Maui’s bounty is growing with each generation that invests their time and knowledge into our dynamic volcanic soil. The first weekend of April will give us a small window into the farmer’s lifestyle at the Maui County Ag Fest. You’ll have the opportunity to to meet a few of them and sample what our chefs do with their outstanding produce. This year, the Maui Legacy Farmers Pancake Breakfast is a new event at the Ag Fest that gives another insight into our agricultural industry on Maui.
“This is the first year we have named Legacy Farmers as part of AgFestival,” says Warren Watanabe, executive director of Maui County Farm Bureau in a recent press release. “These three individuals and their families have made huge contributions to agriculture on our island over the years. We are thrilled to have a chance to honor them in some small way for what they have done for us and for Maui Nui.”
The legacy breakfast will honor C. Pardee Erdman of Ulupalakua Ranch; David “Buddy” Nobriga of Maui Soda & Ice Works and Nobriga’s Cattle; and Hanako Hashimoto of Hashimoto Persimmon Farm. All three individuals have strong connections to the land that span generations. Their contributions to forming part of our current complex network of agriculture, environment and commerce are multilayered.
Hanako Hashimoto’s career started on the family farm in Kula, taking care of siblings, raising vegetables and oranges. Her father worked at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar and she was the oldest of nine kids in the Makimoto family. In 1943 she married John Hashimoto of Kula, an active leader in ag and part of the family that started the Hashimoto Persimmon Farm in the 1920s. That farm continues to grow persimmon today, and many of their 500 trees–now 80 or even 90 years old–were planted by her.
Today her son clark runs the family persimmon farm while his wife Jackie has a line of value-added products: persimmon scone mix, persimmon jam, butters and salad dressing. Hanako’s other son Howard runs the family vegetable farm. Hanako is proud of the fact that she put all five of her children through college by pioneering in agriculture, and continues to work on the farm.
It’s all in the family for the Nobriga’s. Buddy Nobriga started working for the family business Maui Soda as a freshman at St. Anthony’s. His grandfather started the Nobriga Ranch in Kahakuloa in 1930, and Buddy has served as president of the ranch since 1981. As an advocate of cattle ranchers, Nobriga helped form the Maui Cattleman’s Association in 1970, serving as its president for 10 years.
In 1971, Nobriga’s father Manuel retired as president of Maui Soda and Ice Works, and Buddy took over that job. Maui Soda and Ice Works is one of a handful of independent Coca-Cola distributors left in the nation, and manufactures Maui’s Roselani Ice Cream. Today, Buddy’s daughter Catherine Nobriga Kim is the General Manager while Buddy serves as Chairman of the Board, and all four other siblings also work for the company.
Nobriga’s interest in West Maui’s environment was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 for his 54 years of service to West Maui Soil and Conservation District. His work has created the Honolua watershed, ocean clean-up efforts in Kahana, and work on the Lahaina Watershed. Nobriga also served and held positions with Board of Water Supply, Federal Land Bank Association, Department of Agriculture and the State Water Commission.
Then there’s Pardee Erdman, who’s spent his life shaping the leeward slopes of Haleakala. His vision for the Ulupalakua Ranch shaped the future of the Upcountry region with environmental restoration, conservation, reforestation and watershed partnerships. Erdman worked with The Nature Conservancy and Hawaii Islands Land Trust. Of the ranch’s 22,000 acres, 11,300 have been established as an agricultural conservation easement.
Erdman is also known for collaborating with Emil Tedeschi in planting the first grapes on the slopes of Haleakala in the 1970s for what is now the Maui Winery. When Maui Pine closed in 2009, Erdman and a group of investors formed Hali`imaile Pineapple Company to continue pineapple production under the trade name Maui Gold Pineapple Company. Erdman also has a hand in the Maui Cattle company. In addition to cattle, they raise elk and sheep for the Ulupalakua Ranch Store. Erdman’s sons Chris and Sumner continue to work at the ranch.
The event starts at 8am on Saturday, April 2 on the festival grounds with a buffet breakfast of pancakes, breakfast meats, eggs, fruit, coffee and juice. Along with the breakfast the event will include bingo and prizes like a Sunday brunch for two and a stay-cation at Ka`anapali Beach Hotel. Other prizes will be gift certificates to restaurants like Leilani’s on the Beach, Hula Grill, Star Noodle, and Duke’s. Breakfast will also include a raffle that featuring a grand prize dinner for four at Roy’s in Ka`anapali. Breakfast is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children 5 to 18 years. Your breakfast ticket includes your admission fee to the Maui Ag Fest.
For more information on the full day of Ag Fest games, activities, education, entertainment, talk story opportunities, and the Grand Tasting as well as the Maui Chef’s Collaboration dinner visit the website at Mauicountyfarmbureau.org.