Agriculture tour showcases Big Isle’s industry

A scenic view of Rainbow Falls, the story of KTA Super Stores’ local-first mentality and a visit to Imiloa Astronomy Center is nothing new to Hilo residents.

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A scenic view of Rainbow Falls, the story of KTA Super Stores’ local-first mentality and a visit to Imiloa Astronomy Center is nothing new to Hilo residents.

But to visiting farmers and families, Hilo’s first agriculture tour is a chance to learn about the area’s unique history and diverse agricultural industry.

The Hilo Grown Tour, funded through a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii County Product Enrichment Program, has been offered for almost a year.

The tour, which starts at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and takes visitors to Green Point Nursery, KTA Super Stores, Imiloa Astronomy Center and OK Farms, teaches attendees about KTA’s Mountain Apple Brand, Hawaiian culture and natural and modern farming practices while exposing them to the island’s unique products and produce.

Lani Medina Weigert, HATA executive director, said it’s a way to teach newcomers about the roots of the agriculture industry on the Big Island while supporting its farms and people.

“Their primary income will come from farming, but ag tourism allows them to stay in it,” she said. “They work hard in growing crops and can’t make additional margins anywhere, but farmers can make money on the value-added products.”

Weigert, co-founder of Maui-based Alii Kula Lavender, a farm that brings in more than 100,000 visitors annually, said she became a Big Island ag tour advocate because of the potential to expose people to the island’s diverse agricultural landscape.

“The Big Island has the most agriculture because of the share of land space that’s so diverse with regard to the crop offerings,” she said.

“Ag tourism is perfect for multigenerational families,” Weigert said. “The kids are already trained in the business and can continue the legacy of their farms.”

Weigert said she’d like to see ag tours implemented for Hamakua and Ka‘u.

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Hilo Grown Tours operate 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. For a full schedule visit hawaiiagtours.com or call 930-0086.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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