead of schedule
This week I lost 1.2 lbs.
Weight loss since 5/23: 5.3 lbs.

Resting heart rate 5/23: 65 beats per minute
Today’s resting heart rate 59 beats per minute.*
* This goes down as one gets into better shape. Lance Armstrong is said to be at 32 beats per minute. My lowest was 52 beats per minute many years ago.

I plan to treat myself every time I lose five pounds. This week I went to Hilo Bike Hub and bought myself a bike-mounted speedometer and heart rate monitor combination. It’s okay—I don’t golf, so I’m saving money.

I did a test ride from the farm to the ocean. Decided to go only part way as I am not in good enough shape to smile the whole way. I’ll be working on that in the coming weeks. I’m starting to remember how tough the Kulani trails really are.

At Kulani, the outside perimeter roads are the easier ride. I need to start there and take the inside trails as I make progress. They become progressively harder and more brutal. No matter what, riding over a three-foot log that lies across the trail without unclipping is something that I probably will never be able to do. But the bike is light; I’ll carry (run?) it over.

Your whole body is active, riding over rocks and roots and stumps and making uphill turns with a tree just at the wrong place so you cannot lean where you want to. One should use bike shoes that clip the shoes to the pedals so you can pull up when the other foot is not in a position to push down. But, when trying to put a foot down, it is counter-intuitive to move your heel to the left or right to unclip before saving your life by putting a foot down.

I can remember yelling often, while falling in slow motion, because I thought that I could not afford the time that it would take to unclip in order to put a foot down. So I would be stuck to the shoe, which was clipped to the pedal, while falling over. It’s funny how you always yell when this is happening. But that goes away after some practice. The yelling goes away at the same rate that you stop falling. After you pass through this phase you get to smile when you hear someone yelling in the forest.

In Kulani, you need to go faster than feels safe to get the momentum necessary to carry you over obstacles. In Kulani it is all about momentum. But if you’re overweight you cannot maintain momentum—you can only think about not falling over, because you’re going too slow.

So it is a challenge and great fun to be able to ride the Kulani trails, especially if you’re over 60. I’ve got a long way to go. Not, no can. Can!!!

If I could finish one of the fun rides or races there, it would be one of the most satisfying things that I can think to do.


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


Intelligent Design

When I talked to Nelson Makua recently, he told me that his job is to be the “other side of the brain.”

Nelson has a full-service design company, and he’s the one who designed that great Hamakua Springs logo. He’s known Richard for years, having designed the Kea‘au Bananas logo way back when.

“What I offer clients is an objective view from the outside,” he said, “to give a fresh perspective of how they’re being perceived by the clients. The other half is to take that information and make it into something visually, to address whatever we’re trying to achieve.” The art work, he explained, is pretty much the last leg of the job.

He said that when Richard told him he was starting up Hamakua Springs, he went out to Pepe‘ekeo to see the farm for himself.

“When I got there he showed me some springs,” he told me. “His farm had access to fresh water springs just coming out of the grounds. That was basically the take-off point for the image. I was looking for something that visually dictated the water element, as well as the mountains and valley of the Hamakua coast.”

He found it.


Later, when Richard told Nelson he was going to start growing products hydroponically, and produce a “living product,” Nelson said he knew it wouldn’t be enough to just tell people that.

“I’m a visualist and my problem was the words weren’t strong enough, clear enough,” he said. “So I designed a little logo that would appear on all the products that are living. Something that would distinguish him from other companies.”

As for the hydroponics, he called it “Hawaiian Hydroponics,” to give it a geographic sense. Nelson explained that as a visual pun, there’s a drop of water replacing the first “o” in “hydroponic.”


Nelson has worked in the business for almost 30 years, specializing in image development and logo design.

He explained that image development is looking at the products, figuring out who the market is and working out visuals based on that.

