East Hawaii News

Big Island Farmer to Receive Ka Lei Hana Heritage Award

February 11, 2015, 11:48 AM HST
* Updated February 11, 11:49 AM
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The University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources will honor two outstanding individuals.

Richard Ha, a Big Island farmer, will receive the Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award for his advocacy on behalf of local agriculture, business development, and the college.

Dr. Diane Ragone has been named the University’s 2015 Outstanding Alumna for her work to understand, conserve, and promote breadfruit as a valuable tropical crop.

“The work of both Dr. Ragone and Richard Ha contribute greatly toward achieving food security and sustainable agriculture production in Hawai’i,” said Dr. Maria Gallo, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources dean and director for research and Cooperative Extension. “Both are visionary leaders who find solutions that tap the wisdom of the past in meeting the needs of the future.”

A Vietnam veteran and graduate of UH’s accounting program, Richard Ha is the pioneering president and founder of Hamakua Spring Country Farms in Pepe’eko. Beginning with 25 acres of his father’s farm, some chicken manure, recycled boxes, and a credit card with a $300 spending limit, Ha fostered the state’s largest banana farm. His farm is the first banana operation in the world to receive “Eco-OK” certification following his implementation of sustainable agricultural practices.

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In addition to running Hamakua Springs Country Farms, Ha serves on the Hawai’i State Board of Agriculture Executive Board and as CTAHR’s 2015 delegate for the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching. Some of his past roles include the CTAHR Advisory Council and UH Hilo’s Advisory Board, as well as activity in numerous business and civic organizations.

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The ever busy Ha also speaks on agricultural sustainability issues, organized support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea, co-chairs the Geothermal Working Group, and participated on a steering committee seeking to form an energy co-op on the Big Island.

Director of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden since it was founded, Ragone has combine multidisciplinary scholarly work with outreach initiatives to increase the awareness of the plant while building the world’s largest and most comprehensive breadfruit germplasm collection.

In her work, Ragone has overseen the distribution of thousands of highly nutritious, superior varieties of breadfruit trees throughout the Pacific. As co-director of the Ho’oulu Ka ‘Ulu project, Ragone works to revitalize ‘ulu in Hawai’i as a culturally appropriate staple for sustainable food production and a nutritious diet.

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Since joining the NTBG in 1989, Ragone has contributed to the conservation of other Native Hawaiian plants as director of horticulture and conservation and director of science, among other positions. She also serves as a research associate or affiliated faculty member with the Chicago Botanic Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Bishop Museum, and University of Hawai’i.

Both Ha and Ragone will be honored at the CTAHR’s 27th Annual Awards Banquet on Friday, May 8 at the Ala Moana Hotel.

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