Hāna Ranch Provisions: A Restaurant, a Ranch, a Real Vision
Hāna Ranch Provisions. Let’s break it down.
Hāna Ranch: Originally created in the 1940’s as part of a 14,000-acre development for cattle ranching and a hotel. Bought by Hāna Ranch Stewards, LLC. in January 2014, and currently includes about 3,600 acres on the mauka (mountain) side of Hāna Highway.
Provisions: Something that is provided or supplied for use. To supply with food, drink, or equipment, especially for a journey.
Hāna Ranch is definitely on a journey. And so are the cows. On a daily basis, in fact.
“Usually they move once a day, so there’s a lot of movement going on. The paddocks are the entire ranch,” says Hospitality and Retail Manager Morgan Maki with Bio-Logical Capital, LLC., the company that manages the ranch on behalf of Hāna Ranch Stewards.
The beef cattle are grass-fed and grass-finished, but they’re not roaming freely on the range. Why? Maki says research shows cattle kept in closer quarters, like enclosed paddocks, will compete more for food. That means they eat the grass faster, so it grows faster. And when that grass is competing with the wild, wily weeds of Hāna, the process takes time, patience and even homework.
“Hāna wants to be a rainforest! It doesn’t want to be a grassland,” says Maki. “We go back and monitor; how fast is the grass growing? What types of grass are growing? Are certain ones going to seed faster than other ones, and do we need to change our grazing strategy so that we’re having the right impact on each paddock?”
Many questions, and the answers are still being ironed out at Hāna Ranch. As Maki says, they’re doing “a lot of listening to nature.” But the priorities are clear: creating a sustainable ecosystem, diverse landscape and thriving local workforce.
“In owning 3,600 acres that surrounds the town of Hāna, we have a huge responsibilty to be good stewards in the community as well,” Maki explains. “And the way we interact with our team and the way we interact with the land is something that’s very visible to the community. They can see when we plow a field because they’re driving up and down the highway, and they can hear the way the staff talk about how they feel and their work experience.”
Some employees are working in ways they didn’t expect. Many of the paniolo (cowboys) who were used to wrangling cattle are also tending fruits and vegetables, since the organic farm started up on the ranch in early 2014. Along with bigger orchard species like avocado, citrus and ʻulu (breadfruit), which will take several years to bear fruit, Hāna Ranch has a bounty of produce that’s doing just that: producing.
“We call those our biodiverse mix; it’s cucumbers and it’s herbs and it’s mint and it’s lettuce and it’s squash,” Maki says. “Over the course of the year, there’s a consistent flow of product that’s available to the other accounts that we have and to the restaurant as well.”
And that brings us to the restaurant, Hāna Ranch Provisions, at 71 Baldwin Avenue in Pāʻia. It opened in August, showcasing its ranch-raised beef, local fish and organic produce. About half of the fruits and vegetables – currently including papaya, sweet potato, lettuce, chard, bok choy and herbs – are delivered twice a week from the farm in Hāna; the other half come from local farmers who share in the vision for a collaborative, sustainable food system on Maui.
There’s also collaboration between the employees in Pāʻia and those in Hāna, with employee luncheons and ranch visits to strengthen the bond between the company’s 55 employees. Maki says team building and staff retention are core goals.
“Everyone’s got to be on the same team and share the same vision. And that’s a lot about bridging that two-hour gap of highway,” Maki explains. “We want to provide consistent and secure employment for them, so they can take care of their homes and their families, and they’re confident that they’re working for a company that will support them financially. But we also want to engage with our staff in a way that empowers them to create a career within the company that we have.”
Some ranch employees have been putting in extra hours recently, with the zeal and dedication that comes with rebuilding a tradition by hand. The rodeo is returning to Hāna! Maki learned from locals that the rodeo used to be a highlight of the year for East Maui residents, who were saddened when it disappeared many years back. He was determined to fix up the ranch’s aging arena and bring the rodeo back to the community. Cowboys and crowds are getting ready for the big event on Saturday, October 31st. You can learn more here.
“To compete with some of the other cowboys and that relationship we maintain with the other beef cattle ranches on the island is a really important one too,” Maki says. “That paniolo culture is really important to a lot of families in Hāna. It’s a huge sense of pride for people and especially with the cowboys who work on our ranch; these guys are really excited to show everybody their stuff!”
The restaurant is really considered an extension of the ranch, but Hāna Ranch Provisions has been carving out its own identity in Pāʻia town, on the other side of (what many know as) the Mana Foods parking lot. There’s a quick-service counter with coffee and freshly-baked goods open from 7 a.m. to noon, in a nook next to the restaurant. The dining room attracts a vibrant, mostly local crowd between 5 and 9 p.m. every night. There are plans to expand hours for lunch during the week, then brunch on weekends.
“Pāʻia is very much a lunchtime destination for people that are traveling,” explains Maki, “so we’d love to provide that opportunity to get more people in the space during different times of day and having it be a little more ‘alive’ all day long.”
Happy hour runs from 5 to 6 p.m., with a smaller, discounted menu of drinks and appetizers. The restaurant also recently started a kamaʻāina night on Thursdays, available through the whole dinner service, with 10% off the entire bill for residents.
“We’re feeling both of those out right now to see if people are into it, but I would love to keep them going into the future,” Maki says. “We always want to be able to provide a meal at a variety of price points so that everyone feels comfortable coming and sharing that meal with us here.”
The servers at Hāna Ranch Provisions play a big role in welcoming and captivating customers. The ranch story and vision are there to share if diners are interested, but Maki says learning to be an active listener is key, especially when the conversation goes beyond “I’ll take the Kauaʻi shrimp and corn grits, thank you.”
“When we start to become really good listeners to the people in the community and the guests that come into the dining room, we’re able to tailor and customize each conversation we have,” Maki says, “so that people get exactly the information that they’re looking for and feel like the way they were being engaged by our staff was one that was meaningful and one that was empowering for everyone.”
Maki says he believes the North Shore is the right spot for this restaurant, but adds that it’ll take a much larger network to focus in on the bigger picture: making our islands more self-sufficient and sustainable. According to Bio-Logical Capital, Hawai’i currently imports more than 90% of its energy and 85% of its food.
“We have to have the support of many people for our business and for all of the like-minded people in the agriculture food system on Maui to go far; we all have to go together,” says Maki. “The more we share our story and the more people that we impact in a positive way, that’s value that stretches far beyond selling a hamburger in a restaurant or a head of lettuce in a grocery store.”