Stacy Sproat-Beck

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Community Builders

LONG STORY SHORT: Community Builders

 

Kukui and Gary Maunakea-Forth of O‘ahu, Stacy Sproat-Beck of Kaua‘i and Richard Ha of Hawai‘i Island have built ‘āina-based enterprises focused on building better communities. Hear how these visionaries behind MA‘O Organic Farms, Waipā Foundation and the former Hamakua Springs Country Farms have put their values to work for the greater good.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Dec. 23, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

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Richard Ha

We always plan five, ten years out.  We’re always looking for where we need to be in the future.  And we already know that this is happening, it’s gonna get worse, so we’re already moving in that direction.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck

I remember asking that question when I was in college.  You know; what about a nonprofit?  Because I knew it was there, and it was really an amazing opportunity, you know, to be able to grow this entity that is really for the community, and to take care of the land, and to teach people.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

That’s what I love most about what we do, is that we’re providing this way for young people at an early age to build equity. You know, and it’s not just financial equity, but it’s also equity in terms of the relationships that we’re creating with other people in our community, and with the land.

 

Every entrepreneur seeks professional success.  An uncommon few also aim to build a better community.  Coming up on Long Story Short, our conversations with four individuals who are among a rare breed of business and community leaders.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  On this edition of Long Story Short, community builders.  It takes a remarkable type of person to look beyond their own family, business, and circumstances, maybe beyond their own lifetime, and work to make life better for the broader community over the long haul. To illustrate the impact these individuals can have, we revisit four entrepreneurs running distinctive businesses and nonprofits on three different islands.  We think it’s worth another look at what these innovators have accomplished, putting their vision and values to work, and how they empower people in their communities.

 

First up, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth.  Though they come from different places—New Zealand and Nānākuli, this married couple came together through shared concerns about social conditions on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu.  And when it came time to start their enterprise in 2001, making money was far from the top priority.  Now the largest organic farm on O‘ahu, the nonprofit MA‘O Organic Farms is providing much more than food.  It’s creating a future for young people in West O‘ahu, and educating leaders for the next generation.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

I think the first place it came down to was the fact that we weren’t growing our own food.  We definitely worried about the kids in our community.  But I think because we saw all this land that was being wrongly used, we just kept asking ourselves: Why aren’t we feeding ourselves? And then, we dug a little bit deeper, and one of our friends who’s a soil scientist said it turns out that the soil in Lualualei Valley is one of the most unique and nutrient rich soils in the world.  And we didn’t know that, and kids in our community weren’t taught that.  The connection to the land had been severed. And we still to this day, those kids that come up to the farm, they’ve never been up in the valleys.  And so, I think that’s where it started.  And then, you know, definitely as our kids started to get a little bit older and go through the same problems that other kids were going through, our connection to what kids in Waianae, what kids in rural Hawai‘i are going through started to just, you know, really sort of slap us in the face; you know, the idea that a good public education is very difficult to get in Hawai‘i.

 

We didn’t want to just grow food and eat it ourselves.  We wanted it to be highly marketable.  Because, you know, when we analyzed our community, the state of poverty was multigenerational.  And we thought that if we sell our own food for a premium price, that money wouldn’t go back to our community.  And so, we looked at the kind of social service kinds of things that we had been doing ourselves and that others were doing, and we wanted to add this what at the time was called community-based economic development.  But we wanted to add this economic development layer that now has become social enterprise.  And so, that’s where it started.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

I wanted it to be this great education program, and I wanted, you know, this element of culture and, you know, this element of vocational skills being taught, and this element of community work being done.  And it just didn’t happen like that at all.  It was whatever, you know, resources and people that were sort of there at the time. And it started off as a ten-month-long experience; you know, farm work experience.

 

So, who were you first enrollees?

 

 

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Multi people that we had talked to their parents at Tamura’s.  Or we saw down at the beach park and said: Hey, you know, we’re starting a program; would you guys like to, you know, send your daughter?  Oh, yeah; my daughter’s graduating, and she doesn’t really have plans; sure, we’ll sign her up.

 

Those people that were meant to be there, ended up there.  And, you know, all of us, you know, growing up on the Coast, the fact that there’s only eleven percent that will go to college; that’s a small number.  So, what about the other eighty-eight, ninety percent that aren’t going to college; where are those guys?  And, you know, we thought long and hard about who we wanted to have this opportunity, and to have this experience.  And it was really those that were going to become the leaders. So, this eighteen to twenty-four-year-old Wai‘anae or Nānākuli graduate that had a desire to do something different, and to connect with not only the culture, but with a future in the community.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

Almost every young person that has been in touch with MA‘O—and this is pretty much the condition of the Wai‘anae Coast, you know, the federal government calls them at-risk.  And if you look deep at the statistics, you’ll find that Waianae has twice the teen pregnancy rate, twice the substance abuse rate.  All of these indicators are terrible, twice as bad as anywhere else.  And so, most of the kids that come have issues at home, or in their own lives that they’ve got to deal with.  On top of that, you know, we’re told in this society that if you go and get a college education, you can get ahead in life, you know, you can get your American Dream. Most of the kids coming out of the public schools in the State of Hawai‘i and in Wai‘anae are what’s termed remedial. And so, they have to be highly motivated.