Logo design—well, you know what that is:


Nelson’s good, obviously, at what he does, and his resume proves it. He’s worked with Big Island Candies for 20 years and Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts for 10, as well as for Chinese New Year, the Hawaiian Slack Key Festival, Tahiti Fete of both Hilo and San Jose and others.

His work has been nominated three times for Hoku Hanohano awards (for three of the 27 album designs he’s done for Hawaiian Slack Key Masters) and won for graphic design twice. For four years now he’s designed the beautiful Merrie Monarch hula posters.

He displays his clothing line at the retail store “Na Makua” (, on Waianuenue Avenue in downtown Hilo, which he operates with his son Kainoa. His new designs come out there in August, if you want to go see.

It’s always worth the trip.


–Leslie Lang, chief blogger


At The Mall

At the Ag Expo this past Saturday, at Hilo’s Prince Kuhio Plaza, one of the things we demonstrated was our “living lettuce.”


Richard’s wife June and their daughter Tracy set out a head of our lettuce, which we distribute with some of the roots still attached, in a “Hawaii Seal of Quality” mug filled with water—to show how you can keep Hamakua Springs lettuce fresher, for longer.

Here’s Richard with the lettuce.


It sat there from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tracy says it looked great. “The lettuce stayed nice and perky the whole time we were there,” she says. Feel free to try this at home.

We also rolled out our new slogan: “Hydroponic: Clean and Green.” What do you think? We want to educate the public about the positives of growing food hydroponically, the way we grow everything at Hamakua Springs (except the bananas, of course).

If this is new to you, you can read more about the Clean and Green—such as why hydroponics is such a healthy choice (growing without soil means less need for chemicals and pesticides, as well as lower energy use because we don’t have to till the ground, etc.)—at our website.

We also sold our vegetables at the Ag Expo this year. While introducing people to our new products, we managed to move about 65 pounds of cucumbers, five cases of tomatoes (beefsteak, cocktail, mini Roma and heirlooms) and six cases of lettuce.

Have YOU tried Hamakua Springs? We’re at your supermarket (if you live here in the land of aloha, that is).

Ag Expo

If you don’t live here in the land of aloha—why not? Where do you live? Tell us something about it. Or tell us what your favorite Hamakua Springs product is. We’d love to hear from you.


Losing It

Richard Ha writes:

At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 4:
Starting weight 214.6 lbs.
This week’s target weight 212.6 lbs.
Today’s actual weight 210.5 lbs.
I am 2.1 lbs ahead of schedule
This week I lost 1.1 lbs.

Goal 175 lbs.
Weight loss since 5/23: 4.1 lbs.
Starting resting heart rate 65
Today’s resting heart rate 61 beats per minute.*

* This goes down as one gets into better shape. Lance Armstrong is said to be at 32 beats per minute. My lowest was 52 beats per minute many years ago.

I lost 1.1 lbs. this week, when my goal was to lose 1 lb. Overall, I’m 2.1 lbs. ahead of schedule now.

I’m starting to realize that all the things you read about losing weight are pretty much true: Lose a little bit of weight at a time; eat breakfast; check the scale frequently, and you start to feel better—it’s all true. I’m not feeling deprived; just a little more disciplined.

They say that one of the characteristics of successful weight losers is that they check the scale frequently, and it is interesting to weigh frequently. I’m doing that and I’m starting to spot patterns and I’m actually modifying my eating behavior on the fly. For instance, last week I gained almost 2 lbs. for no apparent reason. I deduced that it was due to eating too much sodium, like in the beef jerky that we bought from Costco. I eat way too much of this when I get my hands in it. So, I just found out what “retaining water” means.

It is true, too, about weighing in at the same time each day. In the morning after everything is stable works for me. The rest of the time, I’m trying to figure out what causes the temporary ups and downs. Kind of interesting.

In terms of exercise, I use a heart rate monitor to determine how hard to work. Effective training involves just the right amount of stress combined with adequate rest. This involves monitoring one’s heart rate. The heart is a muscle and needs to be trained accordingly.

