Shortage of key Hawaii crop expected after rains swamp farms

By AUDREY MCAVOY, ASSOCIATED PRESS
HONOLULU — May 28, 2018, 6:30 PM ET

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/shortage-expected-floods-smother-hawaii-staple-crop-55481747

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Farmers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai say their state should brace for a shortage of its taro crop, a staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet, after record-breaking rains flooded their fields in April 2018. Haraguchi-Nakayama said damage from the flooding was the worst her family has seen, including her 96-year-old grandfather. It did more harm to their 55-acre farm than Hurricane Iniki that slammed Kauai in 1992. (Christian Kahahawai/Kahahawai Photography via AP)more +
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Farmers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai say their state should brace for a shortage of its taro crop, a staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet, after record-breaking rains flooded their fields.

The deluge hit the north shore community of Hanalei particularly hard. The region grows most of Hawaii's taro, a starchy root vegetable used to make poi. The purple, glutinous dish is a traditional part of Hawaiian cuisine, sold at grocery stores and served in homes and restaurants statewide.

The state's taro crop was valued at $2.5 million last year, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The downpour also destroyed seven Kauai homes and badly damaged 65, the state said in a preliminary assessment. It triggered dozens of landslides, including more than 12 on a 2-mile (3-kilometer) stretch of the area's main artery, a highway traveling through coastal communities.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has designated the entire island a disaster area, which makes local farmers eligible for federal assistance, including emergency loans.

Bino Fitzgerald, owner of the Hanalei Poi Co., which both farms and buys taro to make poi, expects a shortage of the crop to emerge as soon as this summer. The company sells its poi across Hawaii at stores like Costco, Safeway, Walmart and the local supermarket chain Foodland.

"So get your poi fix now," he said.

Taro is perhaps the most important crop in Hawaiian culture. More than part of a meal, it's a member of the family: According to legend, the taro plant and the boy who became the first human were born to the same parents. This gives taro and humans common ancestors.

Hanalei's taro fields are a defining part of the landscape on Kauai's north shore. They evoke a time when taro farming and fishing dominated island life, before sugar plantations diverted stream water and industrialization encouraged migration to cities.

The mid-April floods sent brown mud and water cascading into these fields.

The muck is packed with nitrogen, so it's as though a big kick of fertilizer walloped taro patches. It's nourishing for the taro's stalk and leaves but makes its corm, or underground bulb, watery and spongey. The Hawaiian term for this is "loliloli."

The perfect taro is heavy and dense and mashes into smooth poi. Loliloli taro produces lumpy poi.

Taro also can be cut into cubes and simmered in stews or sliced thin and fried to make a snack similar to potato chips.

Newly planted taro won't be ready for harvest for another year to 14 months. Many farmers are still cleaning their fields and won't be able to replant for months, delaying a robust harvest even further.

The floods also took out some of the irrigation systems that bring a steady flow of fresh water to Hanalei's taro fields, many of which are part of a national wildlife refuge for endangered native water birds.

"Rivers have cut new channels to where they want to flow compared to where they had been before, feeding these old, old irrigation ditches, said Fitzgerald, whose company farms 25 acres and manages another 40 farmed by others. The Hanalei Poi Co. also buys taro from 12 area farmers.

Hanalei Valley frequently floods, but last month's deluge was on another scale. Fitzgerald said his mother's shop has gotten 6 inches (15 centimeters) of water in past storms. This time, it got 5 feet (1.5 meters).

The rain may enter the national record books. Preliminary data taken from a rain gauge in Waipa, next to Hanalei, indicates 49.69 inches (126.21 centimeters) of rain fell in the 24 hours through midday on April 15. If a national panel of experts certifies this number, it will smash the existing record for a single 24-hour period of 43 inches (109.22 centimeters) marked in Alvin, Texas, in 1979.

Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama said damage from the flooding was the worst her family has seen — including her 96-year-old grandfather. It did more harm to their 55-acre farm than Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm that slammed Kauai in 1992.

Newly planted fields are washed out. Older fields that survived are suffocating under silt.

Many of the family's tractors are unusable, and all of their trucks are a loss. Her grandparents' home — a farmhouse occupied by her family for over 100 years — looks like a drunken driver slammed into its walls, she said.

She said she doesn't cry in front of her children because she wants them to know the family will pull through.

"You can't stop a huge flood. You can't stop a hurricane from coming. There will always been challenges in life," Haraguchi-Nakayama said. "I just want them to know it's OK to be devastated, but we're going to be as positive as possible."

