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Hawaii State Farm Fair will include Maui lavender farm
As the Hawaii State Farm Fair marks its 50th Anniversary, it also welcomes a new generation of farmers.
Koa Chang is among them. The 28-year-old will be at the Farm Fair representing his late father’s Maui business, Alii Kula Lavender, along with other farmers at Kualoa Ranch, the new site for the event this year.
2012 HAWAII STATE FARM FAIR
With animals, demonstrations, food samples and entertainment
Where: Kualoa Ranch, 49-560 Kamehameha Highway
When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $5 adults and seniors, free for students and children
Info: 848-2074 or www.hfbf.org. For shuttle service from Waikiki ($15), call 237-8515.
Also: Street Grindz is bringing a dozen food trucks to the Farm Fair for a country version of Eat the Street.
Chang has not always been immersed in the life of the land, though he is now. He went to college in Washington state, studying sociology, and pursued the martial arts, fighting in Korea and Thailand. He was studying kickboxing in Bangkok last year when he received the call that his father had died.
Just two weeks before his father’s death in April 2011, Chang had promised his father, Alii, that he would be coming home to the farm. The two had been talking about keeping the lavender operation going, and made an agreement to keep the farm in the family.
“I took the first flight home, and I’ve been on the farm every single day since then,” Chang said.
Chang’s father strictly tended to the farm, leaving the rest of the business responsibilities — management, marketing and advertising — to longtime business partner Lani Weigert.
“He was Mr. Aloha, going out and working with the Maui community,” Chang said, calling Saturday morning from the farm on the slopes of Haleakala. “I’m doing a more comprehensive approach, but I’m trying to keep the qualities of my dad’s outreach going.”
With support from Weigert and the farm’s longtime employees, Chang worked to control costs while maintaining salaries. This year, Alii Kula Lavender posted its best first quarter in its 11-year history.
YEARS HAVE PASSED since Alii Chang last brought lavender to the fair, but as part of the farm’s new emphasis on marketing and product development, Koa Chang is bringing some of the operation’s more popular products to sell.
“It’ll be an array of bath-and-body items, like our organic lavender body butter cream and gardener’s lotion, and lavender rosemary gardener salve, and a couple of things from our culinary line, the lavender herb tea and lilikoi jelly,” he said. “Plus we’ll bring some fresh and dried lavender.”
Chang will also be on Oahu to help build familiarity with Alii Kula Lavender. The farm’s credo is “relax, rejuvenate and renew,” with a mission of “sustainable aloha,” he said, which translates into sustainable agriculture.
“We have interns and students involved with the Maui Farm Bureau who are on the farm learning more about this kind of agriculture,” Chang said.
“Lani and I are also focusing on education. Food sustainability is very important. That’s why I set up the Alii Chang Scholarship after my dad passed away. By the middle of next year, it should be fully funded, so we can start giving out scholarships to help support the next generation who intend to stay in Hawaii and protect our islands’ food resources.”
Chang also foresees dedicating parts of the farm to help supply the Maui Food Bank, “and to roll out sometime in the future, a minimal admission charge (to tour the farm) that can be paid off in canned goods as well.”
Chang remembers growing up working on the family’s protea farm in Nahiku during the summer. Back then, he said, “I never considered being a farmer.
“When my dad became sick, coming back to Maui and staying home to take over became a reality. I didn’t know at the time, but it’s been a big change in my life. Striving for sustainable agriculture has become more purposeful, and the Maui community has been so supportive of what’s become the farm’s mission.”
On the Net: aliikulalavender.com
– Gary Chun / firstname.lastname@example.org