There are training programs that are based on one’s theoretical maximum heart rate. There are on-line calculators that will calculate your maximum heart rate and there are training programs that tell you how long to train at what heart rate. So this involves watching your heart rate monitor and working harder or less depending on what your schedule calls for.

I am on what is called an interval training program. I train hard three times per week and cruise for the other four days. For the first three weeks, the training days are progressively more intense but for shorter durations. The fourth week is an active rest week where I cruise for at least an hour three times during the week.

On the days I am not scheduled for intense training, I cruise until I get 500 calories expended. On my elliptical trainer at 70% of maximum heart rate, which is considered active rest, it takes me about 40 minutes to accumulate 500 calories.

Because I like to lift weights I throw weightlifting into the mix as long as my heart rate is where I need it to be. One word of caution: one should refrain from over-training.

Here’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon to keep it all in perspective.

I cannot wait to break 200!


How We Do It: Toys

Richard Ha writes:

Workers in Central and South America who harvest bananas have to carry the heavy bunches more than 100 feet to a cable for transporting.

Compare that to our workers, who harvest bananas using ATVs pulling trailers. We designed these units so the harvesters take only about seven steps with the banana bunch on their backs. The height is such that they don’t have to bend their backs too much when placing the bunch onto the trailer, and the tires run on five pounds of pressure, which prevents bouncing.

Aren’t we brilliant to have designed such a system? NOT!!

I’d like to think so, but here’s how it really came about: About fifteen years ago, when I used to ride off-road dirt bikes for fun, the first 3-wheelers came out. I just had to have one of those new toys.

So I mentioned to June how the farm could use one for spraying. I could strap on the backpack sprayer, I explained, and by riding on the 3-wheeler instead of walking I could get more spraying done.

I got the impression her reaction was, “Yeah, right.” But we got one, and it was as fun as I thought it would be and we did actually use it for spraying.

And then the 4-wheelers came out. They had lots of power and great suspension, so of course I had to have one of those, too.

“I know what!” I told June. “We’ll use it to pull a trailer when harvesting bananas.”

We’ve used them ever since.


Living Lettuce

Richard Ha writes:

Our newest product here at Hamakua Springs Country Farms—our Chef’s Select baby lettuce, which we grow hydroponically under a rain shelter—breathes.


That’s why we call our new product “living lettuce”—because we leave some of the roots on when we send it out to the stores. This means the lettuce can take up water and oxygen, and gives it a longer shelf life. It also means one can actually keep it fresh on a kitchen counter for awhile, in a bowl of fresh water, provided some of the roots remain above the water so it can take in oxygen.

We developed the “Chef’s Select baby lettuce” product after learning about the finer points of lettuce from Chef Alan Wong, who provides much appreciated help and advice when we are developing new products.

We held a product development meeting at Chef Alan’s King Street Restaurant and I watched him evaluate several different varieties of lettuce. He removed each leaf, giving a running commentary of how each lettuce leaf could be used for salads, garnish and in other ways, depending on its size, texture, color.

Living Lettuce
I had no idea that lettuce was ever so closely scrutinized. He talked of loft, which is when a lettuce has characteristics enabling it to retain its shape and not go flat under the weight of different protein offerings as well as dressings. He said that he could use baby leaves as the baby lettuce leaves would be tender and retain their identifying shape in salads and garnishes.

That’s what led us to develop what we call Chef’s Select baby lettuce, a combination of three lettuces in each container. We chose a mini romaine for its crunchy texture, dark green color, loft and good taste. A butter lettuce is included for its light green color, buttery taste and round shaped leaves, and a lollo rosa is a part of the mix for its brilliant red color, frilly leaves and because its taste complements the other two.

If you try some of our new Chef’s Select baby lettuce you’ll know you are getting a lettuce with the characteristics that Hawai‘i’s finest chefs seek out.


