Farmers

Growing Future Farmers

Next Generation Farmers, left to right: Walter Evnonuk, Tommy Watanabe, Rick Volner, Jr., Bryan Otani, Pomai Weigert, Mike Abreu, Jr., Darren Strand, Hokuao Pellegrino, Lynn DeCoite, Claire Sullivan, Tom Mason, Derrick Kai Thielk. Back row: Janna Lono Kaina, Heidi Watanabe, Ryan Luckey, and Chauncy Monden.

 

Contemporary farmers face contemporary challenges different from yesteryear. The market has changed; conditions have changed. The land abides, but at what cost? Reevaluating the place of agriculture in Maui County today, Maui County Farm Bureau introduces The next generation of Maui farmers. We will share the future of agriculture on Maui by telling the stories of a group of young men and women who each have made a commitment to continue Maui’s farming legacy.

So who are these next-generation Maui farmers? Some are third-or fourth-generation farmers from Maui families; some are new to the land. They’re all early 40s and under. Some have post-graduate degrees that seem far removed from farming. They work hard everyday, 365 days of the year. An eclectic bunch, they derive inspiration from new business models, a new eco-consciousness, sincere ideals, a quest for quality, a longing for culture, a large variety of crops. Embracing old farming traditions with a new, dynamic understanding, they bring to the slow wisdom of the land a rapid eagerness to integrate new concepts. Valuing the precious island lifestyle that is Maui’s legacy through the hard work of past generations, they proudly accept the responsibility of preserving Maui’s true wealth. Intent on growing fresh, flavorful produce in local Maui soil, they all have made a deliberate, conscientious choice. They quietly and humbly set the stage for economic, ecological and social sustainability.

Chauncy MondenChauncey Monden – A graduate from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Monden could have chosen a fast-track job in finance, but turned to farming instead: In 1998, when his father retired, he took over the family farm as a fourth-generation farmer who held his first hoe at age five.

Monden and his wife, Teena, run Kula Country Farms inspired by a conscientious choice to raise their children in the country, enthused by a love for Maui’s land. Their vision transcends their 55 acres of juicy, sweet strawberries, onions, and cabbages. “One of the benefits of being a farmer,” Monden says, “is the gratification you feel when you produce a consistent product. But we farm also to ensure that we don’t lose agriculture, our farming legacy.”  Kula Country Farms hosts annual “pick it yourself” events, year round for strawberries and, in October, pumpkins. Its Farm Stand is open six days a week. Kula Country Farms.

Bryan OtaniBryan T. Otani – A fourth-generation farmer, the wisdom of Maui’s soil in his body and soul, Otani manages all farm operations as well as sales and marketing for 17 acres of upcountry Kula land, deeply aware of the value of a farmer’s work. “People want and need to eat locally grown fresh vegetables,” he says. “That’s enough to make agriculture a career and lifestyle choice.”

Brian supplies green beans, broccoli, red cabbage, and, foremost, famed Kula onions, which have an entire festival dedicated to their name and serve as a fine example of the impact of agriculture on the local economy. “We are not there yet,” Otani says. “I would like to see agriculture become a bigger part of the community as far as developmental plans are concerned.” Otani Farm.

Walter EvonukWalter Evonuk – Born and raised on Maui, a third-generation farmer, Evonuk has been farming full-time since 2006, deriving his inspiration from a degree in architecture obtained in the Bay Area. He seeks to implement a new model of economic, ecological and social sustainability on the family farm, called Evonuk Farms and located in cool upcountry Kula.

Already, fragrant culinary herbs, crisp leaf lettuces, and specialty beans leave the 30 acres he looks after for restaurants and stores statewide.

“I find a deep satisfaction in producing a product that nourishes myself and others,” Evonuk says. “I wish for Maui to be able to feed itself with fresh produce grown primarily locally.” – Evonuk Farms.