Mutual support: Farmers and Ola Brew work together to create local products

  • Hala Tree Farm strips and bags the leaves from their pruned branches for delivery to Ola for tea. (Courtesy Photo/halatreecoffee.com)
  • Jesse Rosenthal delighted Jean Trueman when he served her the tangelo cider from her farm at the Ola tap room. (Scott Mandel/Courtesy Photo)
  • Derek Pittman has been involved with Ola since the beginning and was a willing participant in the tangelo harvest. (Chris Widden/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • The loaded tangelo tree at Jean and Scott’s farm was ripe for picking before Ola came to harvest. (Chris Widden/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Some of Doug Pittman’s turmeric is used by Ola for their healthy and tasty beverages. (Sabina Pittman/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Jean Orlowski walks his organic coffee farm regularly to check on the health of his trees. (Courtesy Photo)
  • Doug Pittman sells a lot of his red dragon fruit to Ola Brew. (Courtesy Photo/youtube.com)
  • Ola CEO Brett Jacobson participated in the tangelo harvest at Jean and Scott’s farm. (Chris Widden/Special to West Hawaii Today)

I first heard about Hawaiian Ola when my friend Doug Pittman, from Kona Hawk Farm, told me about his son Derek’s involvement in a new company that was buying local noni fruit to use in an energy drink. When Derek’s California school buddy, Brett Jacobson visited Kona and Doug’s farm in 2010, Brett decided to buy 8 acres down Milolii Road in the Hoopuloa Farm Lots.

Doug said,“Brett was captivated by all the tropical fruit on our 5 acre farm in Milolii mauka and was inspired to buy land here and start growing fruit himself.”

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Brett wanted to make an economic impact on the community by creating a demand for ingredients grown locally. Hawaiian Ola was born and his first product, the Noni Energy Shot, was designed to use as many local ingredients as possible. Hawaiian Ola has expanded and grown but they remain dedicated to their original mission to help sustain our local economy and Hawaiian agriculture. Their dedication led Brett to found Ola Brew as a separate entity with a similar mission. He is now the CEO of Ola Brew, which brews both fruit ciders and beers that source more than 50 percent of their inputs from Hawaii.

In 2016, Ola Brew applied for and received a grant from business developers HTDC (Hawaii Technology Development Corporation) to build a canning facility in Kona. They opened their plant in December 2017 and were soon brewing fruit ciders and beers for market. Their tap room and brewery/cidery are at 74-5598 Luhia St. in Kailua-Kona and are open daily. Check out their website for information on their hours and brews at www.olabrewco.com.

Today, Derek Pittman is director of sales for Ola Brew and is participating in their process of seeking certification as a B-Corp company. To be certified by B Lab requires that a company address every aspect of the B-Corp application. They must maintain high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Ola Brew has among its priorities the health of the environment. This, and its care for the local community by putting equity back into Hawaii, sets them apart from many other businesses. Their support of local organic agriculture and their dedication to environmentally friendly processes has helped them qualify them for Corp B certification. They expect final word on their certification soon.

Many in Kona have been impressed by the company’s products as well as their dedication to Hawaii’s environment and agriculture at many levels. They currently offer the waste from their cider and beer-making to local farmers and ranchers for their use. They are also seeking ways to prepare their waste and by products for use as animal feed as well as for inclusion in a composting operation.

Doug and Sabina’s Kona Hawk Farm is one of the organic farms supplying products for Ola’s ciders. Some of their turmeric has been used in Ola products. The deep red color of their prize dragon fruit (‘Thompson S7’) is a special favorite of the Ola brewers, however. Last year Ola bought over 1,000 pounds of their dragon fruit. They are now planting more fruit including pineapple to meet Ola’s increasing needs for locally sourced juices.

“Farmers like me are really pleased to have a guaranteed market for their produce at a fair price,” Doug said. “They’ll even come out and pick the fruit in exchange for a slightly lower price.”

Jean Trueman and Scott Mandel of Farm Laniwai (heavenly water) grow lots of fruit on their 3 acre farm in Honaunau.

