Maui County Farm Bureau Announces Awards

September 30, 2015, 1:11 PM HST · Updated September 30, 4:53 PM
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Warren K. Watanabe, executive director, Maui County Farm Bureau with Paula Hegele, Member of the Year, and Darren Strand, President, Board of Directors, Maui County Farm Bureau and Maui Gold Pineapple Co. Photo Courtesy: Ka’uhane Inc.

Warren K. Watanabe, executive director, Maui County Farm Bureau with Paula Hegele, Member of the Year, and Darren Strand, President, Board of Directors, Maui County Farm Bureau and Maui Gold Pineapple Co. Photo Courtesy: Ka’uhane Inc.

The Maui County Farm Bureau announced honorees of its annual award celebration, who were recognized for demonstrating tremendous support for Maui agriculture.

This year’s winners include: “Member of the Year,” Paula Hegele; “Family of the Year,” David Stoltzfus and family; “Friend of Agriculture,” Dr. Harold Keyser; and “Mike Lyons Award,” Saedene Ota.

The awards were presented at MCFB’s annual General Membership Meeting held Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Kula Community Center.

Darren Strand, MCFB Board President and President of Maui Gold Pineapple Co.; and Warren K. Watanabe, MCFB Executive Director, presented the awards, along with special guests Lui Hokoana, Chancellor of UH Maui College; and Kelvin Sewake, Interim Associate Dean of Extension for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH Mānoa.

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“Agriculture is such an important economic and cultural component of Maui,” said Member of the Year award winner Paula Hegele. “As president of MauiWine in ʻUlupalakua for the past 25 years, Hegele has overseen tremendous growth and change in both her niche industry and on Maui as a whole,” said representatives with the Maui County Farm Bureau.

Supported by ʻUlupalakua Ranch owner Pardee Erdman, MCFB representatives say, “Hegele has ceaselessly promoted Maui-grown wines, gaining recognition and building partnerships along the way that both furthered the vineyard’s vision and contributed to the good of the island.”

“I feel lucky to live, work and raise a family in a supportive agriculture community,” Hegele said in an announcement recognizing the honorees. “If we did not have a vineyard on Maui or Maui Gold pineapple to use in our wines, we would not exist. MauiWine is a winery and tasting room on a historical estate, a popular destination and attraction for Maui visitors and our local community—but none of it exists if we’re not farming.”

 “Family of the Year,” David Stoltzfus and family with Darren Strand and Warren K. Watanabe.

“Family of the Year,” David Stoltzfus and family with Darren Strand and Warren K. Watanabe.

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For “Family of the Year” winner David Stoltzfus, farming is just a way of life. Stoltzfus moved to Hawaiʻi from Iowa with his wife Rhonda and their three children in 2008, and has been the Maui Lead for Monsanto Hawaiʻi since 2011. Raised on a family farm in Iowa, David earned degrees in agronomy, plant breeding and business management. His wife Rhonda has her degree in horticulture and is now involved with the American Farm Bureau Grassroots Advocacy Team. On her blog “Iowa Meets Maui,” she writes about agriculture and their three children: Emma, 16; Morgan, 14; and Simon, 11.

“It’s great to be part of the Hawaiʻi ag community, including not only the farmers but the many other people who support them and are working together for the benefit of all types and sizes of agriculture in Hawaiʻi – from turf and flowers to fruit and vegetables, livestock, plant breeding and ag research, the ag suppliers, big farms, small farms, and everything in between. The members of the Maui County Farm Bureau are so dedicated and passionate about ag, it’s a pleasure and honor to be a part of such a hard-working community,” said Stoltzfus.

Dr. Harold Keyser accepts his award at Maui County Farm Bureau General Membership meeting. Photo courtesy: Ka’uhane Inc.

Dr. Harold Keyser accepts his award at Maui County Farm Bureau General Membership meeting. Photo courtesy: Ka’uhane Inc.

Friend of Agriculture award winner, Dr. Harold Keyser, has been committed to Maui ag for decades, with a lengthy list of professional accomplishments and community involvements. Retired from UH CTAHR, he is still busy writing about and promoting genetic technologies, said MCFB representatives.

Keyser continues to volunteer with MCFB’s Agriculture in the Classroom program as well as the horticulture exhibit at the Maui Fair.

“A better understanding of modern agriculture by the general public and policy makers is critical for support of continuous agricultural innovations,” said Keyser. “Fewer and fewer people are familiar with production agriculture, and it is important that society be informed through evidence about the tremendous progress that is being made and the future challenges that will be solved in part through agricultural biotechnology.”

Saedene Ota, Mike Lyon’s Award Winner. Courtesy photo.

Saedene Ota, Mike Lyon’s Award Winner. Courtesy photo.

The MCFB also awarded its Mike Lyons Award to resident Saedene Ota, who is the owner and creative director of Sae Design, a graphics firm, and the mastermind behind Maui Thing, an apparel retailer with custom designs focusing on all that is “good” for the environment, personal development and local themes.

Along with serving on multiple boards—including Maui Economic Development Board, Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and A Keiki’s Dream—Ota expresses her commitment to Maui through nonprofit work and pro-bono design services for organizations such as Grow Some Good, Hale Makua Health Services, Meals on Wheels and Maui Youth & Family Services.

“Agriculture is the reason why I am able to call Hawaiʻi home,” said Ota, whose Japanese grandmother worked at the pineapple cannery in Kahului in order to support her family. “So many generations of families in Hawaiʻi owe their livelihood to the plantation life. Today agriculture not only sustains our economy, it also provides a beautiful vista,” she said.

The Mike Lyons Award is issued to a recipient that exemplifies the dedication to community for which the late Mike Lyons was known. A vice president for Bank of Hawaiʻi on Maui, Lyons is credited with helping many nonprofits on the Valley Isle during his 40-plus years of service. He was a founder of MEDB, and served as a community leader and volunteer board member for various groups.

Within the island’s agriculture community, Maui County Farm Bureau is tasked with addressing the legislative and public relations issues that affect its members.

“Our members understand and believe in the inherent value of farming, both as it enriches our community and gives our island even greater appeal for visitors,” said MCFB Executive Director Warren Watanabe. “These awards are important because they recognize our farm families and their efforts to further and strengthen a healthy and viable agricultural industry in Maui County.”

The 2014 MCFB Membership awardees included: “Member of the Year,” Sylvestre Tumbaga; “Family of the Year,” James and Nancy Shishido, Jamie Shishido; “Friend of Agriculture,” Jeanne Skog; and “Mike Lyons Award,” Dr. Clyde Sakamoto.

Annual elections for the MCFB Board of Directors were also held at the Sept. 16 meeting. Sworn into the board for another term are: Darren Strand, David Stoltzfus, Carver Wilson, Ken Findeisen, and Brendan Balthazar. Remaining on the board are Rick Volner Jr., Doug MacCluer and Heidi Watanabe.

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