Tag Archives: Alan Wong

Watch Richard & Tracy on KITV-News Tonight; & Some Photos

Richard's segment on KHON news last night was interesting! Always something new.

If you didn't catch the piece, titled, "Local farmer turns to natural cleaner to kill bacteria," you can watch it here:

Richard Ha on KHON-2 News

Lara Yamada of KITV came by and she interviewed us there, as well. Here she is with Tracy. This segment will run on tonight's KITV News.


Here's Richard speaking to Olena Heu. This was at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room at Ala Moana.


Olena Heu interviewing Alan Wong.


With Vincent Kimura, of the Innovi Group.


Olena tested her cell phone, and then some tomatoes, for bacteria, and then again after treating them with ozone. Watch the segment to see what she discovered! Really interesting.


– Leslie Lang

What Is That Circle Around Us?

Richard Ha writes:

A bunch of things are happening right now. They look very different, but see if you notice what they all have in common.

We are just seeing the tomatoes start to produce more in spite of the dark, wet weather. It’s the third week of February; and last year, too, our tomatoes’ rate of production started climbing in the third week of February. That gives me a good feeling, because I’d been looking around and anticipating this.

All around I see growth. Avocado trees everywhere are choke with flowers right now. The ‘ulu are starting to develop on the tree; the ones I’m watching are about baseball size right now. Everything’s growing and producing around us.

We spent Saturday in Kona at a get-together for Armstrong Produce and its farmers. We stayed there for several hours, talking story with everybody.

I was sitting next to Timothy Choo, a chef from Sodexho, which does food service for UH Hilo. Sodexho is a huge supporter of local products, they go out of their way to buy locally, and we had a big conversation about it. Sodexho is supplied by Suisan, also a big supporter of local products.

I was also talking to Troy Keolanui, manager of OK Farms. Ed Olson owns that farm, 200 acres of many kinds of fruit and other trees, and we help distribute their produce under our Hilo Coast brand.

They are located behind Rainbow Falls, and they have a tent, with chairs in it, where they can sit and look at the falls. They purposely set it up behind some bushes so it doesn’t disrupt the more common view of Rainbow Falls, the one that tourists look at every day.

Then we drove back to this side of the island and went straight
to Puna. Chef Alan Wong was there, and he was throwing a small dinner for the farmers he buys from here.

Alan Wong and I started talking about the Adopt-A-Class project. I
said, “Why don’t we do a broader Adopt-A-Class project this time, in Puna. We’ll take the whole district and go to each of the schools there, including the charter schools. Everywhere there are elementary school kids.”

He’s into it. When we did this in the past, Alan Wong gave a class at Keaukaha Elementary School where he showed the kids how
to use tomatoes, and passed tomatoes around and had some of those kids eating, and loving, tomatoes.

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Then yesterday, the folks from Zippy’s came by the farm. They’re going to open up a restaurant at Prince Kuhio Plaza soon and we’ll be supplying some of their products. Zippy’s has a strong “support local” program. When you go into any Zippy’s restaurant, you always see signs about which farms they get some of their products from. Zippy’s also uses local beef. It’s a corporate decision to support local growers.

Do you see the common link among all these things? Everybody’s coming at it from a different point-of-view, but the common
denominator is that we are so lucky to live here in Hawai‘i!

It’s all about local food and making ourselves food-secure. Our tomatoes are thriving and plentiful; where else in the country can you grow tomatoes throughout the winter? Other food is growing all around us.

Armstrong Produce distributes the products of many local farmers and producers. So does Suisan. Sodexo buy that local food.

And Alan Wong, too, is very interested in supporting local farmers and teaching local school kids. He’s very aware of the movement to be self-sustaining and is always reaching out to teach kids about where they come from, how their parents used to live and how we can live now. He’s all about helping people be grounded, and he comes at it with the training of a very high-level chef.

People are really helping each other out. Everybody has to make money, but they’re looking after the next person in the chain. If you’re the farmer, you’re hoping that your wholesaler is caring about you and not just the retailers. Everybody is look after everybody else.

