Hawai’i County Drought Conditions Warrant Natural Disaster Designation

Federal Relief Offered to Area Farmers and Ranchers

Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Hawai’i County as a primary natural disaster area resulting from ongoing drought conditions. The Governor last month applied for the designation, which clears the way for Hawai’i Island farmers and ranchers to apply for available federal relief.

“By designating Hawai’i County a natural disaster area, President Obama and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have recognized that the island’s farmers and ranchers have endured enough,” said Governor Abercrombie. “Even today, Big Island residents continue to experience drought conditions ranging from severe to extreme. The USDA’s assistance will help hard working families recover losses and see it through until conditions improve.”

“A drought can be as catastrophic as a hurricane or flood to a farmer or rancher,” said Russell Kokubun, chairperson of the Hawai’i Board of Agriculture.  “This disaster assistance is a lifeline for many of our agriculture producers who have been dealing with severe drought conditions for over six years. We truly appreciate this support from the USDA.”

Hawai’i County was formally designated a natural disaster area on Jan. 18, 2012. Qualified farm operators in the designated area are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to cover losses. Eligible individuals have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply. FSA considers each loan application on its own merits. Additional information is available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

According to the National Weather Service, leeward slopes of Hawai’i Island continue to receive little rain. As a result, a classification of “extreme drought” persists in the South Kohala District and Pokakula Region of the Hamakua District. Increased rainfall has resulted in recent improvement from extreme drought in other areas, but the Ka’u and North Kona Districts remain within severe drought parameters. Moderate drought remains over parts of the South Kona District. Pastures and general vegetation from Kawaihae to Pohakuloa are described as being in “very poor” condition, and brush fires continue to be a concern.

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LudoBites Hawaii Nine-O at the Four Seasons Hualalai

Hualālai Resort and Four Seasons Resort Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu will be home to LudoBites Hawai‘i Nine-0.

Chef Ludo Lefebvre

The wildly popular “touring” restaurant ventures across the Pacific, being held for the first time outside of Los Angeles as an extended venue. LudoBites Hawai‘i Nine-0 will “pop-up” in the Hualālai Grille from March 6 – 17, 2012, with Chef Ludo Lefebvre and his wife Krissy presenting an eclectic menu of creative small plates and specialty cocktails in a whimsical setting, full of inventive surprises and an abundance of culinary artistry.

“I am looking forward to working in such a beautiful setting with really amazing local ingredients,” says Chef Ludo Lefebvre. “Hualālai Resort and Four Seasons have found a special place in my heart and I am really excited about cooking here for the Hualālai members, guests of Four Seasons and the people of Hawai‘i.

A special four-night LudoBites package is being offered at Four Seasons Resort Hualālai between the dates of March 6 – 18, which includes luxurious accommodations, daily breakfast buffet for two, one dinner for two at each LudoBites Hawai‘i Nine-0, Pahu i’a and Beach Tree restaurants, a LudoBites “swag bag” and two signed Made in America books. Rates from $4,620 for the four-night package. Additionally, room nights and LudoBites events are available on an a la carte basis. Nightly room rates from $775.

“As we continue to evolve into a serious culinary destination, we are thrilled to welcome back our friend Ludo Lefebvre, this time for LudoBites Hawai‘i Nine-0” says Robert Whitfield, regional vice president and general manager of Four Seasons Resort Hualālai. “We invite the foodies of Hawai‘i and beyond to come experience this amazing dining experience, right here in our beachside paradise.”

For more information and room reservations, please call toll-free (888) 340-5662, contact your travel professional (chain code FS) or visit www.fourseasons.com/hualalai. For dinner only reservations, please call (808) 325-8450.

About Ludo Lefebvre

Long before introducing his wildly popular LudoBites to Los Angeles, the French-born Chef Ludovic Lefebvre made a name for himself as the executive chef at L’Orangerie and Bastide, for which he received the prestigious Mobil Travel Guide Five Star Award. Although only in his mid-30’s, Ludo has been named one of the world’s “50 Greatest Chefs” by Relais & Chateaux, was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for a Rising Star Chef Award, and competed on Bravo’s hit series, “Top Chef: Masters.” He and his wife Krissy currently star in the Sundance Channel’s LudoBites America. For more information on Chef Lefebvre, visit http://www.ludolefebvre.com.

Six Libraries to Receive Donation from Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

The statewide Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) is donating “The World of Bananas in Hawai‘i: Then and Now” to six libraries on the four major Hawaiian islands, including the Kealakekua Branch in Kona and the downtown Hilo Branch. HTFG is also contributing “Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands” by Holualoa resident and HTFG member Craig Elevitch of Agroforestry Net, Inc. to the Kealakekua and Hilo libraries. Both books were recently published.

The banana-themed book retails for $80 and is by HTFG members and Maui residents Dr. Angela Kepler and Francis Rust. Boasting 1,900 illustrations, “The World of Bananas in Hawai‘i” contains pictorial descriptions for 140 living varieties and 22 kinship groups, plus illustrated keys separating similar cultivars.

