Tag Archives: John Cross

You’re Invited to a Community Meeting re: Hamakua Agriculture

Richard Ha writes:

Save the dates:

  • Wednesday, October 29
  • Wednesday, November 5
  • Thursday, November 13
  • 6-8 p.m.
  • Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Bandroom

On these dates, the Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation will hold a series of community meetings to discuss agriculture on the Hamakua Coast. All are welcome (and refreshments are free).

We will take a 40,000 foot view of ag and its outside influences, and then look at the resources available to help us, such as the Daniel K. Inouye-Pacific Basin Ag Research Center (PBARC), the College of Tropical Ag and Human Resources (CTAHR), and the College of Ag, Forestry and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) at UH Hilo. 

There are many scientists researching various subjects. What do we want them to work on?

Farmers will be at the meeting to share their knowledge and experience.

Are you looking for land to farm? Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate with be there, and the Hamakua Ag Co-op has vacant land.

John Cross, former land manager for C. Brewer/Hilo Coast Processing, will attend. Did you know why all the sugar cane equipment had tracks, rather than rubber tires? Did you know that the plantations frequently planted banyan trees as significant landmarks? 

Jeff Melrose will be at the meetings. He recently did a study that's a snapshot of agriculture on the Big Island. He will talk about on what is grown on the Hamakua coast and why.

Come and talk story with the presenters, learn where you can get additional information, and speak up on what you would like to know more about in the future.

Ag & food security symposia



Looking Back: RIP Senator Inouye

Richard Ha writes:

Senator Dan Inouye had a direct influence on Hamakua Springs Country Farms, primarily through the Rural Economic Transition Assistance Hawaii (RETAH) program. That, in turn, allowed us to be part of the Big Island Community Coalition, where our mission is to achieve the lowest-cost electricity in the state.

We continue to follow Senator Inouye’s example: It is about all of us, not just a few of us.

Mahalo, Senator Inouye—Rest in Peace.

Let me tell you a story. Nearly 18 years ago, C. Brewer Executive John Cross let me use 10 acres at Pepe‘ekeo, rent free, to test grow bananas. It was not clear then whether or not bananas could be successfully farmed in the deep soil and heavy rainfall of the Hilo Coast.

Having farmed bananas in the rocks of Kapoho and Kea‘au, I had no experience pulling a plow or getting stuck in mud. Until then, the standard way of planting bananas was by the “mat” system. The idea was to plant 250 plants per acre. Then, after the first bunch was harvested, you let four plants grow up, thereby increasing the population to 1000 plants per acre.

We decided to plant 25 percent fewer plants, in straight rows, so sunlight could hit the ground. The idea was to mow the grass in the
middle aisles in order to get traction instead of getting stuck in the mud. On that 10 acres, I mowed the grass and pulled a plow during the week to mark the lines. Then every weekend for several months, Grandma (who was 71), June, Tracy, Kimo and I, plus our two grandkids, would plant the banana plants from our own tissue culture lab.

(UH Hilo Professor Mike Tanabe taught us how to do that. And, by the way, instead of having a drop in production, the bunch size became larger, which made banana farming at Pepe‘ekeo more efficient.)

Kimo would carry a bucket of lime and dropped a handful as a marker every so many steps. Tracy or June drove the truck, and Kapono, who was around 6 years old, sat in the back and dropped a plant by the lime marker. Using picks and shovels, the rest of us set the plants in the ground. Even Kimberly, who was around 3, had a pick. She dug a hole wherever she wanted. After all the plants were planted, we took buckets and fertilized them.

At the end of that year, we felt it would work. We had a small ceremony where Doc Buyers, C. Brewer’s Chairman of the Board, cut off the first bunch of bananas. Also present were Jim Andrasick, who was then President of C. Brewer, and later Chairman of the Board of Matson; Willy Tallett, Senior Vice President of Real Estate/Corporate Development, and John Cross, who later became President of Mauna Kea Agribusiness (the successor company of C. Brewer).