It’s the only way I can figure out that we can help our own workers. Because, of everyone, who’s going to protect the workers? I’ve got to do everything I can to protect them.

There’s a big circle of sustainability around us, and it’s one that’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s really incredible, though it’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget to notice.


2011: The Year in Review

What a year it’s been! Here are some 2011 highlights:

There was a lot of conversation, of course, about geothermal. The Geothermal Working Group Interim Report  – which provided lawmakers with an evaluation of using the hot water reservoir in certain locations of Big Island to provide local and renewable energy for electricity and transportation – was distributed to state legislators. I also wrote about it being a matter of leadership, about mopping the deck of the Titanic, and about how the momentum toward geothermal has shifted. Also about a Democratic Party Resolution supporting geothermal for baseload electrical power.

I attended a geothermal energy forum in Pahoa, with Hawaiian leaders speaking and every seat taken. There were more Hawaiian perspectives in supporting geothermal, this time in Hilo. And about even more Big Island support for geothermal.

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I posted a link to the cloudcam, a time-lapse video taken by the Canada France Hawaii telescope’s cloud cam at night, which I thought was really neat. It’s time-lapse photography where you can watch the stars migrate across the night sky.

June and I enjoyed meeting and talking with visionary Earl Bakken at his Kiloho Bay home, and learning about his manifesto.

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We participated in Alan Wong’s Farmers Series dinner for a second time, and really enjoyed it.

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People seemed to enjoy the conclusion of my Maku‘u Series. I got a lot of great feedback on it. It was fun remembering the old days and the old ways of my Kamahele ‘ohana in Maku‘u.

I wrote about biofuels, and the very real problems with them. Also on biofuels and feedstock. I wrote a post about the National Research Council calling biofuels costly and their impacts questionable.

I spoke to the Kamehameha Schools First Nation Fellows about food sustainability, showed them the farm and gave them some of the best advice I could think of.

Of course I mentioned a few times about how “If the farmers make money, farmers will farm.” That link is to one of those times.

In June, seven Polynesian-style voyaging waka (canoes), representing different Pacific Islands, arrived in Hilo Bay after a two-month voyage from Aotearoa (New Zealand).

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Leslie Lang, my blog editor, went for a spin around the bay on one, and we wrote about how the ancient ways are again showing us the way.

“It’s all about taking the knowledge and wisdom of the past and using it in the present to make a stronger future. It’s exactly what the old Polynesians did when they sailed out into the Pacific to find new land.”

It’s a strong metaphor. I wrote my impressions of the vaka here.

More vaka posts: The Canoes are Coming: Te Mana o Te MoanaThey’re Here! and What’s the Big Deal about Voyaging Canoes?

In July, CEO of Ku‘oko‘a Ro Marth and I went to Iceland, in order to see for ourselves how Iceland went from being a developing country in the 1970s to one of the most productive countries in the world today. (Here’s a hint: GEOTHERMAL.)

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Read about our very interesting trip (I wore shorts) at Heading to IcelandHeading to Iceland 2Power Plant Earth and Iceland, In Conclusion.

The online news organization Civil Beat published my three-part series on energy and food security in September.

Civil Beat article

And I attended my fourth Peak Oil conference, this one in Washington, D.C. I wrote about it here: Part 1: As the ASPO Conference Gears UpPart 2: Impressions from the ConferencePart 3: Energy Return on Energy Invested and Part 4: The Answer is Geothermal.

It has been a busy, productive and interesting year, and I look forward to having another of the same. My best wishes to everybody out there reading for a happy, healthy and successful 2012!


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!’”


Tomato Tomato Tomato, & More

June and I went to the Leeward Community College culinary gala L’Ulu this past Saturday night. It was a fundraiser for the college’s culinary students, and each chef was paired with a farmer. We were paired with Chef Alan Wong.

Alan and june

Here’s Chef Alan, making sure his farmer is properly supplied with a glass of Reisling, and below, June stands with a display of Hamakua Springs tomatoes.