Hawaii Business Magazine - 20 for the Next 20: Hawaii’s People to Watch 2018

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Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama
Co-owner, Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.
By Brittany Lyte
Photo: Mike Coots


Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama was a toddler when she started helping to harvest 55 acres of wetland taro in Hanalei Valley that have sustained her family for six generations. By age 6, she was learning to drive a tractor. Born into the business of operating the oldest and largest working taro farm in Hawaii, she learned from her father, a lifelong farmer, the necessity of a strong work ethic.

From her mother, a teacher, Haraguchi-Nakayama was taught the value of an education. So she spent eight years away from the loi to earn degrees in tropical horticulture and business, study in France, tour Europe, work in Japan and generally broaden her horizons. In 2005, she returned to Kauai’s north shore to start a family and integrate what she’d learned into the family taro business.

Now she is at the helm of Hanalei Taro & Juice Co., a farm-to-table food truck across the highway from the W.T. Haraguchi Farm, which was named after her grandfather. With a menu that shifts with the seasons, Hanalei Taro serves up traditional taro-based foods, such as poi and kulolo, as well as modern, imaginative fare like taro mochi cake, zesty taro hummus, taro burgers and taro-fruit smoothies. The menu also features authentic Hawaiian dishes, such as laulau, kalua pig and lomi salmon. Ingredients are sourced from the Haraguchi farm and other Kauai ranchers, fishers and growers.

Proceeds from the quaint lunch wagon also support Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill, a nonprofit formed by Haraguchi-Nakayama’s parents that consists of an agrarian museum, ecotours and education programs. The mill itself is listed on the state and national registers of historic places.

“Hoopulapula means ‘to plant the seedlings of,’ which is the mission of the nonprofit – to preserve the artifacts and history of those who have farmed in the community and in Hawaii for generations,” says Haraguchi-Nakayama. “The mission also includes planting seeds of knowledge of agricultural and environmental awareness in children so that the next generation can appreciate all that their kupuna, elders and ancestors have done and how hard farmers work today.”

Haraguchi-Nakayama is also working toward a doctorate in education and sits on the boards of the Kauai Taro Growers Association and Kauai Christian Academy.

Academy principal Daniel Plunkett describes Haraguchi-Nakayama’s vision and initiative as essential to expanding the school’s student transportation services and interscholastic sports program. She has also been instrumental in the school’s bid to achieve accreditation.

“As far as work ethic, she’s probably one of the strongest people I know,” Plunkett says.

Article Source

KHON 2: Living 808 - Kauai Week: Hanalei Taro

Published: November 15, 2017, 5:16 pm  Updated: November 15, 2017, 5:18 pm

Hanalei Taro is a 6th generation working taro farm in Hanalei Valley on Kauai.  They offer Eco tours where folks can learn about Hawaii’s agriculture and cultural history, view endangered native water birds, and explore the cultivation and uses of taro, a traditional Polynesian food source.  Co-owner Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama, has details.

http://www.haraguchiricemill.org/

Discover a Lasting Family Legacy With This Kauai Tour

Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill’s tours immerse clients in the island’s rich agricultural and cultural history of KauaiBy: Kamala Kirk

Family Travel

Hawaii

Tour Operators

<p>Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama demonstrates the old-Hawaii method of harvesting taro. // © 2016 Kahahawai Photography</p><p>Feature image (above): Tour...

Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama demonstrates the old-Hawaii method of harvesting taro. // © 2016 Kahahawai Photography

Feature image (above): Tour guests see endangered waterbirds such as the Hawaiian stilt. // © 2016 Kahahawai Photography

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Fast Facts

Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill’s guided tours are offered on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and last approximately four hours.

The Details

Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.

www.hanaleitaro.com

Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill

www.haraguchiricemill.org

When Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama was just 2 years old, she was already spending time in fields of taro, a traditional Polynesian food source. By the age of 6, the Hawaii native was driving tractors on her family’s taro farm on Kauai. Now, she continues her connection with the historic site, its memories and traditions by leading weekly, reservation-only tours of Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill, her family’s rice mill and taro farm.

“My parents, Rodney and Karol Haraguchi, are the fourth generation of the family farm that started the nonprofit, historic Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill, which includes artifacts dating back to the 1800s,” Haraguchi-Nakayama said. “Family recipes have also been passed down through the generations that are served on tour and at Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.” 

Family Dynasty

Built by Chinese immigrants and dating back to the 1800s, Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill was purchased by Haraguchi-Nakayama’s family in 1924. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill is the last remaining rice mill in Hawaii. It is nestled amongst the working wetland taro fields of Hanalei Valley on Kauai’s lush north shore. It is also located within a National Wildlife Refuge, offering tour-goers the opportunity to see endangered waterbirds such as Hawaiian stilts and Java sparrows.  

