It seems fitting that we find ourselves back on the big island for our final trip considering it is here where we started this journey over a year ago. Some of us are no longer here and some of us have experienced major career changes, however growth, learning, and friendship have been constant factors throughout.
Friday morning began with a chilly Kamuela rain fitting of an upcountry region. A few of us chose to start the day at Waimea Coffee Company across from our digs at the Kamuela Inn, and as Jacob explained there is something about this area that makes coffee taste even better. Once fueled we met Keoki Wood (Lisa’s “taller” half) at the Parker Ranch headquarters where he did an outstanding job explaining the history of both the Parker legacy and the ranch itself. Inside the Mana house he described the early days of John Palmer Parker from the start with wild cattle all the way through to Richard Smart’s era and the endowed trust it has become today. Currently the ranch produces roughly 10,000 calves a year and is now harvesting about 1200 grass fed animals annually as well.
We then had the opportunity to see some of the iconic countryside that PR is so famous for, complete with infrastructure explanation and a visit to the original Parker Homestead. It is easy to see why this truly is paniolo country (insert Hawaiian song here).
After saying goodbye to Keoki we made a short jaunt to visit Louie Rincon of Rincon Farms. He is known for his strawberries but we soon learned that this self made business man has a tremendous amount of diversity in both his farming skill and product offering. When he explained why he and his family keep their commitment to farming the 20+acres he said something that really summarizes my passion as well.
“You put something in the ground, care for it, and you’ll get something back in return”
He is a charming man who likened his berries, squash, corn, and other crops to his children and it rang truer than almost anything I have heard on this trip so far. I hope to meet many more people like him in the future, and thank him for the chance to gorge on freshly picked red gold.
Our last formal visit of the day was to Kawamata Farms who produce the Kamuela tomatoes that so many of us know and love. Raymond Kawamata is a long time Hawaii farmer that began with flowers but ultimately turned to tomatoes due to resource and market nudges. He now is our local champion of the technology that has made Europe so famous, complete with annual visits to Holland to ensure he continues to be relevant regarding the latest innovations in protected culture. He is a very good example of someone who has found a niche, and learned how to produce his crop very well resulting in a high quality product. I also appreciated his philosophy on never standing still when it comes to continued learning, innovation and progress.
Before leaving the beautiful upcountry vistas of Waimea, Lisa (our leader for the day) announced that we had one more stop. Stumped because there was nothing more on the final agenda we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves enjoying some incredible small batch/ local ingredient ice cream just down the road from Kawamata’s called Tropical Dream. The flavor I chose? Kona coffee of course, prepping myself for the next leg of our journey…..