Hamakua springs display

Chef Alans crew making tomato 3 ways

Chef Alan selected “Tomato, Tomato, Tomato” as the dish he would prepare for samples. That is a two-colored, cold tomato soup made from yellow and red tomatoes. In the center is a scoop of tomato sorbet with li hing mui dressing. On the side are two roasted grape tomatoes – one red and one yellow. The taste combination is incredible.

Tomato tomato tomato

His “Tomato, Tomato, Tomato” recipe can be found in his new, award-winning cookbook The Blue Tomato. Read about the cookbook’s recent Ka Palapala Po’okela award.


This woman, Mrs. Ishimoto, told us she was a great fan of Hamakua Springs tomatoes. It turned out she is the grandmother of Brian Clay, the Olympic athlete. We were thrilled to meet her even before we found that out.

June and I enjoyed talking to the people there. We felt the strongest sentiment of supporting local farmers that we ever have anywhere.


Foodland, Farming & Future

We went to a great luncheon recently, on O‘ahu at the Hawaii Prince Hotel, which was sponsored by Foodland and the Hawaii Society of Business Professionals. It was titled “The Next Steps in Farm to Table.”

Foodland is a great friend of local agriculture.

Waimea market

From the Foodland blog:

Why Eat Local?

by Veronica the Visionary on February 21, 2011 / 11:48 AM

Did you know that if Hawaii were hit by a natural disaster, we would only have only two to three weeks supply of food – and that’s not considering that people would begin hoarding the minute that fear of the disaster hit! In the aftermath of a frenzy of people buying all they could, Hawaii’s food supply could last only a few days! I was shocked to hear that on Thursday at a luncheon our company sponsored called “The Next Steps in Farm to Table.” Hosted by the Hawaii Society of Business Professionals, the lunch featured a panel of restaurateur Alan Wong, local farmer Richard Ha, and master sommelier Chuck Furuya. We were excited to be asked to sponsor the event because we are passionate about the importance of buying local and have great respect for the three speakers and all they have done to promote local producers.

The event was entertaining and educational. Alan shared that if our community just increased its purchases from local farmers by 10%, this would result in an incremental $94 million for our farmers and an additional $188 million in sales for our economy. Without question, supporting local farmers is good for our ENTIRE community. As Richard put it, “Food security has to do with farmers farming. If farmers make money, they farm.” In other words, if we buy more local produce, farmers can afford to farm more and we will be less dependent on outside sources of food – and contribute to a healthy economy in our state. Read the rest

Here’s June sampling some of Chef Keoni Chang’s creations, which he made with Hamakua Springs tomatoes. Keoni is Foodland’s Chef-in-Residence.

June and salsa

“Hamakua Springs Salsa,” which is found in all Foodland supermarkets, is Chef Keoni’s creation. It’s my favorite tomato salsa by far.


The Story of the Adopt-A-Class Project

When I first heard that the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was interested in coming to Mauna Kea, I volunteered to be on the TMT committee of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB). If the TMT was going to happen, I wanted to have a hand in making sure it was done right.

At the time, I was just a banana farmer minding my own business. But it was clear to me that I needed to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and the effect the TMT might have on the Hawaiian people, whose feelings about Mauna Kea were deep-rooted.

That led me to Keaukaha, the oldest Hawaiian Homes community on the Big Island, and to Keaukaha Elementary School, which is the center of the community’s social structure. Lehua Veincent was the school’s principal.

I thought I had a reasonable plan of action when I asked Kumu Lehua what he thought about asking the TMT folks to give Keaukaha Students five full-ride scholarships to the best schools in the nation. He looked at me, and in a gentle way he asked: “And what about the rest?”

I could feel my ears getting red. Indeed, what about the rest? That was a lesson I will never forget.

The TMT folks engaged HIEDB to do community outreach, and we had done that for about a year when they decided instead to engage the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa directly. But having met and liked the folks in the Keaukaha community, I continued to talk story with Kumu Lehua and then Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association. Occasionally, I would drop by and give the kupuna bananas or tomatoes—whatever was in oversupply.

