Class XV Washington DC


Molokai burgers

Meet Class XV 2015-2016

Joey Char
Joey Char

Joey Char, Land Asset Manager Kamehameha Schools, O`ahu

Joey Char is a Land Asset Manager with Kamehameha Schools, a private charitable educational trust endowed by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to improve the capability and well-being of Hawaiians through education.  Joey oversees a portfolio that includes Punalu`u Valley, a lush ahupua`a located in Windward Oahu consisting of 300 acres of diversified agriculture, 3,200 acres of conservation land, and 36 residential beach lots.  He also manages 110 acres of diversified agriculture and 3,700 acres of conservation land in East Oahu from Hawai`i Kai to Mānoa.  For more information on the Kamehameha Schools mission and its Land Assets Division, visit

“In life there is no summit.  Enjoy the climb.”

Alex Connelly
Alex Connelly

Alex Connelly, Network Coordinator, Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA), O`ahu

KUA is a local non-profit, with a mission to support community-driven mālama ‘āina efforts across the islands. Alex serves as the E Alu Pū network coordinator, linking 31 grassroots organizations to together increase their effectiveness in caring for their biocultural heritage. Alex is a dancer of Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima and lives in Waipao with her partner, Rick Barboza and their two keiki.

“I am excited to learn from and collaborate with the cohort on ways to strengthen food security and contribute to ʻāina momona. In this, I believe the more connected we are to each other and our places, the better we can work together and the healthier our communities and food systems will be.”

Taylor Kellerman

Taylor Kellerman, Director of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Kualoa Ranch, O`ahu

Taylor was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu and earned his degree in Tropical Agriculture from U.H. Hilo. His career began with pineapple at Del Monte Fresh Produce in Kunia, and then with Maui Pineapple Company in Haliimaile. Taylor then spent eight years working for Hawaii’s seed industry as an operations manager for Monsanto Kunia. Currently he is the Director of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for Kualoa Ranch where he oversees the livestock, aquaculture, and diversified agriculture departments as well as maintains the property through invasive flora control, encouragement of native species, and proper conservation practices.

“Agriculture is unique in the sense that the work of few impacts the lives of many. It is up to us to ensure that this impact is positive for both now and the future. The only way we can accomplish this is by working together.”

Joao Kopytowski-Filho
Joao Kopytowski-Filho

Joao Kopytowski Filho, Research Scientist, DuPont Pioneer, Kaua`i

Joao was born and raised in Brazil and received his Ph.D. in Agronomy from Sao Paulo State University where he researched absorption of heavy metals in mushrooms.  He also worked in various areas of agriculture in the government and help to write organic mushroom certification standards in Brazil. Joao came to Hawai`i in 2007 to manage a mushroom farm.  Currently, he is a scientist working on mapping, soil conservation plan, crop protection and phytosanitation.

“If we want agriculture to survive in Hawaii, let’s collaborate cohesively, embrace technology and innovative concepts and at the same time be mindful of the lands of Hawai’i. I am eager to contribute and strengthen agriculture in Hawai’i!” 

Dave Penn

David Penn, Wildlife Access and Acquisitions Coordinator, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa, O`ahu

David grew up in the Hudson River Valley, migrating to Hawai‘i after working in construction, fuel extraction, and golf course/ski area operations across the Rocky Mountains. In partnership with the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, he promotes the value of wild game animals for food security and fosters cooperation among hunters, natural resource managers, and agricultural producers. David earned advanced degrees in geography and law and serves on the Honolulu Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission.

“Agriculture forms the backbone of our past and future island society, rooted in precise environmental observations that underlie native Hawaiian beliefs, values, and practices. The Agricultural Leadership Program provides unique opportunities to create synergy between traditional and contemporary production systems.”

Steve Russo
Steve Russo

Steve Russo, Regulatory Education and Outreach Specialist, O`ahu

Having worked in tourism since 1996, Steve made the logical choice to come to Hawai`i in 2001. He attended the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource and Environmental Management. In 2009, Steve became an inspector with the department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Program. Three years ago, he moved from the enforcement section to the education section of the program where he now focuses his efforts on educating farmers on safe pesticide use, minimizing environmental impacts while using pesticides, integrated pest management and related topics. Steve is an avid hiker, SCUBA diver, gardener and surfer and loves all things outdoors.

“The possibilities of the future shouldn’t be controlled by the limitations of the past.”

Jacob Tavares
Jacob Tavares

Jacob Tavares, Human and Labor Relations Specialist / Rancher, Maui

After receiving his BBA from Gonzaga University, Jacob brought his education back to Maui in an effort to re-invigorate the rural and agricultural communities of Hawai`i.  Working for Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company in a variety of roles, including planning for the company’s long term success in agriculture, has served as a reminder of the many challenges Hawai`i agriculture faces.  When he isn’t on the plantation, Jacob spends his time working on his pastures, managing his cow calf operation in East Maui.

“The foundation of economics, supply and demand, gives hope and promise that sustainable agriculture in Hawaii is a model worth investing in. Through honest leadership and discourse, I believe that agriculture can help diversify and preserve the Hawaii we all love. “

Carolyn Unser

Carolyn Unser, SunEdison, O`ahu

Carolyn Unser currently works for SunEdison where she serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator in Hawai‘i which includes grassroots community outreach, interaction at the local and state level, and collaborative efforts with community leaders, residents, and project stakeholders. Her background includes a B.S from the University of Vermont in Plant and Soil Science and a M.S. from the University of Hawai‘i in Natural Resource and Environmental Management with a focus on bioremediation using native Hawaiian wetland plants.

“This paradigm shift that acknowledges nature’s intelligence and willingness to act on climate change requires a network of individuals working toward changing our negative habits. I’m hopeful to meet others interested in and already working towards solutions while enjoying the ride!”

Lisa Wood

Lisa Wood, Veterinarian, Hawai`i Island

Lisa grew up on the Big Island of Hawai`i and graduated from Hawai`i Preparatory Academy. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Colorado State University and a DVM from Washington State University. Following graduation, Lisa moved back home and began work in Kamuela at Veterinary Associates, Inc. She has been involved in several community groups, including Hawaii Quarter Horse Association, Hawaii County 4-H and Hawai`i Cattlemen’s Association. Most recently, she serves as the Vice President of the Hawai`i Cattlemen’s Council, the state umbrella group.

“It is a privilege to participate in the Ag Leadership program. I hope to broaden my understanding of different agricultural commodities and to gain a better perspective of the many complex issues our industry faces.”

Fung Yang
Fung Yang

Fung Yang, President, Small Kine Farm, O`ahu

Owner of O`ahu Community Recycling and Small Kine Farm, Yang has channeled his appreciation of clear blue waters and sunny skies into passion for preserving the environment and entrepreneurial spirit to create an innovative, sustainable business model. Yang developed a way to repurpose local tree trimmings into valuable substrate for organic mushrooms. After being awarded the USDA Small Business Innovative Research Grant in 2009, he was able to turn his composting research into a certified organic mushroom farm.

“I am a believer of a business model with triple bottom line. People, planet and profit are all equally important to me.”