The 612-page book also has information on pesticide-free care and maintenance, nutritional deficiencies, and troubleshooting pests and diseases. The comprehensive resource is the result of 30 years of Pacific-wide research and published by Pali-O-Waipio Press.

“It is the first book about bananas in Hawaii chock full of original research. It traces the banana evolution around the Pacific,” explains Ken Love, HTFG president. “It is a banana bible.”

Love adds the resource covers every banana in Hawaii, plus Polynesian and international varieties, including ornamentals and fei.

Published by Agroforestry Resources, “Specialty Crops” contains chapters on growing and marketing 26 existing and potential crops, including mangosteen, lychee, bananas, plantains, coconuts, black pepper, breadfruit, chili peppers, taro, ginger, moringa, tamanu, sweet potato, macadamia nut, root (tuber) vegetables, cacao, kava, coffee, tea, vanilla, pumpkins and squashes, timber trees, bamboo, macadamia nuts and honey.

Illustrated with nearly 950 photos, the 570-page book features short bios of local food producers and farmers in a section called “Example Successes.” It emphasizes sustainable growing methods and the native island custom of polyculture. The book retails for $75.

Congressional Candidate Bob Marx Endorses Bill to Increase Income Taxes for Millionaires

Democratic Congressional candidate Bob Marx supports a national bill to increase millionaires’ income tax rate to 30 percent. The bill, to be introduced by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – Rhode Island), would bring in about $50 billion a year.

Bob Marx

Speaking to a group of Kaneohe democrats on Wednesday Bob Marx said:

“It is just wrong that an investment fund manager – who makes more than $1 million per year – pays a lower tax rate than Hawai’i’s hard-working teachers and construction workers. There is too much economic insecurity and debt in America for millionaire investors such as Mitt Romney to only pay a 14 percent tax rate.”

Bob Marx stressed “Legislation that would require multi-millionaires whose earnings are based on investments to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes is a good start towards fairness.”

Senator Whitehouse’s future bill would require individuals whose income exceeds $1 million from investments or hedge-funds to pay up to 30 percent of their income in taxes.  The policy group Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that this would provide the U.S. government in about $50 billion a year.

Bob Marx is rallying support for this bill as part of his campaign for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which represents rural O‘ahu and the neighbor islands. The Obama administration has also supported this bill.

“Corporations have had explosive profits in the past 10 years, while much of America is either unemployed or have had their salaries cut. We need to overhaul tax laws to restore the middle class. Too many Americans have lost their homes and their jobs from this past decade’s recession for millionaires not to pay their fair share.”

Keith Okamoto Confirmed as County of Hawai’i Department of Water Supply Deputy Manager

The County of Hawai`i  Water Board, unanimously confirmed Keith Okamoto as the Deputy Manager of the Department of Water Supply at their monthly meeting yesterday.

Keith Okamoto

In a letter addressed to the Water Board, newly selected Manager – Chief Engineer Quirino Antonio detailed the many reasons for his selection of Okamoto as his Deputy.  In his letter, Antonio wrote about Okamoto’s beginning at the Department in 1996 as a licensed civil engineer in the Water Resources and Planning Branch of the Engineering Division.  Then, in 2000, Okamoto was promoted to the supervisor of the Water Quality Assurance and Control Branch in the Engineering Division.  The main task of this Branch is to insure the Department remains compliant with the numerous rules related to the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In this capacity, Okamoto represented the Department as liaison with the State of Hawai`i regulating authority, the Safe Drinking Water Branch of the Department of Health.

From there, Okamoto was promoted to Assistant Engineering Division Head in 2003.  In this role, Okamoto assisted the Engineering Division Head in all duties of the position, including budget and personnel needs.  He was also specifically assigned to oversee the status of the Department’s CIP projects as well as professional services procurement.

Throughout the various capacities in which he has served at the Department, Okamoto has developed in-depth understanding and knowledge of the potable drinking water industry, applicable Federal and State laws, County codes and ordinances, Departmental rules and regulations, and various policies.

After yesterday’s confirmation, Manager Chief-Engineer Antonio offered the following congratulatory remark, “I feel very confident that we complement each other well and will make a great team in moving the Department in a positive direction.”

Originally from O‘ahu, Okamoto has lived on Hawai`i island for 15 years.

What’s Cooking on the Kona-Kohala Coast?

Stephen Rouelle, executive sous chef of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, was recently tapped Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation Kona Kohala Chefs Assn. (ACFKKCA). Cited for his dedication as scholarship committee chair and help with high school culinary activities, the South Kohala resident received his award at the organization’s annual President’s Ball January 26 at Daniel’s restaurant.

