Sip and Stroll: Maui Tea Farm’s New Tours

Hawai’i Magazine
by Christi Young

Just a handful of farms grow the camellia sinensis plants in Hawai‘i, most taking to the cooler temperatures and climate in the mountains of the Big Island and Maui. Maui Tea Farm started with seedlings in 2013 and just recently expanded to a 14-acre farm on the road to Haleakalā National Park. The new location gave owners Alex and Andrea de Roode the space to start their own tea tours, which launched this summer, giving visitors a glimpse into the unique topography that lends its flavors to their locally produced, organically grown brews.

There are two options: The shorter Meet the Tea tour and the longer Tea Lovers tour which includes a tasting of five of the couple’s teas. You’re likely to find Alex or Andrea themselves leading the small groups and adding their own perspectives to the chat; Alex has a background in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy while Andrea is a registered dietitian nutritionist. (Andrea’s day job is at Maui Memorial Medical Center where, she says, people often stop to ask if she is the person they see smiling and picking tea on social media.)

For the hourlong Meet the Tea tour, you’ll start in the gazebo for introductions and to admire the view from 4,500 feet above sea level. Then, you’ll walk down grass and dirt paths to the garden to see, touch and even pick the camellia sinensis, the plant which is processed into white, green or black tea. (Drinks made by steeping other dried plants, spices and fruit are technically called tisanes.) Along the way, visitors will also learn about the other botanicals growing there including māmaki—which is also cultivated for the farm’s caffeine-free māmaki drink—olives, peaches, coffee and the native ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms. You’ll return to sample two of the de Roodes’ teas including their small-batch Haleakalā Black, which is 100% grown and harvested by hand at Maui Tea Farm.

Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation grant supports outdoor service learning with seed storage and propagation

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens was granted $7,000 from the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation in support of high school and college student outdoor service learning in native Hawaiian seed storage and plant propagation. Garden staff will train and supervise volunteers in preparing wild collected seeds for drying and propagating native plants from the Garden’s plant collection. The public native plant garden manages a seed bank for Maui County native plant populations, which provides conservation land managers materials for research and future restoration. Space is limited; students enrolled in high school or college who are seeking volunteer experience required for graduation are encouraged to call Maui Nui Botanical Gardens at 808-249-2798.

Download the Press Release

Agritourism Showcased in New Hawaii Farm Trails App

Big Island Now

Information on Hawai‘i’s agritourism operations can now be accessed in the palm of your hand.

Hawaii Farm Trails (HFT) launched a new smartphone app that provides statewide information on not only agritourism but local farmer’s markets and ways to give back to the community through ‘āina-based activities.

“The Hawaii Farm Trails app release has been timed with Earth Day, April 22, to honor the environmental regenerative values of the social enterprise and to celebrate the start of a partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society on a statewide food tree planting project that will occur as Hokulea prepares for its upcoming Moananuiakea Voyage,” an HFT press release states.

Additionally, through this new platform, HFT states farms and numerous agricultural businesses are able to deliver more purposeful and relevant Hawai‘i experiences to visitors.

“The incorporation of agritourism provides a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between increasing local agriculture and creating a more sustainable economy for Hawai‘i,” the release states.

HFT founders and farming sisters, Kālisi Mausio and Angela Fa’anunu, believe that “keeping farms in business is the key to improving our food security and is the basis for our resilience as an island community.”

Aiming to boost interest and create more accessibility to local agriculture for visitors as well as residents, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) helped to support the expansion of the mobile app. Focused on agritourism opportunities as part of its 2020-25 Strategic Plan, HTA seeks to highlight farms, ranches, and apiaries who provide public engagements such as on-site farm tours, classes, or farm-to-table tastings.

HFT is also looking to partner with businesses offering services like farmers markets, agricultural events, community-supported agriculture (CSA) distribution, food hubs, and even third-party businesses in neighboring areas that may benefit the farms in their immediate communities.

