Focus is on agriculture


POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

When Warren Watanabe digs his hands deep into the soil at his 24-acre farm in Upcountry Maui, he feels a connection not only with nature, but with his industrious forebearers. His maternal grandparents, Kanari and Kikuyo Furomoto, started the farm in 1939 growing daikon (white radish), gobo (burdock root) and other vegetables.





        » Where: Maui Tropical Plantation, 1670 Honoapiilani Highway, Waikapu

» When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 14


» Admission: Free


» Information: (808) 243-2290; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); www.mauicountyfarmbureau.org


» Notes: Taste Education will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are available only via the Web site, and must be purchased in advance. Download, print and fill out the order form, then mail it with your payment to the address provided. Prices are $25 for adults and $12 for children 7 through 18. Kids 7 and younger admitted free. Tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis. They will be mailed or held at Will Call, depending on the date the order is received.




“;My family lived there, so there were always chores to do,”; said Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau. “;Everybody worked. It didn't matter that I was the youngest; we all had to do an equal share.”;

After he graduated from Maui High School in 1973, Watanabe headed for Honolulu to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “;Like most farm kids, I wanted to get away from the country and experience city life,”; he said.

After earning his bachelor's of science degree in horticulture science in 1977, however, Watanabe returned to Maui to help his parents run the farm. Two years later, he took over operations and dubbed the business the Kolours of Kula.

The farm now specializes in edible flowers and micro greens, a mix of 2-week-old seedlings of kale, cabbage, arugula and other greens that's used as a garnish.

“;I have four older brothers and an older sister, but I'm the only one who has remained in farming,”; Watanabe said. “;Many of my lifelong friends returned to their families' farms at the same time I did. After college, we realized we really enjoy that way of life. You're your own boss, you work outdoors and you have the satisfaction of seeing something grow from a seed.”;

Last year's inaugural Maui County Agricultural Festival drew 3,000 people to the Maui War Memorial soccer field in Wailuku. According to Watanabe, it was a reunion for Maui farmers, who had not previously seen so many of their peers in the same place at the same time.

Set for March 14 at Maui Tropical Plantation, the second annual MCAF will again provide attendees with insights about the vital role of agriculture in Hawaii. The Maui County Farm Bureau presents the event in partnership with Maui County's Office of Economic Development.

“;The festival celebrates the products and the people on Maui who grow the food that we eat,”; Watanabe said. “;It also underscores agriculture's link to tourism, restaurants, education and health care.”;

AT THE ENTRANCE of the three-acre festival grounds will be a Victory Farm featuring a dozen plots representing Maui's main agricultural sectors, including onions, coffee, taro, sugarcane and pineapple.

“;It allows the public to see a farm on a small scale, and the great variety within agriculture,”; Watanabe said. “;Many people have no idea how their food is grown, and they don't realize the time and effort it takes to produce a crop. There's field preparation, planting, managing the crop as it matures, harvesting and marketing.”;

Those purchasing tickets for Taste Education (see sidebar) will learn simple ways to prepare fresh eggs; sustainable fish; fruits and vegetables; all-natural beef and lamb; and canoe crops (taro, breadfruit and sweet potato) from Maui.

They'll also sample dishes and “;talk story”; with farmers, ranchers and more than a dozen acclaimed Maui chefs, including Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneers Peter Merriman (Hula Grill and Merriman's Kapalua) and Mark Ellman (Mala's in Lahaina and Wailea), Ivan Pahk (Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar), Joey Macadangdang (Roy's) and Keoki McKee (Hotel Hana-Maui).

Pahk will prepare Sesame Tempura of Ono with Garlic Wasabi Butter Sauce, Macadangdang will offer Stewed Beef Shank with Ulu (breadfruit) Fritters and Keanae poi, and McKee will serve Kalua Pork Croquette with Kula Poha Berry Sauce.

“;The Maui County Agricultural Festival raises awareness about the business of agriculture on Maui,”; Watanabe said. “;We hope it will draw support for an industry that provides food security, contributes to Hawaii's economy and heritage, and balances development with the sustainable use of productive open spaces.”;





        » 9 a.m.: Baldwin High School band

        » 10:15 to 11:30 a.m.: 4-H robotics teams demonstrate innovative projects that connect science and technology to farming.

        » Noon to 12:45 p.m.: Baldwin High School band

        » 1 p.m.: Paniolo (cowboy) Hall of Fame tribute to Maui ranchers

        » 1:15 to 2:15 p.m.: Cody Pueo Pata and Halau Hula Ka Malama Mahilani

        » 2:30 p.m.: Willie K




        » Ask the Farm Doctor: Bring soil samples for analysis, learn about plant propagation, get a close-up look at bugs that affect local crops and more.

        » Barnyard games: Experience farm and ranch life through games, a petting zoo, horse rides (for kids only) and Coffees of Hawaii's mule-drawn wagon rides (cost is $5 for the latter two activities).

        » Recipe demonstrations: Featured will be members of the Maui Onion Growers Association and Maui County Fair chutney contest winner Jamie Woodburn.

        » Farmers' market: Peruse a bountiful array of flowers, plants, produce, taro chips, pickles and other products.

        » Future of agriculture: Representatives from Maui Community College, Maui Economic Development Board and various businesses talk about agriculture careers.

        » Composting: Sustainable Institute of Maui demonstrates how compost can be made from kitchen scraps and garden waste.

        » Literary resources: Barnes & Noble offers the best of its gardening, food and recipe books.

        » Wellness: Kaiser Permanente, Maui Medical Group and other health organizations discuss the benefits of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins in your diet.

        » Food booths: Palate pleasers include smoked meat plates, taro burgers, Maui Cattle Company chili and Kula corn on the cob.



Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.