3 Down

Richard Ha writes:

I’ll be posting my training updates here on Mondays. Here are my first week’s results.

At 8:00 am on Sunday, May 28:
Starting weight 214.6 lbs.
Week’s target weight 213.6 lbs.
Today’s actual weight 211.4 lbs.
I am 2.2 lbs. ahead of schedule

Goal 175 lbs.
Weight loss since 5/23: 3.2 lbs.
Starting resting heart rate 65
Today’s resting heart rate 63 beats per minute.*

* This goes down as one gets into better shape. Lance Armstrong is said to be at 32 beats per minute. My lowest was 52 beats per minute many years ago.

I’m 2.2 lbs. ahead of schedule this week. I lost 3.2 lbs. this week when my goal was to lose 1 lb.

Although I am not dieting, I find myself looking up the caloric content of what I might be eating. And because I’m exercising, I find myself eating more apple bananas and snacking on cocktail tomatoes a lot, which have zero penalty points on the Weight Watchers list of foods. Fortunately, we grow these things at Hamakua Springs, and we grow the ones we do because of how great they taste.


Losing this weight by exercising means I’ll be stronger and in better shape than I am now. I won’t be able to keep up with “the boys” on the Kulani trails. But maybe I can soon keep up with our mountain-biking President if he joins them.

The leader of “the boys” is Chris Seymour, owner of Hilo Bike Hub. He is featured with Chris Clark and Ray Brust from Oahu in the Hawaiian Airlines in-flight magazine Hana Hou. He is a friend of mine; I went with him to the bank to vouch for his bank loan when he started his bike shop, though he didn’t need me at all and had it well under control.

His riding is at a total different level than most people’s. Mike Tanabe is up there as well, relative to his age group (he’s 58). That’s an indication of how fun the Kulani trails are—something less challenging wouldn’t keep their interest.

When I can easily do the long ride from the farm to the oceanfront and back, then I will be ready to try Banana Hill. The bike riders named it that: it’s the uphill Kaupakuea Homestead Road ride in Pepeekeo, straight up from the farm to the forest line. If I can do this ride without weaving back and forth in first gear searching for flat ground, I will be making good progress.

This coming week, I’ll start to ride from the farm down to the ocean and back.


Meet Richard Ha

Our friend Sonia Martinez writes wonderful articles about food for the Hamakua Times, and last year she wrote this nice article about Richard and the farm. She generously offered to allow us to post this article on the website, and as it makes its way to the website we thought we’d share it here with you, too.

We were pleased but not surprised to learn that Sonia’s cookbook “Tropical Taste” was recently selected as one of the “Best of the Best of Hawaii” cookbooks, by the way. We highly recommend it! It makes a great, local-flavor gift, too. It’s available in Hilo at Basically Books, the Book Gallery and the Most Irresistible Shop, and coming soon to

Here’s the article:


By Sonia Martinez
May 2005 – The Hamakua Times of Honoka’a

Meet Richard Ha, tomato farmer

If you have forgotten what tomatoes really are supposed to taste like, you have to taste one of Richard’s tomatoes to bring the memory back. There is nothing of the odorless, light pink, thick fleshed, hardly any juice, cardboard taste and feel we have grown accustomed to seeing in the markets and restaurants to any of these tomatoes, regardless of the variety you try.

Tropical Taste

Long known for his bananas, papayas and oranges, Richard Ha and his family have embraced tomato growing in just the last two years. The Pepeekeo farm started out with a couple of experimental hydroponics greenhouses and now they number over a hundred.

Just a few weeks ago I was invited to a visual as well as a tasting treat.
The impressive display of tomatoes being grown and packed on premises is already mind-boggling.

Walking through the rows of vines laden with beautiful fruit and smelling the aroma of real vine-ripened tomatoes is a treat to the senses. Cocktail tomatoes, beef tomatoes, grape tomatoes, mini-Romas, tomatoes-on-the-vine, Green Zebras and other heirloom varieties such as Brandywine and in colors ranging from red to yellow to even green with green stripes are just some of the varieties now being grown.