One day, I asked Kumu Lehua where the students go on excursions. He told me that they did not go on regular excursions; instead they walk around the community, because they did not have enough money for the school buses.

I thought that everybody went on excursions! Here we were in Keaukaha, the most Hawaiian of Hawaiian communities, looking up at the Hawaiians’ sacred mountain Mauna Kea where there are millions of dollars’ worth of telescopes, and the kids do not go on excursions because they cannot afford the bus?

I was speechless.

I thought, “This no can.” I called my friend Duane Kanuha, and we came up with the idea that we would start an Adopt-A-Class program. It would be designed like the Adopt-A-Child program one sees on TV, where for $25 or so, one could “adopt” a child, and the child would sent a note and photos, showing how his/her live improved.

We did some checking and decided to set $600 as the amount it would take to Adopt-A-Class so they could go on excursions. Three hundred dollars would be for the bus, and $300 would go toward entry fees for ‘Imiloa—Hilo’s world-class Hawaiian culture and science museum—should the teachers choose to take the students there.

We told the community about this, and they responded. We had all the classes from K-6 adopted, for both semesters, within four months. And they all started to go on excursions.

Chef Alan Wong was one of the first to get involved in the Adopt-A-Class program. One day he called me and said, “I want to go talk to the class I adopted.” This led to him visiting and presenting a class to the 6th graders. Leslie Lang wrote about it here on the blog:

…The principal of the school told me they never get people of such celebrity speaking to, and inspiring, their kids. Richard says that one of the teachers told him, too, that no one comes to Keaukaha Elementary to tell the kids they, too, can do it. He says the teacher had tears in her eyes when she told him that.

It was really an incredible morning. Read more

Alan Wong has a new book out, The Blue Tomato, which came about as a result of that visit to Keaukaha Elementary School.

The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation heard about our Adopt-A-Class project and they took the idea islandwide. They were going to sponsor half of all students on the island to visit ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, but then the bus company heard about it and offered such a huge discount that instead they were able to pay for every student on the island, in every public, private and charter school.

During that one year that the TMT disengaged from dealing with Big Island folks, the feeling in the community was overwhelming that the TMT would be going to Chile, not coming to Hawai‘i. The TMT people were not successful when dealing directly with UH Manoa.

But Dr. Henry Yang, Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara and the new President of the TMT Corporation, wanted to assess the situation for himself. So along with his friend Dr. Jean Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech University, he came to visit the Big Island.

I was at that meeting. Dr. Yang asked what I thought. I told him it would take a lot of work and they would need to talk to the community directly.

Henry is a “people person.” By the end of the meeting, I could tell he is the kind of person one could do business with on a handshake.

He and Jean Lou visited the Big Island at least 15 times after that, and because of the relationships I had built up in the Keaukaha Community with the Adopt-A-Class project, I was able to bring them to community meetings with the real, grassroot folks. To their credit, Henry and Jean Lou wanted to meet with even the most strident activists on the island.

They visited Keaukaha Elementary School four times. Can you imagine, the President of the TMT and the President of Cal Tech visiting Keaukaha School so many times that they became a fixture? As in: “Eh, where you guys going now? Come, come. Go eat!”

The relationship and the trust grew. Henry and Jean Lou started to understand that the lowest common denominator, on which folks on all sides of the issue could agree, was keiki education.

So one of the first foundation pieces they agreed to was committing $1 million per year for keiki education. It would start as soon as the construction permit was issued, and then continue through the construction period and for the life of the TMT. This is estimated to be 58 years.

Imagine, $58 million dollars for the education of our kids on the Big Island!

The TMT is applying now for the construction permit. If it is approved and we get the $58 million dollars for keiki education, it will be largely because people cared about other people, and sent kids on excursions just because it was the right thing to do.

My Pop used to tell me, “Get thousand reasons why no can. I only looking for the one reason why CAN!”