 

When we started MA‘O, we wanted to start it with an associate degree program.  That took us three or four years to gain momentum, because when we went to Leeward Community College initially, they were like: Well, let’s do a noncredit program. And so, we started with this ten-month-long program.  And now, the various programs we have through MA‘O are sort of designed to be like a movement, to have this environment of entrepreneurship, of I want to get ahead, I want to work hard, I want to give to my community.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Over time, you know, we nurture trust, and respect, and love.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

And when kids first come to the farm, they generally come because we’re gonna help them pay for college and give them a stipend. The farming, they could live without some of them.

 

So, in 2003, I think, was our first real official ten-person youth leadership training of these young people just straight out of college.  And one of them went through the whole ten-months, and during that ten months he turned eighteen, and he was all over the place.

 

He was just growing up.  And anyway, he stuck it out, and now, he’s still with us, and he’s twenty-five years old.  And he’s now the assistant farm manager.  His name is Manny.  He represents what we believe is the untapped potential of young men in Waianae.  He can run the farm himself.  I’ve seen him talk story with Alan Wong about food, talk story with Ed Kenney about food.  At one of the fundraisers, he was talking about the farm to Pierre Omidyar, who’s a billionaire.  He represents, I believe, what a young farmer in the State of Hawai‘i should be.  Not just a person who’s able to toil in the fields, but he can talk about the vegetables, he can cook the vegetables.

 

You know, we’ve tried to take the farming part of it, and make it sexy, and make it interesting.  And the best and easiest way to do that is to allow the young people to do, firstly, a bit of everything.

 

M-hm.

 

So, they get typecast weeding a lot.

 

But they also get to do all the other jobs. You know, packing vegetables to go to Town Restaurant, or to go to Whole Foods is one of those things where they start to see the pride in doing it.

 

And the connection.

 

And get connection; yeah.  And so, if they’re at KCC Farmers Market selling vegetables, that’s the ultimate job.  You know, we’re hoping now that the next step for us is that especially some of the young people who really all of a sudden like farming will be farmers, and will either farm larger spaces with us, or go off by themselves.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

I think that’s what I love most about what we do, is that we’re providing this way for young people at an early age to build equity. You know, and it’s not just financial equity, but it’s also equity in terms of the relationships that we’re creating with other people in our community, and with the land that feeds them.

 

Since 2009 when this interview first aired, MAO Organic Farms has continued to do well.  In 2018, a record twenty-one students graduated from the program with high school and college degrees, including from a new four-year program in sustainable community food systems at UH West Oahu.  While we enjoy the vegetables, MAO is really growing the leaders of tomorrow.

 

Now, we head over to Kauai’s North Shore, where Stacy Sproat-Beck is pursuing some similar goals at the WaipāFoundation.  The Waipāeducational mission includes connecting people to the land, using natural resources responsibly, strengthening family, cultural, and community ties, and preserving a way of life.  In 2014, Stacy Sproat-Beck told us why she was a world away from the work her business school professors expected her to pursue.

 

You went to USC, a very fine business school.  What was the experience of going to college at USC like?  I mean, there are a lot of wealthy scions, you know, sons and daughters of magnates.

 

It was kind of a culture shock.  You know, not so much being in a city that size, or in a school that size, because you know, I’d lived here for six years in Honolulu, and gone to Kamehameha.  And this is a big city, too.  But definitely, USC was kind of a culture shock for me, and I didn’t fit in that well. And you know, I’d raise my hand and go: What about family business?  And they go: Oh, no, no, no; don’t talk about that.  You know, family business is really hard.  And I go: Oh, what about nonprofits? And they go: Nonprofits?  You know, maybe we’ll bring somebody in to talk about nonprofits, but nonprofits aren’t really where the money is.  And so, it was kind of a different thing for me. But I still feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and important skills from going there, definitely.  It was an amazing education.

 

When you came home, I think you were aware of what was going on, but weren’t there for a lot of the fireworks.  There was a lot of militance about the way land was going on the North Shore, the push for resort development, and the move away from a rural lifestyle.

 

On Kaua‘i?

 

M-hm.

 

Yeah.  It seems like that was happening.  Yeah; that was happening throughout our childhood and youth, and my parents were really active, and my family was really active and fighting development, and wanting to manage it, really, and not just let it get out of hand.

 

And in fact, they were fighting Kamehameha Schools, where you’d attended, owner of Waipa.

 

Yeah; in the early 80s then, yes, Kamehameha became one of the entities that wanted to develop their landholdings there on the North Shore.  They were in development mode, and so, their plans for Waipāand Lumahai were golf courses, resort communities. Back then, it was all about developing the land so they could make money to support the school at Kapālama and the Estate.  Eventually, after four years of activism and negotiation, and the default of the potential developer, they were able to obtain a lease from Kamehameha for the sixteen-hundred-acre ahupua‘a of Waipā, which is an intact watershed.  It’s amazing.

