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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Kauai Farmers to Boycott OHA Poi Mill
By News Release @ 5:00 PM :: 12907 Views :: Kauai County, Agriculture, OHA

OHA Micromanagement Destroyed Profitable Poi Mill

SA Jan 2, 2013: Makaweli Poi was established in 1993 by Makaweli Valley taro farmer John A‘ana and his cousin Rawlins Char a year after Hurricane Iniki destroyed Waimea Poi Mill.

The cousins started the company with the help of a $50,000 loan from OHA, but A‘ana later sought to get out of the milling business because it was too much to do along with growing taro and being a Kauai Fire Department captain, according to OHA.

A‘ana had talked with various prospective buyers, but made a deal to sell the mill to OHA in 2008. The agency paid $185,000 for the business, and envisioned establishing academic programs for students in the taro fields. OHA also envisioned establishing a farmer cooperative to increase poi production and profit.

Then-OHA Trustee Donald Cataluna contemplated doubling the mill’s 12.5 percent profit to 25 percent — unheard of for an agricultural enterprise, according to a 2008 OHA bulletin about the purchase.

However, the mill lost about $100,000 in each of the four years it was owned by OHA through nonprofit subsidiary Hi‘ipoi LLC.

A‘ana said in a June Star-Advertiser story that bad floods in 2008 destroyed many huli, or baby taro plants, which prompted some farmers not to replant. The June story also quoted former OHA Trustee Clarence Ku Ching as saying micromanagement from OHA’s offices in Honolulu added expenses to mill operations.

June, 2012: New taro team will take over operation OHA is giving up

read … Micromanagement

OHA transfers Makaweli Poi to Kauaʻi community group

News Release from OHA

HONOLULU (December 26, 2012) –  The Office of Hawaiian Affairs announced today it is transferring Makaweli Poi to a community group in a move expected to make the poi mill self-sufficient and to bolster projects that support the Hawaiian language on Kaua‘i.

OHA accepted the business plan of nonprofit Supporting the Language of Kaua‘i, Inc. The group will enter into a management agreement with Lehua Poi Company, a Waimea-based company, to operate the business.  A portion of net profits will go to Supporting the Language of Kaua‘i, which plans to establish a grants program to further the Hawaiian language. It is anticipated that the group will work with Hawaiian language and culture-focused charter schools and other educational institutions.

“Supporting the Language of Kaua‘i has ambitious but realistic plans to expand poi production while diversifying into other taro-based products,” said Kamana‘opono Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive officer. “We are confident they will be a success and will give back to both the keiki and kūpuna on Kaua‘i.”

The groups also plan to promote taro as a Hawaiian staple food, including working with local schools to introduce poi and poi products for their lunch menus.

OHA had previously been working with Ka Piko o Waimea on the transfer of Makaweli Poi since May, and recently began accepting business proposals from other nonprofit community groups.

“We thank Ka Piko o Waimea for its hard work to preserve poi production on the island of Kaua‘i,” said Crabbe. “The dedication showed by Ka Piko was commendable and we urge them to continue to use their collective mana to support other worthy community causes.”

OHA expects to transfer the assets of Makaweli Poi, including production equipment, to Supporting the Language of Kaua‘i at the beginning of the year. It will also provide seed money to help with start-up costs.

Current employees of Makaweli Poi will be given the opportunity to reapply for their jobs, according to the transition plan announced by Lehua Poi Company.


KHON December 26, 2012: OHA transfers Makaweli Poi to Kauai community group

  *   *   *   *   *

“All of the Farmers are Boycotting” -- Makaweli Poi

From Makaweli Poi Facebook Page

December 28, 2012: HEWA: we do NOT endorse this unexpected news that OHA is giving us, Makaweli Poi, away to a random group we never heard of before, a group that has never stepped foot in our mill or worked in the lepo popolo of our farms. We stand strong with KA PIKO O WAIMEA, which was formed by the farmers, workers and community of Makaweli Poi Mill. We are more than stakeholders, we are KA PULE O'O o NA KANAKA ...'AI POI. We are POI PONO, made by and for our community for 20 years from kalo grown for generations, we are not a business commodity to be traded at the whim and fancy of administrators in Honolulu offices. The farmers of Makaweli will not provide taro to this new group as they come without consent. With great sadness, from now on we cannot guarantee that the poi that carries our proud name will be of the PONO quality you have come to love and support as it is now made by those who would violate the kapu o Haloa.... Mahalo pau'ole no na mea aloha o Haloa, no ka 'ohana Haloa.... We will post any news we get, and we pray with all our na'au that it will be good news.