This initiative seeks to perpetuate the message of Mālama Honua (care for our Island Earth) that Hawaii’s traditional voyaging canoe Hokulea continues to spread worldwide. Hawaii Farm Trails provides a way for the public and organizations to support the planting of carbon-sequestering food trees on farms that will nourish and regenerate our Island Home.

For more information and to download the free Hawai‘i Farm Trails app, visit your mobile device app store and search for “Hawaii Farm Trails.”

The HFT app was also created in partnership with Hawaii Agritourism Association, GoFarm Hawaii, and Kamehameha Schools (KS).

HTA Launches Hawaii Farm Trails Mobile App

Hawaii News and Island Information

Calling all agritourism businesses! The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is excited to announce the launch of the Hawaii Farm Trails’ (HFT) new mobile application, or app. HFT, a regenerative enterprise, is seeking interested farms, ranches, apiaries, farmers markets, agriculture events, and community supported agriculture/food hubs statewide to be featured on their app and website. With a focus on regenerative tourism, HTA is proud to support agritourism initiatives that remain committed to providing a positive impact to the Hawaiian Islands.

The free mobile app, slated to launch on Thursday, April 22, is a platform that enables users to connect, experience and support Hawaii’s agriculture. From exploring farms and ranches to purchasing products or contributing to the planting of trees, the app provides an opportunity for residents and visitors to discover numerous agritourism experiences.

The launch of the app is initially funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and is supported additionally through a collaborative partnership between HTA and Hawaii Agritourism Association.

Who can be listed?

  • Trails listing: Free listing for farms and ranches that engage the public and offer on-site farm tours, classes, farm-to-table tastings, has either a store, visitor center/museum, farm stand or holds farmers markets or agriculture-related events.
  • Hawaii Farm Stand listing: Free listing for farms who have value-added, shelf-stable products they would like to list on HFT’s marketplace and/or HFT’s gift boxes.
  • Local Business listing: Third party businesses that provide services (restaurants, tour operators, transportation, accommodations) that may benefit farms in their immediate communities are invited to be listed on HFT’s local business directory listing. There is a minimal fee to be listed.
  • Project Kanu: For farms who are interested in receiving free ulu, or breadfruit, seedlings that HFT’s customers have sponsored.
    If your organization is interested, please complete the form below or email HFT directly at The deadline to submit requests is Monday, April 5.

You may visit the Hawaii Farm Trails website here:

HAF EAT THINK DRINK Virtual Event – Reimagining Tourism


The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation invites you to Eat Think Drink for an important conversation about Reimagining Tourism in 2021.

Hawaii Agricultural Foundation’s virtual event, EAT THINK DRINK: Reimagining Tourism 2021 ­– Sustaining Our Future will bring stakeholders together for this community conversation on Tuesday, January 12 at 6pm.

“EAT THINK DRINK is an event series hosted by the Hawaii Ag Foundation and they’ve invited us to partner with them for this upcoming event, Reimagining Tourism 2021 – Sustaining Our Future,” explains Mufi Hannemann, President and CEO of Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association.

“EAT THINK DRINK was started by Hawaii Ag Foundation back in 2016 as a way to bring the community together to discuss issues around food sustainability and security. However, since COVID hit, they’ve pivoted the event and partnered with other industries and organizations like us (HLTA), to engage the community in broader discussions as we all know now that so many of our local industries are inter-related and we need to work together to restore the balance and health of our economy.”

They’re excited to explore opportunities to rebuild and innovate Hawaii’s number one industry – tourism. Hannemann adds, “There’s no denying that our economy has suffered because of the drop in visitor numbers, and we need to move forward and get on this road to recovery because we know it’s going to be a long one, but we have to work together.”

He goes on to say, “We know that resident support for the visitor industry at an all-time low and we want to address that and look at how we can reshape the industry and work together with other industries and sectors to create a mutually beneficial relationship and a win-win for our local communities.”

Hannemann thinks there are opportunities for us to innovate our existing industries such as agriculture to create agri-tourism experiences that will benefit our local farmers and agricultural industry, and to discuss new programs to attract remote workers to Hawaii, like the Movers and Shakas program.