Now operating under the name Hamakua Springs Country Farms, the Ha family has been dedicating their lives to farming for over 50 years and hope to continue for at least a 100 years more. Working as a family unit, Richard, wife June, mother Florence, daughter Tracy and son-in-law Kimo Pa will ensure that the next generations will continue in the tradition of the earlier Ha family.

Look for the Ha family’s tomatoes at your favorite grocers in clear clamshell containers with the attractive label and logo designed by Nelson Makua of Hilo.

Chef Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s Restaurant and The Pineapple Room in Honolulu has chosen the Ha Family tomatoes to feature in his restaurants. I was recently surprised and pleased to read an interview with Chef Alan that appeared in my copy of the March-April 2005 issue of Produce Concepts, a mainland publication where Chef Wong extols the taste of the Hamakua Springs Country Farms tomatoes.

During a recent visit to the Ha farm in Pepeekeo, Chef Alan and his crew of chefs delighted everyone with a presentation of several dishes using the farm’s tomatoes and cucumbers.

Given a box with an assortment of tomatoes, the first thing I did on returning home was to make a simple sandwich with bread, mayo, a thick slice of ripe Brandywine, a chiffonade of basil leaves and a light sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. The tasty juices literally ran down my hand as I ate it. It really doesn’t get any better than that!

Tomato Quiche
Serves 8

Crust of your choice
Rough Country Style Mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
3/4 cup chopped green onions (5-7 medium)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
12 mini-Roma tomatoes or other ripe fresh tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs or equivalent in egg substitute
2/3 cup or 5-ounce can fat-free evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped dill or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400o F.

Prepare crust by brushing lightly with a coating of the mustard.
Set aside until ready to fill.

For filling, heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom. Sauté mushrooms, green onions, and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender.

Arrange tomato slices on crust, cover with mushroom mixture, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over vegetables.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Rustic Herbed Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust
Source: Intimate Gatherings by Ellen Rose

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted cold butter, cut into 5 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup ice cold water

1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped fresh Italian Parsley
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 ripe tomatoes (about 1 -1/4 pounds) cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

To prepare pastry:
In food processor fitted with metal blade, combine flour, butter, salt, and Parmesan. Pulse until it resembles coarse meal, about 5-10 seconds with motor running, add lemon zest and pour water through feeder tube in steady stream.
Process 5-10 seconds until dough begins to bind. Remove dough and shape it into a 12-inch circle.

If mixing by hand or with pastry blender cut butter into the flour and salt until it reaches size of small peas. Add zest and Parmesan cheese and combine.
Slowly add ice water stirring with fork until dough starts holding together.

If not used right away, dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.
When ready to use remove and let soften to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then shape into a 12-inch circle.

Preheat oven to 425o F.

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Using pastry brush paint pastry with mustard leaving 1 to 1-1/2 inch border all around. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over mustard.

In small bowl combine basil, thyme, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
Arrange 1/2 tomato slices over must coated portion of pastry and sprinkle with herbs. Cover herbs with remaining tomatoes overlapping slices if necessary. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes.

Fold the rim of pastry over the tomatoes to enclose sides of tart, gently draping pastry over and folding it into soft pleats every few inches. Pinch cracks to seal and prevent juices from running out during baking. Paint dough with egg wash. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

Almost Instant Heirloom Tomato Relish
A recipe recently shared by my friend Evie in California. Original source:
Chef Warren Schwartz of Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas, CA. Food & Wine August
2004. Yields 1-12 cups

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into small dice.
2 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves

Heat a large skillet. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until sizzling, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and sugar and a pinch each of salt and pepper and bring to a boil; transfer the tomatoes to a bowl, leaving the juices in the skillet. Boil the juices over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir the juices, olive oil and basil into the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make ahead: The relish can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Let return to room temp before serving.

Aloha nui!