The Name Game

“We’re the same guys that did Keaau Bananas,” says Richard Ha, president of the more-recently-named Hamakua Springs Country Farms. “It might not be generally known that we’re the same people.”

He started Keaau Bananas way back in 1982. Along the way the company took “Mauna Kea Bananas” as its corporate name, and began using the Mauna Kea Bananas name on its apple bananas as well.

But then they started farming in Hamakua, consolidated and expanded operations at their Pepe‘ekeo farm and sold their Kea‘au land.

And they changed the company’s name to Hamakua Springs Country Farms.

While their tomatoes have always been branded under the Hamakua Springs Country Farms name, Richard says changing the bananas to the new name, after decades as “Keaau Bananas,” was a big deal.

“It’s not that easy to just change it one day,” he says. “You wonder about the repercussions. And you get invested in the name emotionally. You’ve got to separate that out.”



The new name, complete with its great, highly stylized logo designed by local artist Nelson Makua, includes:

Hamakua -because of the farm’s Hamakua coastline location,

Springs -because there are three springs on the property, and

Country Farms – because the Has think of themselves as small farmers, even though, with almost 600 acres, they aren’t. Richard says that as they expanded the farms’ products, they envisioned a series of boutique-like farms rather than one big corporate identity.

What does Richard most want people to know about Hamakua Springs? That the company’s culture hasn’t changed.

It is still a family farm that takes seriously the concept of sustainable farming. And he says that doesn’t mean just taking a “template” of sustainability principles and applying that wherever they are.

“It was different in Kea‘au,” he says. “Two different environments, two different sets of conditions. The environment dictates how we choose to operate; how to make the sustainability principles work.”

An example? Unlike at the Kea‘au farm where it was mostly rock, at the Pepe‘ekeo farm there’s plenty of soil, and grass grows wild between the bananas.

They soon realized that their tractors would make ruts in the dirt rows between plants if they kept using the same path, so they experimented with widening the distance between banana plants. That lets them mow between rows, which means their machines get traction on the grass and don’t make ruts.

It also means the grass between the plants traps water and chemicals, so they don’t run into the rivers.

“Some people call us innovators,” says Richard. “We’re very adaptable. We like change. It keeps things exciting. We’re always looking for change to make things better.”


39 pounds in 39 weeks

Richard Ha writes:

Since I got that email from Mike Tanabe I wrote about here last week, I have a new goal. I’m going to lose a bunch of weight.

Aside from health reasons, my reason for losing weight is to be able to ride my bike on the Kulani trails and have fun. The Kulani trails are an insider thing that only mountain bikers know about. I’ve ridden there before, but that was ten years ago when I weighed about 195 lbs., and at that weight it was more work than fun.

I estimate that I need to get down to 180 lbs. to have fun, and 175 to have a lot of fun.

Right now I weigh 214 lbs., so I have 39 lbs to lose and since I’m planning to lose a pound a week, 39 weeks to lose it.

About losing one pound per week: One pound equals 3,500 calories. To lose one pound per week I need to either eat 3,500 less calories or exercise 3,500 calories more than I do now. Or, some combination that results in a 3,500 calorie deficit. I can’t do diets and I can’t count calories, but I can do exercise.

My plan is to exercise so that I use up 500 calories per day. That times seven days equals 3,500 calories per week. I use an elliptical trainer, which is easy on the joints so fat old guys can use it. So it’s all doable.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now, sort of like when I quit smoking cigarettes. One day, 25 years or so ago, I quit cold turkey. I carried around a partial pack of cigarettes in my glove compartment for many months without even seeing it.

I’m at that point now with the weight loss. It took running into Mike and then his email to push me over the edge.

I’m going to post here every Tuesday re: how it’s going with my “pound a week” goal. Knowing I’ll be checking in here will keep me on track.

At 8:00 am Sunday, May 21, 2006:
Weight was 214.8 lbs.
Goal 175 lbs.
Weight loss to date —–
Resting heart rate* 65 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 resting heart rate was 52; that was many years ago.


Uncle Tomato

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Emma Rose who really loved tomatoes. When she even just saw a picture of tomatoes in a magazine, she would say, “That’s my favorite.” Sometimes she ate Hamakua Springs Country Farms tomatoes like they were apples.

One day Uncle Richard was visiting Emma Rose’s house, and he brought a big box of goodies. Lettuce, cucumbers and many different sizes and types and colors of tomatoes.

Her mama said something about how nice it was that Uncle Richard brought them her favorite food. Emma Rose exclaimed: “Uncle Tomato!” and then laughed and laughed.

When Uncle Richard heard about this, he replied:

“You know, back when I was in high school and the macho image was everything, if someone told me that in my later years I would be known as The Banana Man and Uncle Tomato, we would have to go behind the gym, scrap.”

He’s mellowed since then.


Guy with the Bike

Richard Ha writes:

Mike Tanabe emailed yesterday after he read the blog. He is a professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Agriculture. More than ten years ago I audited his tissue culture class and, with his help, made a commercial tissue culture lab to produce banana plants. 
Mike is also an elite master mountain bike racer. He is not your average weekend warrior. He is an inspiration and role model for bikers half his age. He and I put on mountain bike races 10 years or so ago. I even entered several novice races back then.  
Mike wrote that I was becoming recognized as the guy with the shorts, which represents the casual and comfortable attitude that Hawaii is known for. Now, with all the concern about global warming and energy supply, he said, how about being identified with a bike as well as short pants? I hadn’t given that a thought. 
I thought to myself, I am 61 years old now and way overweight. I can’t do this.

He went on: You could be identified as the guy with the bike who cares about his health, and a person like this might be perceived as one who produces healthy food products and cares for the health of the earth, using less petroleum products and hence producing less harmful emissions, etc. This could be two-pronged in that it could serve as a marketing tool but also, you may be coerced to start riding again and the result would be an excellent supplement to your weight training program, he said. I had seen him at the airport a few days ago and we caught up with each other’s training programs. 
Imagine, he said, photos of you next to your banana plants, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, watercress, herbs, etc. with a bike. Even when receiving awards. Perhaps even from the President of the U.S. who has been very open about his passion for riding mountain bikes. Hmmmm!!! I wouldn’t have to wear long pants. 
But then again, Mike probably really just wants to get the President to accompany him and the boys on the Friday Kulani Trails ride. Less than ten of the most hardcore mountain bike riders do this ride. I’ve tried to keep up and I saw them for a few minutes and lost them for the rest of the day. I’ve even tried to start mid-way. 
I wonder what those trails look like nowadays? 



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.”