C. Brewer had tens of thousands of acres and we had 10 acres – but our dreams were huge! We did not feel awkward that this group of heavy-duty corporate people were in attendance. We knew where we were going and it felt very appropriate for them to be there.

Then, a few years later, Senator Inouye, the leader of the Democratic party, appointed Monty Richards, a staunch Republican, to administer the RETAH program. That helped us expand our production at a critical time. And again Senator Inouye demonstrated that it wasn’t about a few of us, but it was about all of us.

We are only one of the tens of thousands of people who were helped by Senator Inouye.

At this special time of year, we look back at times and people from long ago and we smile. We thank everyone who has helped us along the way.

If we can continue to grow food, and if we can help our workers have a better life for their children, those are our goals.

Happy Holidays, Everyone.


Hilo’s PUC Meeting Successful: ‘Enough is Enough’

Richard Ha writes:

Monday night’s PUC hearing in Hilo went very well. The overwhelming sentiment was that enough is enough. People will not take any more electricity rate hikes.

Big Island Video News has posted a video about the PUC meeting.

VIDEO: Aina Koa Pono, HELCO rate hikes blasted at PUC hearing

October 30, 2012

Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar

HILO, Hawaii: Residents of East Hawaii packed the Hilo High School cafeteria, to tell the Public Utilities Commission what they think about a proposed electricity rate hike and and biofuel surcharge…. Watch the Big Island Video News video here.

It’s hard to remember that until the BICC dared say it, no one could imagine we could actually get lower rates. We have made good progress. People are now saying they want lower rates, and expecting it.

In its “Off the News” section this morning, the Star-Advertiser wrote:

Electricity bill too high? Wear slippers

“Not to make light of a serious situation such as rising electricity bills, or a consumer group’s desire to show solidarity.  In an era when pennies – and dollars – must be pinched to get by, solidarity over cost-of living issues is a good thing.

That said, it was interesting to see that the Big Island Community Coalition opposed to a surcharge to finance the use of biofuels to produce power, urged its members to wear rubber slippers to last night’s public hearing as a show of uniform solidarity. This being Hawaii, what other footwear would folks don for a pau hana (after work) forum?

Of course this may have been a smart strategic move. This way the PUC might have scanned the room and figured that every last person was opposed.  It also ruled out slippers as a footwear choice for commission members, too….”

It was a civilized hearing and most of the many testimonies were on point.

About 150 people were in attendance and it was a diverse audience, including: Faye Hanohano, Fred Blas, Jeff Melrose, Richard Onishi, Russell Ruderman, PGV people from Nevada, Jim Albertini, Deborah Ward, Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, Mililani Trask, John Cross, Ka‘u people, ILWU, IBEW, Carpenters, Laborers, HELCO group, the Aina Koa Pono (AKP) core group, Sierra Club and other community members.

Other than HELCO, AKP and those who needed to be cautious, most of the rest were allies of low-cost electricity.

In today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Mayor Billy Kenoi made it very clear that he is against the AKP project for several reasons.

Kenoi criticizes biodiesel proposal

By ERIN MILLER Stephens Media

Aina Koa Pono’s biodiesel proposal isn’t a good deal for Hawaii County residents, Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday, hours before the Public Utilities Commission was set to begin its first Big Island hearing on the subject.

“This to me looks like one of those deals, after 10, 20 years, we ask how did we let that happen?” Kenoi said. “Ultimately, there is no benefit to the people of the Island of Hawaii….” 

Read the rest

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald also wrote about the PUC meeting itself.

Online Extra: HELCO rate hikes blasted

Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

No more increases.

That seemed to be the main message relayed to members of the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday night by more than 100 Big Isle residents who showed up at a public hearing at the Hilo High cafeteria to weigh in on two separate electricity rate hikes proposed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc….

Read the rest here

Tonight is the West Hawai‘i PUC meeting (Tuesday, October 30, 2012) at 6 p.m. in the Kealakehe High School cafeteria.

And the third and final meeting will be held this Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Farrington High School.

Wear your rubbah slippahs!