The mill has been restored three times by the Haraguchi family: after a fire in 1930; after Hurricane Iwa in 1982; and after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. When Kauai’s rice industry collapsed in 1960, the rice mill stopped operating, and the family preserved it as a nonprofit historic landmark. Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill is now home to an extensive collection of artifacts and has received thousands of visitors over the past three decades.

“The tour is an insightful glimpse into the past agricultural history of Hanalei Valley, as well as present farming challenges,” Haraguchi-Nakayama said. “Guests get to hear some of the stories of growing up on the farm. For our family, it’s a humble way to share the food, tradition and culture of the family farm, as well as to sustain nonprofit educational programs.” 

The Tour

Visitors are served a taro smoothie as they walk through taro patches that have been cultivated for multiple generations. They learn how the crop is harvested and processed via modern and traditional farming techniques. Hands-on activities such as poi pounding and apple-snail picking and egg eradication offer the opportunity to play a part in the family’s longstanding agricultural tradition. 

Back at the rice mill, Haraguchi-Nakayama provides an in-depth explanation of the unique architecture and special machinery from Japan while sharing personal stories and family history.

Along with the sample produce tastings provided throughout the tour, visitors are treated to a complimentary farm-to-table lunch and dessert at the end. The menu features authentic Hawaiian dishes that source fresh taro, fruits and vegetables from Haraguchi Farms and meat from Kauai ranchers. Some of the dishes served include traditional “lau lau” (pork wrapped in steamed taro leaves), taro veggie burgers and taro mochi cake. 

“I always knew in my heart that I would return to the farm and continue the family farming tradition even while leaving the island for undergraduate and graduate school,” Haraguchi-Nakayama said. “I love educating guests about the agricultural history and endangered bird species, sharing family stories and interacting with each guest as I welcome them into the family farm.” 

The Seattle Times: Find James Bond, ‘Bali Hai’ scenery in Kauai’s proud, culture-rich Hanalei

Exploring Hanalei history

For schooling in a page of unique island history, I join a tour of Hawaii’s only remaining rice mill, situated among the taro ponds. Rice was grown here commercially from the 19th century until Hawaii’s rice industry collapsed in the 1960s.

  Tour guide Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama tells stories of cultivating taro on her family’s sixth-generation Hanalei Valley farm. Today, the crop shows up in everything from traditional Hawaiian dishes to blended smoothies. (Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Tour guide Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama tells stories of cultivating taro on her family’s sixth-generation Hanalei Valley farm. Today, the crop shows up in everything from traditional Hawaiian dishes to blended smoothies. (Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

The Ho`opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill is now in the middle of Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, off-limits to most visitors, so if you’re a birder the tour also offers chances to bolster your life list with possible glimpses of endangered species such as the ae`o (Hawaiian stilt), `alae ke`oke`o (Hawaiian coot), `alae `ula (Hawaiian moorhen), nene (Hawaiian goose) and the koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck).

The tour is highly personal. Leading it is 35-year-old Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama, whose family is in its sixth generation of farming the valley, which included operating the mill until its closure. Now, through a nonprofit, the family helps preserve the historic mill, which has been rebuilt and restored through many flash floods — you can get rain here that would impress Noah — and two major hurricanes.

“At the ripe old age of 6 I started driving tractors, to help with evacuations,” Haraguchi-Nakayama recalls as she stands by a taro pond and tells her family’s story.

Under the old mill’s corrugated metal roof, she shows how scoops of rice moved on a conveyor belt powered at first by a water wheel, later by a hefty diesel engine. Machinery dating to 1830s China includes boulders that turned together to crush and hull the rice.

  During a tour of a historic rice mill in the Hanalei Valley, visitors also learn about taro farming and get to sample fresh pa`i`ai, or pounded poi, rolled in shredded coconut. (Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

During a tour of a historic rice mill in the Hanalei Valley, visitors also learn about taro farming and get to sample fresh pa`i`ai, or pounded poi, rolled in shredded coconut. (Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

I learn almost enough about rice milling and taro farming to wade into a pond and go to work.

The tour concludes with a demonstration of taro pounding using a lava-rock stone. There are samples of coconut water and fresh pa`i`ai, or pounded poi — like purplish lumps of dough rolled in freshly shredded coconut. Then comes a catered lunch of sticky rice, lau lau pork (marinated pork wrapped in a steamed taro leaf) and a sweet mochi cake.

It leaves me bulging with Hanalei culture — and its food.

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