Out on the range: Taste of the Hawaiian Range returns to original location to celebrate local agriculture

  • Adults and children learn how bee hotels work at one of the past festival booths. (COURTESY PHOTO/GODWIN POLENDEY, UH-CTAHR)

  • A CTAHR display at the 2016 event shows how technical assistance is provided to agricultural leaseholders in a partnership with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. (COURTESY PHOTO/TASTE OF THE HAWAIIAN RANGE)

  • One of the free presentations in Mana Christian Ohana’s classroom this year will be on agricultural technology. (COURTESY PHOTO/TASTE OF THE HAWAIIAN RANGE)

  • Savory dishes for the gala dinner will be on display at 20 culinary stations in Mana Christian Ohana Hall. (COURTESY PHOTO/TASTE OF THE HAWAIIAN RANGE)

WAIMEA — Taste of the Hawaiian Range, an agricultural festival that started in the ranching town in 1996, will return to its Waimea roots Sept. 29.

It began as a humble companion event to the Cooperate Extension Services’ Mealani Forage Field Day, featuring research done at the Mealani Research Station. Over the 22 years, it was also held at Hawaii Preparatory Academy and most recently at Hilton Waikoloa Village. The event’s planners took a hiatus last year to reformat this year’s festival and gala.

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“We’re changing up the Taste to share info with families about our local agriculture,” said event co-chair and rancher Jeri Moniz. “We will still have our popular, evening food tasting event to showcase pasture-raised meats, but will also offer earlier activities geared for the general public, including keiki.”

The new all-day format and grassy location at YMCA Minuke Ole Park, behind Parker Ranch Center, will give the festival a new look and feel. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., more than 30 free educational displays, dozens of vendors, a 4-H educational livestock display with a variety of pasture-raised animals such as cows, sheep, goats and pigs will fill the park.

Tractors, farm tools and others displays will allow children to learn about farming.

“If we don’t have young people wanting to grow food, we won’t have anybody to grow it,” said Fern Gavelek, the event’s spokesperson.

New this year, attendees can “Get the Scoop on What’s Bugging Your Plants” at East Hawaii Master Gardener’s booth. Located under a big exhibit tent, plant, insect and disease diagnosis will be done with the naked eye and a microscope with a monitor.

Poi from Waipio Valley will be pounded at another booth, with samples for all to savor. Poi and sweet kulolo — a caramelized taro and coconut cream dessert — will be available for purchase at the King Laulau Brand Poi booth. Other locally grown produce, like ulu from Hawaii ‘Ulu Cooperative, will also be featured.

The evening gala will showcase 20 culinary stations in the adjacent Mana Christian Ohana Hall, formerly known as Kahilu Town Hall. Local pasture-raised meats will be featured in most dishes, in addition to two vegetarian options from Under the Bodhi Tree and The Red Water Café. Gala tickets are $50 online and at Parker Ranch Store, or $60 at the door if still available.

The event’s purposes

Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival provides a venue for sustainable agricultural education, plus encouragement and support of locally produced ag products. The ag-tourism event is a partnership between the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Kulana Foods, Hawaii Beef Producers, UH-Hilo CAFNRM, County of Hawaii Dept. on Environmental Management and community volunteers.

“In the past, Taste was geared to inform chefs and attendees on the benefits of using grass-fed beef, while encouraging ranchers to produce it,” explained Dr. Russell Nagata, co-chair and retired CTAHR Hawaii County administrator. “Our committee has been meeting all year to come up with a new event emphasizing agriculture in a more broad and comprehensive way. We want to share how our local ranchers and farmers take pride in producing our high-quality food.”

Event sponsors over the years have included Hawaii County Research and Development, Hawaii Community College Food Service &Culinary Program, Kamehameha Schools, KTA SuperStores, West Hawaii Today and Pacific Radio Group.

“We’re trying to show that all agriculture is good, both conventional and organic. People are down on certain types of agriculture and we’re trying to illustrate that all ag is needed,” Gavelek said.

Classroom activities

What’s being done to combat invasive species, how Smart Yields helps growers, what’s important to know about the Food Safety Modernization Act and why organic matter matters in soil will be explained in addition to other agricultural and culinary topics throughout the day at at 10 indoor ag seminars with Q &As, demonstrations, an invasive species exhibit and culinary presentations in the Mana Christian Ohana classrooms.

Other topics will include the latest in federal worker protection standards for proper pesticide use and safety, cutting-edge GMO research and technology involving CRISPR-Cas 9, Hawaii tea production, best-use practices for beef carcass utilization and University of Hawaii research involving locally produced organic fertilizers and organic matter in soil. All presentations are free.

During a Cooking 101 demonstration, Chef Edwin Goto from Village Burger and Noodle Club will share how to use an immersion circulator appliance for the technique known as sous vide cooking on beef flank steak and pork belly. Tickets, which include sampling, are $10 and can be purchased at the door or online at www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com.

An all-day exhibit of invasive species and a screening of the movie, “Food Evolution,” will also be available. Using the controversy over genetically-modified foods as its entry point, the film examines how easily misinformation, confusion and fear can overwhelm objective, evidence-based analysis.

For a complete schedule of all seminars, go to https://tasteofthehawaiianrange.com/workshop.

Gala to conclude event

The Taste of the Hawaiian Range Gala, limited to 500 people, will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Mana Christian Ohana Hall. Meaty dishes will be showcased from Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers; Café Pesto; Daylight Mind Coffee Company; Fairmont Orchid; Hawaii Community College, Hilo; Hawaii Community College, Palamanui; Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ; Grille by Chef Allen Hess; Mauna Kea Beach Hotel; Merriman’s; Puako Provisions and Catering; Pueo’s Osteria; Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai; Village Burger and Noodle Club; Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa’s Hawaii Calls and Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Vegetarian dishes will showcased by Under the Bodhi Tree and The Red Water Café.

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Tickets in advance are $50 online and at Parker Ranch Store, or $60 at the door if available. For more event information or to purchase gala tickets, visit www.TasteoftheHawaiianRange.com.

Questions: Contact Gina at 322-4892