Last week, I was able to show the Alan Wong’s ohana around one of my second homes, Kumuola Farms. We had an excursion there with some of the managers and my coworkers. I first found out about Kumuola Farms through a service learning class at KCC. The class required 25 hours of volunteer work, and through my biology class and interest in native plants and the local community, I was directed to Kumuola Farms. Though my 25 hours of community service flew by, I continued to stay at the farm longer, and kept visiting every week. They became my family, and I’ve been going there for the last year and a half. I usually try to get all my friends to go out there too. What draws me to this farm is the focus on Hawaiian culture – the connection with the land, the people, and the way – especially since it’s been losing its touch. Kumuola’s main mission is to educate and reinstate what was lost, a dying art. Kumuola teaches us to help till the land, clean it, nourish it, and make it fruitful. I may only be a small percentage Hawaiian, but I call myself “Hawaiian at heart.” It’s about how to utilize and respect the land – this is what it means to live in Hawaii or be Hawaiian. That’s why it’s important to buy local, so the money stays in Hawaii, too.
It was the best feeling to see everyone from my Alan Wong’s ohana there, eager to learn and smiling. I brought my second family to my second home, and I can only hope that they pay it forward and bring their family and friends, and teach them, so that we can all take a part in that.
~ Darren Masuda, Busser at Alan Wong's Honolulu
A Piece of Nature in a Concrete Jungle
Last Tuesday, we were fortunate enough to go on our first team field trip of the year. We normally try to do a few of these during the course of the year in order to help educate our staff by going out to the farm and introducing them to the farmer. It allows them to get “hands on”, ask questions and build a relationship that is more than just the traditional buyer and seller. They are more than just farmers, they become our friends and colleagues; we are able to put a face to the name and vice versa for them.
Anyway, we traveled deep into the heart of Manoa Valley to the Kumuola Foundation where we have been able to source Olena, also known as Turmeric, which we currently have on our menu as an iced tea. We were introduced to this place by one of our employees, Darren Masuda who works at the restaurant as a busser. In his spare time he volunteers at Kumuola to help raise, nurture and tend to the land that provides us with so much. Sitting on about five acres of land nestled up against the mountain, Kumuola was started a few years ago by Pauline “Kuki” Navales and her husband Nicholas Navales with their goal being to help preserve Hawaiian Culture.
They use all natural farming practices and tend to everything by hand. They have Taro, Olena, Cassava, Pohole, Gardenia and a number of other things growing there. With natural water sources surrounding them, the land is lush, green, vibrant and full of life. It truly is a special place to be and when you stand at the entrance or amongst the trees you can just feel that things are “right” there.
One of the things that stuck with me the most today was when Nick said that sometimes you just need to get away from all the craziness and reconnect with the land. Get your hands dirty, till the soil, pull weeds or help harvest; it can help make you feel better just by getting back in touch with the earth. I had to laugh inside because sometimes I actually leave the office and go walk around the block; I do that to feel the sun on my face and earth under my feet and try to reconnect with…nature? Myself? I don’t know. Not sure what it is but it helps me clear my head and makes me feel better. My employees might say that I go walking around the block so I don’t scold them, but, for whatever reason it works and I actually feel better. I have an understanding of what he’s talking about a small glimpse of why he does what he does.
At the end of this day’s adventure, after hiking up the trail, through the forest and through the mud, I realized that we are very fortunate to have come across this small piece of old Hawaii right in our backyard surrounded by the high rises and modernizations of today’s world. We all need to be able to take a step back sometimes, take a deep breath and take a look around. Even though people say you need to get yourself out of the jungle to see the bigger picture, after today, I’ll say that sometimes, just sometimes it’s okay to step back into it.
~ Kerry Ichimasa, General Manager at Alan Wong's Honolulu