I’m 20 minutes into a warm, sunny hike up the slope of Hana Ranch’s organic Hana Farm with Brian McGinness, the operations director of Hana Ranch, and Grant McCargo, the CEO of Bio-Logical Capital and founder of the new plan for the Ranch. In addition to the leafy greens and papayas that provide salads, garnishes and ingredients to the Hana Ranch Provisions restaurant, Hana community and their Hana Ranch Food Truck, McGinness and McCargo show me a few of the other crops they’re planting.
“Brian, point out this crop, and what we are doing with it,” says McCargo.
“Oh yeah, those are our ulu trees,” says McGinness. “I have quite a few planted around the farm and ranch. That is the breadfruit. One of the most incredibly bountiful plants. They create so much food. They’re also a canoe crop. We got these from the Breadfruit Institute in Kahanu Gardens.”
“We just planted about 300, but the cows got to some of them,” says McCargo. “I worry about the island doing industrial monoculture. We need to grow more food. We can survive without oil–we can’t survive without food and water. Climate change is a real thing.”
“It will be about eight years before the ulu trees we planted will bear fruit,” says McGinness. “They become huge trees. They’re going to live a long long time. They will produce about 800 pounds of food per tree, twice a year. It’s a very starchy food. It’s a long term vision for us.”
This long term vision that McGinness is referring to is the Ranch and Farm feeding the larger community through their restaurants, farmers market and their CSA program with vegetables and beef.
“We’re working on a whole systems approach to land use,” says McCargo. “We have gotten very specialized in how we execute business today. If you go to business school, which I’m guilty of, they tell you to do one thing and get really good and squeeze the heck out of it. Well, natural systems don’t work that way. Nature never plants just one thing. How we do our agriculture and energy on our rural landscapes is our biggest negative impact to the planet right now. Our goal is to demonstrate a diverse resilient model that is regenerative versus extractive.”
In our talk, McCargo uses a lot of technical terms–he’s a bit of a business savant when it comes to his operation–but I love his ideas. Of course, you don’t have to drive to Hana to get your hands on the finished product, just stop in Paia at the Hana Ranch Provisions. They have a cafe and bakery that opens at 7am and goes until 3pm. Their restaurant starts service at 11am and goes until 9pm.
Back in July, they did a quick renovation and shifted they way they’re running the Paia restaurant.
“We’ve learned over the past year that our customers want delicious and affordable food in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere,” says Olivia Maki, who does marketing and communications for Hana Ranch. “After listening to community feedback, we introduced counter service in our dining room at Provisions and are no longer offering table service and reservations. By changing to counter service, we’re able to lower our menu prices so more people can enjoy our food on a regular basis.”
I stopped in to see the changes, and I can’t complain, I like the change. The dining room and bar is gorgeous and comfortable. The counter service was smooth, and although the menu had been altered a bit, our favorites were still there, like the yuca tots, sweet potato fries, spicy ahi sandwich and Hana burger. Oh, and the Hana Ranch steak chili is phenomenal.
Chef Gary Johnson is in charge of creativity and flavor at the restaurant, but he looks to the organic farm for his inspiration.
“We grow our own ingredients, absolutely!” says Johnson. “We started the restaurant as an extension of the farm, to highlight the beautiful produce and share our story with the Maui community. Our produce is grown organically without the use of harmful synthetic chemicals or genetically modified seeds. We believe that by caring for the land, we can deliver the best produce to our customers and strengthen the foundation of our community.”
McCargo says the restaurant side of the agro-business model is essential to his vision. “My goal is to teach a new generation of agro entrepreneurs,” he says. “The food preparation and food service is one way to add value to the product. Hana Ranch Provision is that incubator for these ideas.”
But it’s the aina in Hana that tells McGinness what to grow, not the chefs.
“The tumeric–the land told us to grow that,” says McGinness. “It’s our land that’s the driver of what to grow more than the chefs. Being in the food industry, the farm-to-table industry, I know it’s the farms that drive what’s hot for the chefs. Like, for example, the cassava tots. I had all this cassava on the farm and we sure would like to find something to do with it. So the chefs took it and made it work. That’s more our strategy. We do grow some stuff that really isn’t the best for our land here, like kale. That’s great in Northern Europe, but we’re in Hawaii. We’re growing it because lots of people really want it. There is some give and take. But that’s another one of the reasons why we have the restaurant–it’s our opportunity to influence the trends here. Where else are you going to showcase cassava tots?”
Stop by for happy hour from 3-6pm daily for 15 percent off their food menu, $3 draft beer, $9 glasses of wine and $9 craft cocktails. Every Tuesday, they offer kama`aina night: 10 percent off your bill if you ask for the discount and show proof of residency.
On Wednesday, Aug. 24, Hana Ranch Provisions will also celebrate their first anniversary at their Paia location. To celebrate, they’re hosting a tap-takeover with Maui Brewing Company from 6-8pm with live music and a special beer pairing menu designed by Chef Johnson.
HANA RANCH PROVISIONS
71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, HI 96779
cafe 7am to 3pm
restaurant 11am to 9pm
HANA BURGER FOOD TRUCK
5670 Hana Hwy., Hana, HI 96713
11am to 4pm