January 1, 2013: latest news from mauka- *ALL* OF THE FARMERS OF MAKAWELI/WAIMEA ARE BOYCOTTING LEHUA POI CO.'S TAKEOVER OF MAKAWELI POI MILL. In the meantime they are looking for any interested taro buyers on any island. The taro they grow is exclusively Hawaiian heritage varieties known to make excellent poi. Normally, these farmers do not like to ship out their taro because they believe in providing for their local community. However, as this new group, Lehua Poi Co., does not represent the farmers or mill workers who have been working together for decades, they prefer to sell their taro to pono poi makers elsewhere. Any interested in buying taro can message us here on Facebook.

  *   *   *   *   *

OHA ‘Stab in the Back’ to Poi Mill Workers

HNN December 30, 2012: Sunday is the last day of work for more than a dozen of the mill's workers before a new group takes over operations.

Earlier this week, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs announced it is transferring the mill to a nonprofit group, (Poi is not profitable? No wonder they’re going broke.) which consists of the Lehua Poi Company. However, an organization in Waimea that formed specifically to save the mill calls OHA's decision a "stab in the back."

Since May, OHA has been looking for someone to take over the mill and recently announced a group that includes the Lehua Poi Company will be managing operations.

But a separate group, Ka Piko O Waimea, made up of some of the mill's current workers say OHA promised them management.

"A lot of the poi mill workers have been here 20 plus years," said Kauakea Mata, president of Ka Piko O Waimea. "A lot of the farmers have been providing to this poi mill 20 plus years and we felt that it was our kuleana to stand by them and to do right."

OHA released a statement saying it has been working with Ka Piko O Waimea since May and "recently began accepting business proposals from other nonprofit community groups."

read … Waimea group 'disappointed' with OHA's transfer of Makaweli Poi Mill

  *   *   *   *   *

Covering up the poi bowl: Ka Piko o Waimea ‘disappointed’ over OHA’s transfer of mill to Lehua

KGI: In the OHA press release Wednesday, OHA representatives thanked Ka Piko O Waimea for its hard work and dedication, but said that they were confident that Lehua Poi Company and their management agreement with Supporting the Language of Kaua’i, Inc., would be a success.

Ka Piko o Waimea President Kauakea Mata, however, said that the group is “incredibly disappointed in OHA’s failure to communicate with our organization as we complied in good faith of all of their requirements.”

He said many hours and late evenings were dedicated to the board’s mission to save the poi mill and continue this agricultural operation for local farmers.

“OHA owes the West Side community and this organization an explanation for their decision to unilaterally award transfer of the poi mill to another organization, without receiving the support of local farmers and the community as previously stated,” Mata said.

Taro farmer John Aana said this kind of decisions by OHA tends to divide Hawaiians, while doing nothing to preserve, protect, and support the kalo culture of West Kaua‘i, which was the mission of Hi‘ipoi and the reason OHA took over the mill in the first place.

“This decision by OHA is a stab in the back to the Waimea community and the taro farmers,” Aana said.

In May, shortly after the formation of Ka Piko o Waimea, an OHA representative sent an e-mail to the board indicating that OHA’s intentions to transfer the mill to Ka Piko o Waimea, the release states. A $1000 check was to be provided to Ka Piko O Waimea quickly as a good faith gesture, but that money was never received.  

read … Covering up the poi bowl

OHA revisits Makaweli Poi Mill Closure

KGI May 16, 2012: The Office of Hawaiian Affairs announced Tuesday that its non-profit subsidiary, Hi‘ipoi LLC, will transition ownership and management of Makaweli Poi Mill to a Kaua‘i community organization.

To maximize the success of the transition plan, OHA will be meeting with Kaua‘i taro community stakeholders, Wednesday to discuss an appropriate timeline and other aspects of the transition.

“We understand our original timeline may have been too ambitious and are open to considering a longer timeframe to implement the transition,” Crabbe said. (In other words, these geniuses figured out that closing poi factory was bad PR.)

read … Makaweli


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