How we got started…
The agriculture system is complicated. There is no doubt about that. We want to make it simplier for the islands that we call home. Founded by Jesse Fujimoto and Laura Rieber who found themselves in a confusing state when they decided to become farmers and grow food for the community.
Jesse is born on Oahu and moved to the Big Island over a decade ago to make a difference in his home state. He felt a calling to get back to his roots and coincidentally, the land. His great-grandfather immigrated to the south part of big island to farm and grow food. Three generations later, he found himself doing the same thing.
Laura moved to the islands in 2003 to live out a dream of graduating from a university. After moving here and meeting Jesse, she has a hard time leaving the islands intense beauty and life. She graduated from the University of Hawaii, Hilo with a degree in agriculture focusing on sustainability. During her time at the university she took several classes and joined a few clubs that focused on small growers taking crops that they produce and enhancing them, or adding value to them to be able to obtain a higher price.
As they began growing food they realized there was a choice that had to be made. They had to choose between conventional and natural agriculture. Conventional is the most common and most utilized practice. This is the mass production of a single or a few crops with the aid of agriculture products including synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides and heavy machinery. These growers ultimately sell what was mass produced for cheap. High quantity, low quality. The more they looked into this common method, they found that this style of farming on the Hawaiian Islands is a common factor in the increase in the pollution entering our streams, oceans and increasing the amount of erosion that is occurring.
Weighing the cons with the pros they searched for an alterative and found one, natural agriculture (also known as organic). They could also choose to stay small, grow without the synthetics, produce high quality foods and educate others. High quality, low quantity. By staying small, they could also obtain their own personal goal of successfully growing their own food. Food they are willing to eat, share with others and enjoy. Let’s face it, with Hawaii’s already high cost of food, eating organically is out of the question for the average income family, like themselves.
So they set forth to utilize the knowledge about value adding they received to be a successful small grower in Hawaii. Starting with naming their homestead; No Spray Hawaii and offering CSA drops. They went to local farmers markets. The fact of the matter was, they were struggling and not financially successful by any means. On their journey they found every “catch 22” that made apparent that being a successful small grower was difficult.
The two decided to combine their own skills and passions together to start a business geared at helping growers, like themselves, have an easier time getting started. This is how Hawaii’s Simple Gourmet got started. Sitting at the farmers market trying to sell turmeric, turmeric plants and classes about how to grow turmeric, how large scale turmeric was very different than turmeric grown on a small scale and how plants grown without chemicals were better for the us and the planet, they made less than a dollar in sales.
People didn’t want information. Broke in finances but rich in passion and desire they continued to push forward to figure out how to be successful. This is how Hawaii’s Simple Gourmet Chocolate came to be. Already a chocolate fan, they had a friend who shared with them a healthy chocolate recipe. They spent weeks enhancing it and adding flavor to it.
They went back to the farmers market, now with a product. They educated people about the difference about a product rather than a crop and actually walked away with a small profit. They kept going back to the market, enhanceing their product and creating a product line. Along the way, they continued to better their packaging and obtaining proper sighnage. It was realized that they couldn’t do it all themselves, nor grow more while selling more maintaining their growing morals and ethics. With this, they started partnering with other similar minded growers. Partnering and promoting rather than competing. It didn’t matter if we sold what we grew or what others grew. It was the fact that small farmers were being supported and paid fairly.
Within only six years of setting that goal of growing their own food, they grow over 80% of their own produce and 80% of their own meat. They also make a steady income with HSG. The first successful grower. They could do this because the high quality, local products they were being created were desired by conscious consumers who didn’t know how to find the small growers of Hawaii.
This goal did not come easily. In fact, it was extremely hard work. There were many set backs and realizations along the way. No wonder there aren’t too many successful natural growers. No wonder growing in this fashion is not the forefront of the futures generations career goal. It’s nearly impossible. The choice to work towards this goal rather than starting a family of their own was a guiding factor. Together, Laura and Jesse want to help the small, natural growers of the future be successful with being able to have a family of their own. They want to take the hard work out of it by partnering and promoting rather than competing.
By bridging Hawaii’s Natural Growers with the conscious consumer with high quality, local, simple, gourmet products, these farmers can become successful members of our community and a career choice for the future. These farmers can supply nutritious food for our communities and high quality products for our visiting tourist. This can be the future. It’s in the hands of those shopping. Choose HSG.