 

I moved home in ’92, and I really started helping at Waipāin ’94.  And it was really just difficult.  There were a lot of different challenges and issues.

 

And you were doing this as a volunteer?

 

Yeah.  Well, farming with my husband on the side, helping manage Waipāon a volunteer basis.  And then also, I think I was doing promotions for a boat company to actually make money to pay my bills.  When Kamehameha went through strategic planning in 2000-2001, they changed their whole viewpoint on land management and revenue-generating lands, versus lands for culture and education.  And also, kind of right around that same time, all of these other difficulties that we had just sort of went away.

 

What do you do on the sixteen-hundred-acre property?

 

My dad guys envisioned that the original founders, it was to be a land base for the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. And so, that was their vision. And so, we continue to perpetuate that today by doing programs for kids that connect them with the land, and also, you know, we do enrichment programs and leadership, and cultural programs. And they’re in the garden and harvesting, and also just swimming in the streams and maybe doing a lot of the things that I did as a kid, that we all did.  And I feel like what that does today is, it connects us back to the earth, when a lot of us are just busy living somewhat urban lives.  It’s helping them to make the connection.  So, we do programs for kids.  We do resource management.  You know, we manage learning sites, and sites that we’re restoring. We have a fishpond that we’re restoring along the coast, and then we’ve got lo‘i, taro fields, and gardens, and a native plants nursery.  And then, up in the valley, we’re doing reforestation.  And then, sort of teaching and learning through all of that. And even another thing that’s really amazing to us is that we’ve planted a lot of fruit trees lately, orchards of fruit trees, everything from longan and lychee, to mango, and oranges, and avocado, and ulu, star fruit.  And really to be able to create abundance, lots of food, because you know, we know the importance of having lots of food there, both to feed ourselves and you know, to share with community, and then to market too.  But also being able to take the kids out.  Oh, and mountain apples, too; that’s a big one.  Being able to take the kids out and let them pick their own snacks off the trees.  I mean, we grew up with that, but kids nowadays—

 

They look for a box.

 

It blows their mind when they go out and are able to pick mountain apples and eat them.  It’s just the most amazing experience for them.  And for us, I think, that should be so basic, you know.

 

What’s the goal for WaipāFoundation now in the ahupua‘a?

 

So, our vision is a thriving an abundant ahupua‘a, and a healthy community that’s connected to their resources.  And so, it’s both … yeah, exactly that.  Just thriving and abundant, with land and resources being healthy, and feeding us in many ways, both physically, spiritually, and then also community that is connected to the place that helps to take care of it, and is nourished by it, and also actively manages and takes care of the land.  And I think that’s our vision specifically for Waipā, but also, it’s a larger vision.  You know, Waipācould be just a microcosm of the State or the island, or the world, where everybody is directly connected to the resources that feed them and take care of them.

 

Our next guest may not have started out with quite the same intentions as Stacy Sproat-Beck or the Maunakea-Forths.  Richard Ha went into the family farming business, and the founded his own farm on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawai‘i Island.  Along the way, Ha found that his business expertise and entrepreneurial vision prepared him to make progress on challenging issues like sustainability, food security, and renewable energy.  Ha always tries to stay ahead of curve, anticipating the next big need. It all started with the can-do attitude he learned from his dad.

 

When you saw your dad farming, and you were playing with tomatoes, did you think: I want to grow up and be a farmer?

 

No.  Actually, what happened was, I ended up wanting to go into business or into having some kind of organization to be in charge of.  And the reason that happened was because Dad used tell stories when I was about ten years old.  We had this kitchen table that was like a picnic table, with a bench and everything. And he would tell stories about impossible situations.  You know, a business situation, or he had all kinds of different situations.  And it would come down to he came up against a stonewall, there was no way to figure it out, and he’d pound the table, and the dishes would all fly.  He would say—boom; Not no can; can!  I remember that pretty clearly.

 

Not no can; can.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s about problem-solving and the will to overcome the problem.

 

Yeah.  It was just a given that you just don’t come up to a problem and look at and say: Oh, that’s it.  You know, there was always a way around it.

 

What were you gonna do with your accounting degree?

 

You know, actually, I didn’t really know.  I just knew that I had an accounting degree, and if anything came up, I was gonna do it.  But it just so happened Pop asked me to come back and run his chicken farm. I said: Okay, well, I don’t have anything planned; I’ll do that.  So, I came back, helped him run the poultry farm, and in the course of that, met the supermarket people, learned how marketing and that kinda stuff worked.

 

And you learned from the ground, up on that end; right?

 

Yeah; yeah.  I mean, we raised chickens when we were little, but the business end of it was different, you know.  And with an accounting degree, it helped me to analyze stuff.  And so, what happened was, we had forty acres, and twenty-five of it was in the chicken farm, so we had some extra land.  And so, we needed to find out what could we do with no more money.  ‘Cause I only had a three hundred dollar credit card.  Back then it was hard to get a three hundred dollar credit card. So, we started doing some research, and found out that there was about six million pounds of Chiquita Bananas being imported into Hawai‘i.  So, I said: Oh, man, if we could get into that, we should be able to do okay.  So, we started trading chicken manure for banana keiki, and started two acres.