HAF invited a great group of speakers who represent different industry sectors to speak on these opportunities. The event will start with a short presentation by economist Paul Brewbaker, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Senator Glenn Wakai. Panelists include:

* Daniel Chun, Director of Sales, Community & Public Relations – Hawai’i

Alaska Airlines

* Lynette Eastman, General Manager of The Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club

* John Morgan, President of Kualoa Ranch, Inc.

* and, Paul Yonamine, Executive Chairman of Central Pacific Bank and Chairman & CEO of Central Pacific Financial Corporation

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at

Join forum with leaders in agriculture and food policy innovation, Jan. 7, 2021

Ka Puna O Kaloʻi
By Zenaida Serrano Arvman –

The University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu Sustainable Community Food Systems program is among the organizers of the Food+ Policy Landscape Update 2021, an online forum the public is welcome to attend from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7.

The objective of the event is to enhance community awareness of and participation in public policy decision-making in Hawaiʻi that impacts food, agriculture, and public health.

Leaders on agriculture and food policy innovation will provide an assessment of the Hawaiʻi public policy landscape and updated information about key policy initiatives active this legislative session.

“There is growing popular awareness of food systems as key determinants of environmental quality, human health, and resilience,” said Albie Miles, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Community Food Systems at UH West Oʻahu. “At the same time, there are increased calls from the public and private sector for transforming elements of the food system of Hawaiʻi to achieve a new set of economic recovery, food security, natural resource management, and public health outcomes.”

The Food+ Policy Landscape Update 2021 is a convening of community and state leaders working on agriculture and food policy innovation at the state and county level, Miles said.

Forum participants include:

  • Claire Sullivan and Michelle Galimba, AgHui (Agriculture Response and Recovery Working Group)
  • Dexter Kishida, City and County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resilience
  • Miwa Tamanaha, Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA)
  • Daniela Spoto, Hawaiʻi Appleseed
  • Amy Perruso, Hawaiʻi State Representative
  • David Lopez, Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency
  • Micah Munetaka, Ulupono Initiative
  • Hunter Heaivilin (Moderator), Food System Planner, Supersistence
  • In addition to UH West Oʻahu, event organizers include Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action and Purple Maiʻa.

Those interested in attending the public forum may register at:

Creating Virtual Farm and Food Experiences

Webinar – Wednesday, December 9, 2020
9am Pacific time; 12pm Eastern time; 6pm Central European time; 10:30 Indian time –

Whether it’s farm tours, private tastings, or conferences, we are all figuring out new ways to connect digitally with customers and colleagues. During this period of limited travel, farm and food businesses around the world are experimenting with innovative online formats to share their agricultural experiences and products. Join us to learn about lambing tours in Scotland and cider tastings in Vermont. Presenters will share their challenges, successes, and lessons learned as they have transitioned to virtual events during the pandemic.

Moderator: Lisa Chase, University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Tourism Research Center
Speakers: Eleanor Leger, Eden Specialty Ciders, Vermont, USA; Caroline Millar, Balkello Farm and Go Rural, Dundee, Scotland

To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Becky Bartlett at 802-257-7967 or so we may assist you.

Tourism professor Angela Fa‘anunu sees the economic slowdown as a chance to develop agritourism

UH Hilo Stories
by Emily Burkhart –

Assistant Prof. Fa‘anunu challenges her students to reimagine the conventional mass tourism industry in favor of alternative, more regenerative models centered around agritourism and indigenous tourism.

Angela Fa‘anunu, assistant professor of tourism at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is no stranger to teaching innovative strategies to her classes on sustainable tourism and business. Though the coronavirus has proven challenging due to the limitations of in-person education, Fa‘anunu is optimistic about teaching tourism during a global health crisis.

That may seem counterintuitive, as tourism has largely shut down throughout Hawai‘i with restrictions on visitors that have created economic shockwaves for residents.

