Welcome to our last seminar series for ALP Class XV. A bittersweet feeling as we land back on the Big Island. Together again (though missing SteveO), we traveled to the Hāmākua Agricultural Cooperative to meet with Max Bowman. He shared his story of the membership community of farmers and ranchers who sub-lease land to farm for diversified products. With beautiful views and windy conditions, Max explained that he leases 4 acres and focuses on a diversity of organic products. He utilizes the Cooperative’s production facility and delivers products as far down as Puna district. His market demand seems bottomless but delivery and storage challenges prevent him from growing too quickly.
After lunch we travelled to Hawaii’s largest producing dairy, Big Island Dairy. Owned by Whiteside’s Dairy based in Idaho and one of only two dairies in Hawaii, Big Island dairy has been in operation for 10 years and currently has the capacity to supply 20% of all the Hawaiian Island’s milk demands. It’s an impressively clean facility and the cows have a schedule that they like to stick to, being milked 3x a day they know the routine. The operation grows much of its own silage to reduce costly imports and they compost all waste on site. They do intend to increase their scale to 1,800 head (meeting 30% of Hawaii’s needs) and we look forward to enjoying more fresh Big Island Dairy milk.
Our first day closed with an alumni networking potluck dinner hosted at the magnificent Kahuā Ranch. Monty Richards and his family hosted us at their 8,500 acre private ranch. Monty is truly a living legend, he also played a pivotal part in the creation of the Agricultural Leadership Foundation when he feared for the future of agriculture once the plantations started closing on the Big Island. It was an honor to meet him and to mingle with other alumni and friends that joined us that evening. We didn’t even notice that the electricity went out as most of our attention was on the superb food spread and perfect sunset.
Mahalo nui for all those involved in planning this day, celebrating with us, and sharing your mana’o.