Maui Business

VIDEO: Real Talk with ‘Ulupalakua Ranch President, Sumner Erdman

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Tara Dugan, digital sales director of MauiNow interviewed Sumner Erdman, president of ‘Ulupalakua Ranch to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his business operations.

“They’ve closed as they’re not essential businesses,” Erdman referring to the ‘Ulupalakua store and deli. “We’ve tried doing whatever we can to keep some of those employees doing other things but that’s pretty difficult.”

The ‘Ulupalakua Ranch traditionally receives assistance from people willing to help with ranch maintenance – such as fixing fences. However, workers who live at the ranch are part of the vulnerable population to the effects of COVID-19.

“We have retirees that have worked for the ranch for 30 years that still live on the ranch and they would be of the section of the population more vulnerable to Covid-19. We have to protect them so we’ve put in policies to isolate the ranch a little bit better,” Erdman added.

Erdman recognized that traditional ways of sharing information and collaboration in the ranching business needed to adapt to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think what you and I are doing right now is going to become a lot more commonplace.  It’s going to be interesting how it affects human interaction. The realization that we don’t actually have to be in the same place all the time is going to become a part of our reality,” he said.

While Erdman adopted new forms of communication for his business, he also shared that virtual communication might be one of his most difficult business challenges at this time.

“My Mom passed away a couple of weeks ago, which obviously, that’s my biggest challenge right now – trying to figure out how to deal with all that,” Erdman expressed.

“Some of the issues that we’re talking about in pastures – where the company is going – it would be a lot easier if we could all be there…We are more hands-on then we are doing things on the phone.  We are having to learn some of those challenges.”

He said that the ‘Ulupalakua Ranch was asked by government officials to help with roadblocks and residents’ passes to Hana. Erdman saw this as a challenge in protecting his staff but found it necessary to support the Maui community.

 “You can’t lose your culture and our culture has always been to help and work with the county and the community.  We have to keep our culture in the middle of a time when that becomes interesting,” he added.

Erdman said that he always tries to have a positive outlook in any situation and finds the critical role they play in the current pandemic.

“I think the positive in this situation is to look at what companies and individuals have done for the greater good of the community within Maui, within the state of Hawaii, within the country and in other countries.  Some of these stories are heartwarming and we try to do our little part of it,” Erdman said.

“One of our important factors in society is that we make sure we keep producing food for the community because that is something that we have to do and there are challenging situations in this and some of those are essential and we have to keep going and keep doing,” he added.

Erdman encouraged the Maui community to have a positive outlook and that we can get through this situation together.

“Throughout history, societies have had to go through situations like this and worse situations and we need to keep that in perspective.  We have lived a very comfortable existence for quite a while.  We will get through this and there is no need to panic we’ll get through it.  If the human species hadn’t figured out how to get through these kinds of things, none of us would be here.”

To learn more about Ulupalakua Ranch watch the interview above or visit their website.


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