By Wendy Osher
Local farmer and visionary, Ali’i Arlington Chang, known best for his successful Ali’i Kula Lavender farm on the slopes of Haleakala, passed peacefully in his sleep yesterday. He was 69.
The successful 13-acre lavender farm was born of a single plant, recieved as a gift in 2001 from his dear friend and Hawaiian vocalist, Emma Veary. After planting the herb, the lavender took off, and over time, was transformed into a booming business that put Maui on many a map.
“Our hearts ache,” said Lani Weigert, co-owner, Ali‘i Kula Lavender. “Maui has lost one of its treasures,” she said.
As a steward of aloha, Weigert said, “He was an old-school, strong-minded, often stubborn Chinese-Hawaiian farmer. Yet he was a gentleman committed to an impeccable work ethic who was in-tune with nature,” said Weigert. “Above all, he was wise and gifted,” she said.
Weigert, along with the staff of Ali’i Kula Lavender shared a home cooked meal prepared by Chang at his home on Tuesday. The dinner and crew meeting would be the last time the AKL staff would share an evening with him.
Chang grew up on a 20-acre farm in Kāne‘ohe on O‘ahu. Friends say he watched and learned from his grandmother who, he would often say, “made me express art in whatever I did.”
“Ali‘i prided himself on having an impeccable and ever-changing canvas for all eyes to see and enjoy,” said Weigert. “He took considerable pride in his work and the work of his staff. Of his many traits, Ali‘i was a true perfectionist,” she said.
The vision for the lavender farm was to create a venue for “Sustainable Aloha.” This included educational stewardship projects with the community. In honor of that respect and vision, an Ali‘i Chang Foundation will be established to provide scholarships for Native Hawaiians pursuing skills training in agriculture and for agricultural education at local schools. More information will be posted at a later time at www.aklmaui.com.
Prior to the launch of Ali’i Kula Lavender, Chang opened Ali’i Gardens Nahiku where he grew tropical exotic plants. Later, in 1992, he purchased a protea farm in Kula.
At Chang’s request, no services will be held. A “Celebration of Life” will take place on Saturday, July 9, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ali‘i Kula Lavender. The day was set aside for the company’s First Annual Sustainable Aloha Summer Festival. Chang is survived by a son, Forrest Koa Chang.
*** Supporting information courtesy Ali’i Kula Lavender.