 

At what point did you have your own farm?

 

Well, yeah; that was my dad’s farm, and we made it into a four-way corporation with my brothers.  And then, from there, I went to Kapoho to lease some land over there. And that’s when it started, maybe two years after we started the first banana farm.  And then, when the sugar plantations started closing down, we were able to move closer in to Hilo, at Kea‘au.  So, we moved the farm there.  At Kea‘au, we expanded to three hundred acres, and by then, we became the largest banana farm in the State.

 

Are you confident that local people will buy local produce, even if it’s more expensive?

 

Well, you know, it’s really what we need to do to support our local farmers, because to be food-secure, farmers gotta make money. And come the time when we feel like this is really a serious situation, it’ll happen.  And everybody’s talking about food security.  Now, how do we do that?  And the answer is, if the farmer can make money, the farmer will farm. So, it doesn’t get much more complex than that.  So, in an effort to figure out ways to help farmers make money, you know, with the help of the Department of Ag and the legislators, and a bunch of people, we pushed through legislation so that farmers could get cheap loans, low interest, long-term loans for renewable energy projects.  And how we look at it is how it affects our workers, our community, and the environment.  Every Thursday, our workers can come and just pick up all the different things we grow—bananas and tomatoes, and whatever, you know, as much as they need for their family.  And we have profit sharing, although it’s been tough the last few years.  We have profit sharing, and we want to look, you know, toward whatever we can do to help them with the food side of it. Because it’s hard for us to raise our workers’ salaries, because we can’t raise the price.  Everybody’s having hard time.  So, we have to figure out other ways to help our workers.

 

Keaukaha Elementary School, a Hawaiian Homelands community, and a school that was in the academic basement for twenty years; you adopted a class there.

 

Yeah.  What happened was, I volunteered to be on this thirty meter telescope subcommittee on the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board.  And so, when you talk about telescopes, you automatically talk about the culture.  Maua Kea, you need to talk about the culture.  If you talk about the culture, you end up at Keaukaha.  It’s a seventy-five-year-old Hawaiian Homes community.  And so, that’s where I ended up.  Yeah; so I went over there, talked to Kumu Lehua about telescopes, and had to learn a lot the culture.  I didn’t know as much as I do now.  I was mostly worried about farming.  But you know, the more I got into it, the more I needed to learn.  And then, what was ironic was, here I am on the thirty meter telescope subcommittee, and you’re standing in Keaukaha, you look at the mountain; there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of investment up there.  You look back at the school and the community. So, you know, there’s nothing here of tangible relationship to that.  But whatever the case, we decided this no can; we had to do something.

 

What do you see yourself doing in ten years?

 

You know, it’s hard to say what it’ll be, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be something that I can’t imagine now.  Because we always end up doing something that’s new and different.  Yeah; so I expect that it’ll be something new and different, but it’ll be something, for sure.

 

And it’ll be in farming?

 

I can’t even say that.  I don’t want to just say one particular thing.  But it really has to do with where our society is going, what our circumstance will be.

 

Since this interview first aired in 2008, we can now tell you what Richard Ha is doing.  In 2016, he closed Hāmākua Springs Country Farms and was awarded one of the first Hawaii licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana with a company called Lau Ola.  In the fall of 2018, he left Lau Ola after steering the company through its startup phase.  He said he’ll continue in the agriculture and energy industries.

 

Richard Ha, Stacy Sproat-Beck, and Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth all continue to grow their own enterprises, while building better communities across our state. We thank them for their vision and can-do attitude, and for sharing their stories with us.  We hope they’ve inspired you.  Mahalo for watching.  For Long Story Short and PBS Hawai‘i, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

There’s no one right way.  And we’ve all sort of figured out this thing that we bring everything to the table, you put it down, if your idea is better than ours, then hey, we’re gonna go with your idea.  And that’s how it even happened with that very first class.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck

Things have really just grown like crazy since then, and gone in an amazing direction.  I feel like the lessons learned from those really hard times are kind of what maybe grounds me and the organization in sort of humility and remembering that things don’t always come easy.

 

Richard Ha

Pop taught us a lot of lessons, and it had to do with survival.  Just do what you gotta do, and plan for the future, and you know, make decisions. You gotta do it, do it now, kinda thing like that.

 

And not no can; can.

 

Yeah; absolutely.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Stacy Sproat-Beck

 

At the age of twelve, Stacy Sproat left her home on the north shore of Kauai to attend Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu and subsequently, the University of Southern California. But she always wanted to come home. As a child, she’d worked on the family farm, swam in the mountain streams, surfed the waves at Kalihiwai and lived with people who took care of each other.  So as an adult, Stacy Sproat-Beck decided that her place in life would be caring for the land and the values that she had grown up with.

