The Lum family -- Calvin, Kay, Tina, Chris, Jamie, Zachary and the family dog Jazz -- operates the North Shore Cattle Co., offering grass-fed beef.

Vet’s hobby
attracts family

The Lum family raises
350 head of cattle on
their 1,000-acre ranch

Former state veterinarian Calvin Lum walks down a dirt path flanked by cattle and horses, followed closely by 3-year-old grandson Zachary Lum on his toy tractor. It's not an unusual sight at the North Shore Cattle Co., where four generations of the Lum family carve the cattle ranch out of former Waialua Sugar Co. land at the foothills of the Koolau Mountains.

Family Tree

"It's 100 percent family-run," Calvin said of the ranch, which has grown from a hobby to a player in the state's grass-fed beef industry.

"The state is getting away from the commercial-type operations to family-type operations that are not selling beef that could come from everywhere and anywhere," he said.

Calvin and his wife, Kay, a former operating room nurse, opened the ranch, which boasts panoramic views of the Waianae range and North Shore coastline, seven years ago as a hobby to fill their retirement years. They started with 300 acres, but the hobby soon grew into a 1,000-acre ranch where more than 350 head of cattle graze on guinea grass and kleingrass pastures.

At the ranch, the Lums raise Angus and cross-Angus grass-fed cattle strictly for the local market. The mission of the family-run business is to produce lean, hormone- and antibiotic-free local beef that tastes good. Local restaurants such as Alan Wong's Restaurant on King Street, the Pineapple Room at Macy's Ala Moana and Pizza Bob's in Haleiwa carry the product. It also can be found at the Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market or ordered directly from the ranch online, Calvin said.

The couple runs the ranch on land leased from Dole Food Co. in Helemano with the help of their grown sons Chris, Ryan and Jory. Their daughter Tammy, a horse trainer who lives on the Big Island, and a few "kokua paniolos" also help out. And, the couple's grandchildren and great-grandchild also spend time on the ranch.

Calvin serves as the ranch vet and Kay experiments with the beef to develop recipes for "Cow Cow Corner," which is posted on the company Web site, The couple's children and their spouses split their time servicing and delivering accounts, marketing the product and picking fruits and berries to turn into jams, which are sold at the farmer's market. Everyone does repair work and farm maintenance.

"Repair, repair, repair, that's mostly what we do," Calvin said, adding that it took four years for the family and their friends to build the 20 miles of fence that keep the cattle segregated.

In a business fraught with uncontrollable challenges ranging from the weather to production, hiring family just makes sense, Calvin said.

"It's the hardest business that I've ever been in," Lum said, adding the ranch has survived a five-year drought, equipment theft and processing plant closures.

The ranch was able to surmount those obstacles in part because of the family's sweat-equity investment, he said.

"We all have equity and we're all looking at it in terms of the long-term future for our kids and families," he said. "The kids are willing to sacrifice along the way to wait for the windfall."

There's so much work to be done that the family often spends seven days a week ranching, Kay said.

"It's brought us all closer together and its provided a better lifestyle for the family," she said. "The grandkids just love it out here."

The grown Lum children are also fans of the farming lifestyle, said Tina Lum, who moved back to Hawaii in June with her husband, Jory, and children after a five-year stint in Oregon.

"They really missed the ranch where they can play outside every day," Tina said.

Having the entire family play a role in the ranch also has created more of a bond between an already close family, said Chris, who moved back to the ranch from Kauai with his wife, April, and child.

"Before the ranch, everyone was kind of doing their own thing," he said. "Now we've got a common goal and we see each other every day. We wouldn't trade it for anything."



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