Jean was delighted to report, “When someone from Ola tasted some of our wonderous tangelos at Island Naturals they wanted more, so we invited them to come harvest. They arrived with a truckload of joyful people and picked about 800 pounds of tangelos in a little over an hour.”

A few weeks later, Jean and Scott went to the Ola brewery and were poured a cold, delicious glass of fresh tangelo cider, which had been made from their fruit.

After visiting Ola, Scott noted, “The people there were wonderful and quite enthusiastic about their beautiful new facility and exciting products. They were very eager to share their vision with us.”

A new product that their president and director of marketing, Naehalani Breeland, told me about is a tea made from coffee leaves from the Hala Tree Coffee Farm in Captain Cook. Farmers Danielle and Jean Orlowski grow organic coffee on more than 20 acres and were happy to sell the leaves from their coffee prunings to Ola. The tea has a moderate caffeine level and a lovely flavor.

The Orlowskis bought an old and neglected Japanese family farm at 1,500 feet in Captain Cook four years ago. They proceeded to reclaim the original 2 acres of coffee and soon put coffee trees grown from their own seed on another 15 acres.

They are dedicated to sustainability and are certified organic. They grow their coffee and fruit in their misty mauka location without the use of chemical pesticides. The also apply sustainable practices in their operation. For example, in their coffee fields they use a ground cover of perennial peanuts to add fertility and to protect against soil erosion.

“I was very happy to be able to sell my coffee leaves and to know that a delicious tea was being made from them and sold locally,” Jean said.

These are just a few examples of the support that Ola has offered to local farmers. They also purchase ginger and turmeric from Kauai, honey from the Big Island, noni from Puna, pineapple from Hamakua and are hoping to be able to grow grains and hops for their beers. They are continuing to seek local sources and remain dedicated to their Hawaiian community and economy including agriculture.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living in a dryland forest north of Kailua-Kona.

Gardening Events

Monday: “Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Monthly Meeting” from 7-9 p.m. at West Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers office, 81-6393 Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua. White wooden building on makai side across from the Department of Transportation yard. Park in front or on the north side. Eli Ednie and Ken Love will talk about recent trips to Borneo and Australia. For more information contact Brian Lievens President West Hawaii Chapter at 895-8753 or greenwizard@hawaii.rr.com.

Wednesday: “Ag Curious with GoFarm Hawaii” from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at North Hawaii Education and Research Center 45-539 Plumeria St. Honokaa. An informational session to provide an overview of the GoFarm Program and application process. For more information and to register, go to www.gofarmhawaii.org.

Saturday: “Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden” from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the Garden Visitor Center across from the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. Volunteers will be able to help with garden maintenance and are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Water and snacks provided. Call Peter at 323-3318 for more information.

“Community Seed Library Members Meeting” from 2-3 p.m. at the Kailua-Kona Public Library with Diana Duff discussing seed saving techniques for home gardeners. Bring your questions. Open to new, old and want-to-be members of the Community Seed Library. Meeting is free and free seeds are available for members.

Farmer Direct Markets

Wednesday: “Sunset Farmers Market” 2-6 p.m. in the HPM parking lot at 74-5511 Luhia St. in Kailua-Kona (across from Target)

“Hooulu Farmers Market” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay

Friday: “Pure Kona Market” 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

Saturday: “Keauhou Farmers Market” 8 a.m. to noon at Keauhou Shopping Center

“Kamuela Farmer’s Market” from 7 a.m. to noon at Pukalani Stables

“Waimea Town Market” from 7:30 a.m. to noon in front of Parker School

“Waimea Homestead Market” from 7 a.m. to noon at the Waimea Middle and Elementary School Playground

Sunday: “Pure Kona Green Market” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

Plant Advice Lines

Anytime: konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu

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Tuesdays &Thursdays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH-CES in Kainaliu – 322-4892

Mon., Tues. &Fri: 9 a.m. to noon at UH CES at Komohana in Hilo 981-5199 or himga@hawaii.edu