 

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Transcript

 

One of the values and one the stories that I grew up with was, you know, if you think things are hard right now, you know, try losing everything that you’ve had twice in tsunamis. And coming back from that, there’s a story of resilience, really, of being able to come back from losing everything. And also, they use that to teach us how, you know, it’s material things that aren’t what’s important; it’s your family and your relationships. And they’re very uh, religious, you know, and it’s God that’s important. So, I feel like those are woven into the stories a lot.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck was raised in a community on Kauai, where everybody knew each other. She grew up working alongside her extended family, fishing, farming, and raising cattle. This may not have been unusual in the early 1900s, but this was in the 1970s. Stacy Sproat-Beck, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Stacy Melela‘i o kalani Sproat-Beck is the executive director of the Waipa Foundation, a Native Hawaiian cultural learning center on the north shore of Kauai. It’s not far from Kalihiwai, a small village between Kilauea and Princeville, where Stacy was raised. During the 1970s, while much of Hawaii was undergoing a construction boom, life in Stacy’s little community was still untouched.

 

My mom was from Kalihiwai, and my dad grew up here in Hauula. And his family is originally from Kohala, so he spent time there as well. But he grew up in Hauula, then he really fell in love with Kalihiwai, and I think he fell in love with my mom at the same time. And I was born here, and then we moved back to Kalihiwai three weeks after I was born.

 

To a family property?

 

Yeah. Actually, to the same street that I live on today. And we grew up in a house that they built right there, across the street from my grandparents, and up the hill from my uncle. And we’re surrounded by family there, because it’s where my mom’s family came from.

 

And that is a place just beautiful beyond description. I mean Kalihiwai is just gorgeous. Mountain, stream, ocean.

 

It’s pretty idyllic. It’s beautiful.

 

Does everybody know each other?

 

Definitely back then. There were certain families that lived there, and everybody knew each other. And still, even today, many of the old families are still there where we live up in the hill. Because originally, all the families lived in the valley, and then after their homes got wiped out by the tsunami, my grandparents were able to facilitate purchase for them of properties up on the hill.

 

What tsunami was that? ‘Cause there have been several that have hit; right?

 

Yeah; they got wiped out by both ’46 and ’57. And so, I think after losing everything they had twice—well, not everything, almost everything they had twice, they were able to get land up on the hill. And so, most of the old families live up there today.

 

Do they still have the land below as well?

 

M-hm. Yeah; we do. I know; that seems like somehow it was a good deal. [CHUCKLE]

 

What was daily life like for the family?

 

When I was little? [CHUCKLE]

 

M-hm. You know, when you were growing up in the 70s. And you know, you grew up in the 70s, and that was the second decade of Hawaii as a state. Your background seems like it came from an earlier era, but you know, this was the 70s. You stayed pretty much in the same small area where you lived.

 

Yeah. And I tend to think that maybe the rural communities in Hawaii were like that, in that they modernized, they became modern more slowly. You know, it just took longer for things to reach us, and it probably still does. But we definitely grew up in an older style, and maybe it’s because our family was still sort of practicing fishing, and living off the land, and farming, that our other values were like that, in that you didn’t just go down to Hanalei, because that was somebody else’s fishing place. You know, you didn’t go down to Haena, because there were other families that that was their place. And you know, if you have business there, then you go there. I mean, Haena is only fifteen miles away today, and we go down there to go to the beach all the time. But back when I was a kid, the only time we would go to Haena was for the Mahuikis’ Christmas party.

 

When you were invited.

 

Right; when we were invited to go to their Christmas party. Or unless, we were, you know, rounding up cattle or something. We had cattle together. So, it was only when there was really a specific thing to go for, when we’d go out to these places. And we wouldn’t just go surf in Hanalei. I mean, I think, you know, I boogie boarded when was starting in middle school, and Kalihiwai was the only place that I ever rode waves until after I graduated from high school. My uncle said, Eh, let’s go to Hanalei. And I thought, Wow, we’re went to Hanalei. And that was the first time I’d ever actually been there and been surfing somewhere outside of little Kalihiwai. So, I think it was just really growing up in a rural community with a family that had old style values, you know.

 

And there may be another reason you didn’t venture too far away. You had so much to take care of, even as kids.

 

[CHUCKLE] Yeah. Yeah; we worked on the farm, and we fished, and it was all really fun.

 

It wasn’t fishing for fun, necessarily. It was subsistence fishing.

 

Yeah; subsistence and commercial. You know, the akule would come in, in the summertime, huge schools of akule. And actually, just yesterday, my dad and some of the other folks from Kalihiwai, they surrounded a school of akule. So, they still come in, not as much as before. But before, there would just be huge schools of fish that would come in, in the summertime, and that was a really busy time for our family, because that was the hukilau season. And so, everybody was on alert when the fish was in.

 

You did this by boat; right?

 

Yeah.

 

Hukilau nets by boat?

 

Yeah. It was all rowing the boat out to surround the fish, you know, and then netting the fish, and dragging them in to shore. And then, from shore, there would be like big scoop nets sort of that we would scoop the fish out, put ‘em in big ice boxes, and then everybody would go home with a mahele, a share, all the community folks that helped. And there was fish for everybody. And we would ship a lot of the fish here to Honolulu, to sell.