However, Fa‘anunu sees the disruption as a potential time of reflection that will hopefully lead to more thorough planning strategies for Hawai‘i’s economic and cultural future. Her collaborations with various federal, state, and private agencies aim to increase agritourism on Hawai‘i Island, an approach she believes will create more resilient and economically stable Pacific communities.

A vision centered on agritourism and indigenous tourism

In the courses she teaches, Fa‘anunu challenges students to reimagine the conventional mass tourism industry in favor of alternative, more regenerative models centered around agritourism and indigenous tourism, based on relationships of reciprocity between hosts and visitors.

“Covid has created an awareness that perhaps the model we have for tourism isn’t the best one for our small islands,” she says. “Perhaps we need to find other ways of engaging with the visitor industry that build the resilience of our local communities, such as our local farmers.”

She believes the pandemic response has highlighted the state’s dependence on tourism and the need for local agriculture.

“To me, agritourism is a win-win situation but to develop this industry in Hawai‘i, we need to plan carefully,” she explains. “Allowing commercial activity on agricultural lands can be tricky so we need to ensure that they are protected and that we maintain the integrity and sense of place of our local communities while also enabling small farmers to succeed by being financially sustainable.”

She says planning is critical and needs to consider the next 100 years. “To plan for climate change, we cannot plan for five to 10 years from now. It has to be long-term.”

Fa‘anunu was raised in Tu‘anekivale, on the island of Vava‘u in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. She joined UH Hilo in 2019. She received her doctorate from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where her research focused on sustainable tourism development in Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands.

On the topic of sustainable tourism, Fa‘anunu says, “What does that even mean? What are we trying to sustain? The phrase is very vague, which creates many challenges for change. We also come with different lenses. Growing up on a small island with no electricity or running water gives me a certain reference for understanding sustainability that may be different from yours.”

Luckily for her sustainable tourism students last semester, when UH classes switched to web platforms due to the coronavirus, Fa‘anunu had already transitioned the class to a primarily online format the previous winter with much help from Cynthia Yamaguchi, the university’s online teaching and learning specialist who assists faculty design web-based courses.

“By the time covid happened, the students knew what to do because we had been doing it already,” Fa‘anunu explains. “After we came back from spring break [when the university transitioned to all online teaching], my students were used to the on-line platform. There was no confusion, and I feel like it was a good transition.”

Her students agree, with one stating in an anonymous survey taken last spring evaluating the success of faculty transitioning to online teaching that Fa‘anunu “did a great job with distance learning. I think the way she teaches students is the best I’ve seen and a great way for students to learn and understand the topics she goes over.”

Previously, before the pandemic caused a total shift to online teaching, Fa‘anunu took her classes to visit local farms. “I like my courses to be applied,” she says. “It’s about tapping into the expertise of different people” to stimulate critical thinking and community engagement, particularly with East Hawai‘i’s vibrant local agriculture scene.

The farming professor

Fa‘anunu herself offers integral expertise on agritourism as co-founder of Kaivao Farm in Pāhoehoe, just north of Hilo, which she says has a vision to cultivate Pacific resilience.

In 2016, Kaivao Farm won $20,000 in seed money as a first-place winner of the 2016 Mahi‘ai Match-Up Agricultural Business Plan Contest sponsored by Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation. The farm also received an agricultural lease from Kamehameha Schools with up to five years of waived rent, and start-up seed money from the Pauahi Foundation.

“The winner of the first place $20,000 prize was Kaivao Farm, LLC. Utilizing traditional organic and sustainable agroforestry methods, Kaivao Farm plans to specialize in the cultivation of ʻulu and cassava on 9.5 acres in Pāhoehoe, just north of Hilo on Hawai‘i island.

Along with their main starch crops, team members Angela Faʻanunu, Kalisi Mausio, Keone Chin and Haniteli Faʻanunu will cultivate wauke, hala and other secondary crops for use in education and practice of traditional art-forms like kapa-making and ʻulana (weaving).