 

And that was just a part of tradition that had been happening for a long time?

 

Yeah; multiple generations in our family were marine resource managers. My great- grandfather, who I didn’t really know, ‘cause he passed away maybe when I was one, or something, he was the konohiki of these fisheries in these particular areas around where I grew up. And then, it passed down to my grandfather, who was his oldest son.

 

In the 1970s, there was a konohiki?

 

Well, the konohikis actually officially ended in the 50s. But people still respected our family as the resource managers. Our family was still doing most of the fishing and the resource management in these areas through the 70s, really. And it was only in the 1980s—I mean, I remember it distinctly, when other families started fishing and going out and catching the fish, and it was really a difficult thing for us, I think, for our family. And like, with my grandpa being the konohiki, and I feel like when people realized it and started catching all the hee where they used to sort of regulate the hee catch on the reef, he really saw the populations decline. And I feel like in his later years, he was really sad because of that. Because where once there was abundance on the reef, they wouldn’t catch hee, you know, smaller than two pounds, now there’s nothing.

 

Fishing was not Stacy Sproat-Beck’s family’s only means of support. Her parents held regular jobs, and the family had other businesses as well that were closely tied to the land.

 

You were also involved in all kinds of other natural businesses.

 

Yes. I feel like my family’s been in resource management for years. Even though we fished a lot when I was a kid, we eventually moved into farming. And it seems like more of my memories through the 80s, the late 70s and 80s were actually working on the farm. We farmed papayas and cucumbers, and flowers, and all kinds of things. Now, I’m not really a fisherman nowadays. My brother-in-law is a fisherman, my dad still fishes, but I’m a farmer. And I think maybe those were more of the influential years for me, was farming.

 

You mentioned you were chasing down cattle with horses.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, when I was in school, and probably through high school, maybe a little in college, like I was saying, our family did just so many things, you know, and just a lot of exciting things. We had a cattle ranch, we had about fifty head of cattle, we farmed, we had a papaya farm, and we fished, and we had pigs, and we had prawns.

 

And your parents both had fulltime jobs.

 

They did.

 

A fireman and teacher.

 

Yeah.

 

And they did all this too, your parents?

 

Well, we lived with our extended family too; right? So there were my grandparents that were there. And my grandpa was really active working on the farm until his later years. And then, my uncle, my mom’s brother lived there with us, and his wife. And so, it was like a family business, basically, or family businesses. But we were all pretty busy, and there was always something to do, you know.

 

Nobody really directed you all the time; you were always looking for what was off kilter or what needed to be done.

 

Well, they were always telling us, you know, yeah, see what needs to be done, and do it, and dragging us off to do different things, like feeding the cows or fixing fence. My sister and I have memories of being dragged off into the bushes in the middle of the night to fix fence, because the cops had called and there were cows on the road. And so, somebody had to go and put the cows back in, and fix the fence. And my dad would take us up there, because he had three daughters and he didn’t have sons. So, we would get dragged off to do that. Or sometimes, my dad was at work, and so, it was my mom and us and my grandpa that would have to go up there. And he’d take us up there sometimes, and you know, there would be a hole in the fence in the middle of the jungle, and take us and drop us off, and say, Wait here. And it’s dark, in the middle of the night. Stay here, and I’m gonna go over there and look for the cows, and I’ll come back. But, you know, if cows come, don’t let come through the fence. [CHUCKLE] And we’re little kids standing there, like … I’m in the bushes by myself at night. You know. And it wasn’t so much worrying about other people that might find you; it’s just thinking about, you know, the cows coming and you trying to stop them, or other things that might be, you know, out there in the night that you can’t see.

 

Did it make you braver, do you think, about other things?

 

[SIGH] I think it made us paranoid for a while. I think. We were always like, thinking about—

 

Don’t come for me in the middle of the night.

 

–ghosts or something that might be out there. I don’t know. But now; I think it was good. And I think, now that I’m raising my own kids, you know, thinking about all of these lessons that we’ve been taught along the way, and trying to transmit them to the kids nowadays, and just really the grit of being told no, I’m gonna put there in the bushes, and it’s dark, yes it is, it’s the middle of the night, but you stay there and you watch for cows. And then, going off. I can’t imagine my kids doing that today.

 

It sounds like you didn’t need any toys; you always had something interesting to do.

 

Yeah; yeah. I think that’s what it was, really, was being outside and finding things to entertain yourself. I know that we always were making forts outside. We did a lot of fort making when I was a kid, both at the beach, and outside our house. My cousins would come up in the summertime from Honolulu, and we’d all be on the beach all day, and making forts in the bushes. And you know, there were streams running down; we’d always be making our little landscapes with the ponds and the rivers that were coming out, and damming them up to play different things.

 

So, no Legos, no staying inside with technology.

 

No. [CHUCKLE]

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck’s country lifestyle came to an abrupt halt when she turned twelve. Following family tradition, she was sent to Oahu to attend Kamehameha Schools Kapalama.

 

My family is a legacy at Kamehameha, and so, I was told that that was what was gonna happen, and that was really the best option for me. And so, it was something that I actually accepted early on.

 

And you boarded there?

 

Yeah. It was pretty hard, definitely, because I came from such a close family, you know. And being in the dorm with all the kids, it was really different, and it was really difficult being separated from family. And I think, you know, in seventh grade, it’s about a year of homesickness, you know, and then you kind of eventually get over it. But it was never really an option with my family to quit and to come home. It was just never an option.

 

You stayed there and you watched for the cattle; right? [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah. You stay there, and you get good grades. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, basically, it was always about what had to be done, and you stayed and you did it.

 

Yeah; yeah. And there was always that expectation. And I feel like that came from all of my family, especially my maternal grandmother. She was Chinese-Hawaiian, but she seemed like more on the Chinese side, my Chinese grandmother, and she was just very driven, and a driven person that knew what needed to be done and was always there.

 

She wanted you to succeed.

 

Yeah. Yeah. And I feel like she’s definitely one of the people that pushed us. And when it came down to whether there were options or not, it was like, No, you’re gonna do this.

 

And you listened.

 

Yeah. Yup.

 

You went to USC, a very fine business school. I mean, there are a lot of wealthy scions, you know, sons and daughters of magnates.

 

It was kind of a culture shock. You know, not so much being in a city that size, or in a school that size, because you know, I’d lived here for six years in Honolulu and gone to Kamehameha, and this is a big city too. But definitely, USC was kind of a culture shock for me. And I didn’t fit in that well. And sort of one of the things I think of those years is, I actually didn’t have any friends. [CHUCKLE]

 

Did you not? Really?

 

Through most of my college years, I didn’t have friends, until I went on a study abroad program halfway through, and I made some really good friends on this trip to France. And I came back with a couple of really good friends for the last couple of years.

 

But before that, you just gritted your way through classes without friendship and companionship?

 

Yeah. And you know, now that I think about it, it didn’t bother me that much. And later on, I realized that it was actually a really good thing, because I ended up graduating with straight A’s. I graduated like, magna cum laude, which you know, by the time I graduated, I was like, Really? Wow, how’d I do that? [CHUCKLE] And it was ‘cause I didn’t have any friends. So, it actually worked out perfectly. But now, I do have a couple of really dear friends that are back in L.A. that come to visit now and then.

 

Did you know what kind of business you were going to do, or were you thinking of extrapolating it to Kalihiwai?

 

I definitely was thinking about family business the whole time. Yeah. And when I was in business school, I’d ask my instructors—because it was a big business school, and it was always about big business, and you know, how you were gonna make the most money possible. And you know, I’d raise my hand go, Well, what about family business? And they’d go, Oh, no, no, no; don’t talk about that. You know, family business is really hard. And I’d go, Oh, what about nonprofits? And they’d go, Nonprofits? You know, maybe we’ll bring somebody in to talk about nonprofits, but nonprofits aren’t really where the money is. And so, it was kind of a different thing for me. But I still feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and important skills from going there, definitely. It was an amazing education.

 

What did you do after USC business school?

 

So, I actually at the time, for some reason, even though, like I said, I always knew I wanted to come home to Kalihiwai, it was just this deep longing in me wanting to come home, I wasn’t really decided when I was approaching graduation at USC. I didn’t have a plan of what I was gonna do. And you know, one of the things you do when you’re a senior is, you just interview with firms. And so, I was interviewing with firms up there, and nothing was really sounding that interesting, and I was kind of not exactly sure what I was gonna do. And then, just a few weeks before my graduation were the Rodney King riots. And every shopping center around school got burned down, and you know, L.A. was in a shambles. And it was crazy. And that was definitely one of the things that made me go, I’m outta here, I’m going home. It’s too crazy up here.

 

When you came home, I think you were aware of what was going on, but weren’t there for a lot of the fireworks. There was a lot of militance about the way land was going on the North Shore, the push for resort development, and the move away from a rural lifestyle.

 

On Kauai?

 

M-hm.

 

Yeah. It seems like that was happening throughout our childhood and youth. I forget what year it was that Kilauea Sugar went out, but that’s when sort of the sugar company transitioned out, and then there was development that was coming in, in the 70s and 80s, and the desire to develop all those former sugar lands, and then all along Hanalei and Princeville there. And my parents were really active, and my family was really active in fighting development and wanting to manage it, really, and not just let it get out of hand.

 

And in fact, they were fighting Kamehameha Schools, where you’d attended, owner of Waipa.