“Kaivao Farm will serve as a living classroom with a holistic, ʻāina-based approach, centered on the resources of Pāhoehoe ahapuaʻa” said Angela Faʻanunu with Kaivao Farm.

“We are guided by the vision of building capacity of our local communities by increasing access to healthy food and learning opportunities through practicing cultural traditions that maintain the integrity of the ʻāina and ourselves,” Faʻanunu added.”

The farm, independently owned and operated by Faʻanunu and her sister, Kalisi Mausio, subsequently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop the capacity of agritourism for Hawai‘i county. This led to the development of the Hawai‘i Farm Trails mobile app, an electronic platform that connects visitors and residents to agricultural activities such as farm tours, farmer’s markets, agricultural festivals and events. “We really learned how important tourism is for small farms,” says Faʻanunu.

“What I love about agritourism is that it doesn’t necessarily impinge on Hawaiian culture,” Faʻanunu notes. “Every farm has its own unique story. We need to malama our host culture, and our tourism industry should be leading these initiatives.”

Cultivating new strategies during the pandemic

Now curbed from farm visits during the covid era, Fa‘anunu is turning toward admittance to international conferences and the potential to host overseas guest speakers.

“Students can attend talks and conferences across the world,” she says, from UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business’s regularly held webinars about the reopening of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry to business conferences like the Buzz Travel China Summit, where admission for students was free.

Her students this semester are learning how countries across the world are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and how to think critically of Hawai‘i’s global interconnectedness.

Though Fa‘anunu says her semester has been anything but easy juggling research, her courses, family life, and the difficulties all new faculty face in creating curriculum, her seamless integration of regional and global lenses gives her students the well-rounded perspective she hopes will be adopted by current and future generations to plan for better preparedness in the future.

“You can plan to plan or you can plan to act,” she says, noting that her goal is to inspire students with strategies that communities across the world are implementing to address shortcomings laid bare by the pandemic’s repercussions.

“Tourism is just one of these strategies,” she says. “But tourism has become such a prevalent strategy that it has overpowered everything else. Covid has shown us that perhaps we need to figure out those other strategies to make us more resilient.”

How chef Peter Merriman fosters a culture of excellence

Pacific Business News
By A. Kam Napier

There are a couple of reasons why Peter Merriman is our Business Leadership Hawaii 2020 Career Achievement honoree. First, there is his decades-long work as a legend in the industry, as one of the founding members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement in 1991, in which he not only established consistently excellent Neighbor Island restaurants, but played a key role in helping to grow the farms that could supply the entire industry. Second, is his willingness to take chances. We thought it noteworthy that Merriman, who might well have rested on these accomplishments, took the leap of becoming a partner in Handcrafted Restaurants in 2011.

At their peak, before the Covid-19 economy, the four restaurants of Meriman’s Hawaii and five restaurants of Handcrafted employed about 1,200 people. Handcrafted was honored in PBN’s 2015 Hawaii’s Best Workplaces. It’s a long way from his Hawaii debut in 1983 when the Pittsburgh-born Merriman accepted a job as the cook for the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Two years later, he was named executive chef of the resort’s new Gallery Restaurant. In 1988, he went out on his own, opening Merriman’s in Waimea on Hawaii Island.

The Mauna Lani is also where he learned some business advice that has stayed with him, from customers who have been successful with large businesses. One such informal mentor was Larry Dean, who had grown and sold an early Internet check- cashing business. By the time he sold it, Dean told him, the software was beyond him but he had people for that, it was more important that he “foster the culture.”

Merriman said his team can attest to the fact that, “to this day, I still walk around saying, ‘I’m gonna fostah the cultah!’” as Dean, a Southerner, used to say it. “That’s really fundamental to the way I approach business because I like to delegate a lot of responsibility and authority, making an environment where smart people can do well — in this way, I will do well.”