 

Yeah; in the early 80s. Yes, Kamehameha became one of the entities that wanted to develop their landholdings there on the North Shore. They were in development mode, and so, their plans for Waipa and Lumahai were golf courses, resort communities. Back then, it was all about developing the land so they could make money to support the school at Kapalama and the estate. And you know, families from the community, led by Auntie LaFrance Kapaka-Arboleda, who was an activist that came in and really sort of catalyzed community members, especially Hawaiian families in the community, and especially alumni families in the community, they got together and fought Kamehameha on their desire to develop. And eventually, after four years of activism and negotiation, and the default of the developer, the potential developer, they were able to obtain a lease from Kamehameha for the sixteen-hundred-acre ahupuaa of Waipa, which is an intact watershed. It’s amazing. I moved home in ’92, and I really started helping at Waipa in ’94. And it was really just difficult. There were a lot of different challenges and issues, there were different ideas of management, of administration. They were having to fundraise. They were a for-profit at the time, because Kamehameha refused to lease to a nonprofit, because what they really wanted was money, and they didn’t want to lease to a bunch of activists. So, it was a for-profit, so they weren’t getting as much grant support as they could have. But they didn’t say we couldn’t have a nonprofit, so we started a nonprofit. We started the Waipa Foundation, and we kind of just ran the two entities side-by-side.

 

And you were doing this as a volunteer?

 

Yeah; yeah. I was kinda like living my parents’ life, maybe. [CHUCKLE] Well, farming with my husband on the side, helping manage Waipa on a volunteer basis, and then also, I think I was doing promotions for a boat company to actually make money to pay my bills. When Kamehameha went to strategic planning in 2000, 2001, they changed their whole viewpoint on land management and revenue-generating lands versus lands for culture and education, and also kind of right around that same time, all of these other difficulties that we had just sort of went away. Things have really just grown like crazy since then, and gone in an amazing direction. I feel like the lessons learned from those really hard times are kind of what maybe grounds me and the organization in sort of humility and remembering that things don’t always come easy.

 

What do you do on the sixteen-hundred-acre property?

 

My dad guys envisioned it, the original founders, it was to be a land base for the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. And so, that was their vision. And so, we continue to perpetuate that today by doing programs for kids that connect them with the land, and also, you know, we do enrichment programs and leadership, and cultural programs, and they’re in the garden and harvesting, and also just swimming in the streams, and maybe doing a lot of the things that I did as a kid, that we all did. I feel like what that does today is, it connects us back to the earth when a lot of us are just busy living somewhat urban lives, that it’s helping them to make the connection. So, we do programs for kids. We do resource management. You know, we manage learning sites and sites that we’re restoring. We have a fishpond that we’re restoring along the coast, and then we’ve got loi, taro fields and gardens, and a native plants nursery. And then, up in the valley, we’re doing reforestation. And then, sort of teaching and learning through all of that. We do so many things; festivals and gatherings, and farmers’ markets, and we make poi and feed the community. I think being out there, too, and just having the opportunity to hike, and observe, yeah, and explore. And even another thing that’s really amazing to us is that we’ve planted a lot of fruit trees lately, orchards of fruit trees, everything from, you know, longan and lychee to mango, and oranges, and avocado, and ulu, star fruit. And really, to be able to created abundance, lots of food, because we know the importance of having lots of food there, both to feed ourselves and you know, to share with community, and then to market, too. But also being able to take the kids out. Oh, and mountain apples too; that’s a big one. Being able to take the kids out and let them pick their own snacks off the trees. I mean, we grew up with that, but kids nowadays—

 

They look for a box. [CHUCKLE]

 

It blows their mind when they go out, you know, and are able to pick mountain apples and eat them. It’s just the most amazing experience for them. And for us, I think that should be so basic, you know.

 

And all along, you were thinking of running a family business at Kalihiwai, not run a nonprofit out of Waipa, nine miles down the road.

 

Yeah; I kind of had an inkling I might end up doing that. Because I remember asking that question when I was in college. You know, what about a nonprofit? Because I knew it was there, and it was really an amazing opportunity, you know, to be able to grow this entity that is really for the community, and to take care of the land, and to teach people.

 

What’s the goal for Waipa Foundation now in the ahupuaa?

 

Well, our sort of vision is a thriving and abundant ahupuaa, and a healthy community that’s connected to their resources. And so, it’s both. Yeah, exactly that. Just thriving and abundant with land and resources being healthy, and feeding us in many ways, both physically, spiritually, and then also community that is connected to the place, that helps to take care of it, and is nourished by it, and also actively manages and takes care of the land. And I think that’s our vision, specifically for Waipa, but also, it’s a larger vision. You know, Waipa could be just a microcosm of the state or the island, or the world, where everybody is directly connected to the resources that feed them and take care of them. And they manage and take care of the land, and it takes care of you.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck of Kalihiwai, Kauai grew up learning from her family and working hard. She continues to live the lifestyle that she was raised in, close to the land, and is doing what she can at Waipa to set an example for the rest of the world to follow. Mahalo to Stacy Sproat-Beck for sharing her stories with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Your children are eight and twelve now. And twelve is when you went away to Kamehameha on Oahu.

 

Yes.

 

And you mentioned a legacy, the legacy of the school in your family. What’s the plan for the kids?

 

Oh, the plan, the big question. [CHUCKLE] You know, I look back on the way Kamehameha was presented to me when I was young, and it was never a choice. And I’m glad that that was my path. And today, it’s so hard to force them into things that are not their choice; right? And we always want what’s best for our kids. We’re not pushing them into it, but if they want to, then we’ll definitely do our best to make that our option.

 

[END]