The other advice came from Robert Holder of the Atlanta-based Holder Corp., a builder and developer whose enterprises had grown enormously through that city’s boom. “Bob told me, ‘When you own a business, only do what only you can do’,” recalled Merriman. “I had to take myself out of the kitchen to be successful at the business part, so that advice has been really, really valuable. And I find it really useful down the chain, too, in that I can tell my managers the same thing — you have somebody else who can do that job, let them do that and you do the job they cannot do.”

Merriman said he still struggles with letting go, but he recently made his biggest delegation yet when he appointed Christina Schenk, his former controller, as CEO of Merriman’s Hawaii, the first CEO who wasn’t Merriman himself. “And she does a better job than me, which is very cool,” he said. “She pretty much runs everything on the Merriman’s side of the business, and I am really fostering the culture. On the Monkeypod side, Sarah Hill runs everything over there.”

Merriman’s partnership with Handcrafted is a 50-50 ownership deal founded with Bill Terry, whom Merriman had become friends with when Terry was with TS Restaurants, and it presented Merriman with an opportunity to see through an unrealized dream — owning a café, offering what he calls “accessible food.”

“When I opened in Waimea, I started out with a café but the only way to make it succeed was to push it upscale because we didn’t have the volume of customers,” Merriman said.

When PBN caught up with Merriman in late September for this article, the Covid economy was an unavoidable subject. He had used Paycheck Program Program money to keep people on as long as possible, but has had to do furloughs and some layoffs. When asked what the industry will need to do to survive, he went immediately to business fundamentals.

“We need to figure out where this market is going to settle, we’re talking about 80% swings in volume and no business can plan for that,” he said. “I think there’s going to have to be a total reset on the structure of how restaurant deals work between tenant, landlord and lender in the state of Hawaii, maybe the entire country. What has been in place to this day is no longer reasonable and that is, minimum rent, plus CAM plus percentage of revenue. That minimum rent turned out to be a killer because basically, that was using the tenant to guarantee the landlord against any downturns in the market like we’re having. The landlords of course say, ‘we owe our lenders, so we need that money’ and there’s some truth to that too. Banks, too, could help by offering small businesses longer terms on loans.”

“It’s a dead run, we’re all driving on debt, Alexander Hamilton would be happy,” he said. “For restaurants, we know the demand is not there now, we know it’s not going to be where it used to be, and our models were so incredibly tight — if 7% is the average profit then even a 10% loss can collapse the whole thing.”

We talked about the farming community as well, given the tight tie between his industry and theirs, and whether or not agriculture can be viable as one of the replacements for tourism, as is sometimes suggested when people talk about what else Hawaii could be doing. The challenge there, he said, is that the farms are quite dependent on the numbers of visitors we’re used to, supporting the number and kinds of restaurants that buy from farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

“I can pay more, and I do pay more, for grocery items than people who shop at grocery stores,” he said, “We’re the high-end outlet for farmers, which is especially good if they haven’t hit their volumes yet. If they can get a high price for the items they’re selling from us, it’s very useful. The farmers have done better than I expected up to this point, and some have been able to sell to the grocery stores but at a reduced rate. For the smaller farms, for those just starting out, they’re the ones who are really damaged.”

While money concerns are top of mind for the industry right now, it isn’t something Merriman generally allows to be the sole focus of his companies. Each restaurant is led by a general manager and a chef, in tandem, as opposed to restaurant companies that put only a general manager at the top.

“Chefs are very powerful in our organization,” he said, noting that he still designs about 75% of the dishes himself. “We don’t want to become bean counters, our origin story is from cooking, not from counting dollars and while we can maybe get good at that, at accounting, it doesn’t mean that’s who we are. We make a conscious effort in our company meetings to talk about food, even if it’s just down to the level of, ‘where did you eat that was really great?’ We believe the culture of a company is what it talks about, so if all we do is run around talking about dollars and cents, that’s who will be.

“I feel we are in the food business, but most importantly, we’re in the guest experience business, which the food supplies,” he said. “If we don’t remember that on a regular basis, our culture will change despite our best thoughts.”

And that is what “fostering the culture” looks like, in action.