Stephen Rouelle, executive sous chef of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

Bob Okawa was named Member of the Year for his recent service as chapter secretary and ongoing guidance on food safety. A retired Hawaii State Department of Health microbiologist, epidemiologicial specialist and registered sanitarian, the Kailua-Kona resident presented a food safety seminar on the chapter’s behalf at the ACF Western Regional Conference.

Bob Okawa

New 2012 Kona-Kohala Chefs officers are Devin Lowder, president; Ken Love, vice-president; Patti Kimball, secretary; and Dan Cody, Sr., treasurer. Committee chairs are Ken Love, agriculture; Jean Hull, C.C.E, A.A.C., and Dr. Carol Whitaker, Chef and the Child Community Programs; Patti Kimball, High School and Paul Heerlein and Betty Saiki, Jr. Chef/Hawaii Community College-West Hawaii.

Founded in 1929, the ACF is comprised of 24,000 culinarians, food service professionals, purveyors and culinary enthusiasts.

The West Hawaii organization is one of ACF’s 230 national chapters and is committed to culinary sustainability and fostering farmer-chef relationships. With a focus on offering scholarship and support for members and local student culinarians, the Kona Kohala Chefs also provides West Hawaii keiki with comprehensive nutrition awareness programs. These community activities including Cooking for Kids instruction to 1,200 second graders annually and Hit a Homerun for Nutrition breakfasts for youth.

The organization raises funds through two community events: the annual ‘Q’uisine of Hearts brunch in February and Christmas at the Fairmont-Dining with the Chefs in December.

Membership is open to chefs (which can include national ACF certification), dieticians, food and beverage professionals, purveyors, student culinarians and culinary enthusiasts.

“Culinary enthusiasts, people who appreciate the creation of food, make up at least 35 percent of our local chapter,” shares Chef Lowder. “We meet the first Wednesday of the month during lunch at changing restaurants.”

For information on joining, visit www.KonaKohalaChefs.org.

Regional Vice President, Hawaii and General Manager Christof Luedi is pleased to announce the appointment of Aron Weber to the position of Pastry Chef for The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai’i.  Weber joins the luxury AAA Four Diamond award winning resort from The Fairmont Washington, D.C. where he held the position of Executive Pastry Chef.

Aron Weber

Weber began his career at The Fairmont Empress as a Pastry Journeyman.  In 2003, Aron was promoted to Chef de Partie at The Fairmont Southampton where he was instrumental in helping the restaurant earn the first AAA-Five Diamond status in the Caribbean region.  In 2006, Weber joined the pastry team at The Fairmont Washington, D.C. and was subsequently promoted to Executive Pastry Chef.

Chef Weber will debut his culinary creations at the 17th annual ‘Q’uisine of Hearts Valentine’s Brunch, a benefit for the Kona-Kohala Chapter of the American Culinary Federation to be held Sunday, February 12 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.  Chef Weber will be showcasing a white chocolate lilikoi dessert made up of layers of crunchy hazelnut chocolate, creamy lilikoi curd, decadent white chocolate mousse and topped with a light raspberry foam set within a Chambord filled raspberry cup.  This exquisite dessert will also be featured on the Valentine’s Day dinner menu at the AAA Four Diamond Award Winning Brown’s Beach House.  For reservations call 808-885-2000.

Hawai‘i County, Mayor’s Websites Accessible to People with Disabilities

HawaiiCounty.gov and HawaiiCountyMayor.com have been updated with accessibility in mind, enabling those who use assistive technology to more easily browse the web to access information and news about County departments and programs. The under-the-hood streamlining of the websites allows off-the-shelf screen reader software, like JAWS for Windows and the VoiceOver software built into Mac OS, to read the websites aloud for people with sight impairments or difficulty reading.

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“The purpose of the Committee is to advise the mayor on a variety of issues regarding the disability community,” said Pauline Aughe, a member of the Committee. “When we can identify the needs of a variety of people, we can be more equipped to create an inclusive society.”

Mahalo to the Mayor's Committee on People with Disabilities for advocating tirelessly for the needs of our friends and ‘ohana with disabilities

Mayor Kenoi said that the website updates were in line with the values of the people of Hawai‘i Island, to ensure fairness and equality for all, especially the most vulnerable members of the community.

“We don’t define each other by our limitations. We encourage each other’s potential and possibilities,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “Everybody – every child, every person – should have a feeling that they can dream any dream and be anything they want to be. Our job in Hawai‘i is to make sure that dream can become a reality.”

“We’re fortunate to have a mayor that listened to his advisory committee. Not only did he listen, but he made it happen. He had a can-do attitude and made it a streamlined process,” said Paige De Lima, chairperson of the Committee. “I commend him for that.”

6th Annual Hawaii Avocado Festival Coming Up

The sixth annual Hawai‘i Avocado Festival celebrates the versatile, native American fruit with three days of events February 16-18 in Kona.

First on tap is the Amp Up with Avocado! Reception 5-9 p.m. Thursday Feb. 16 at the Kalanikai Bar & Grill at the Keauhou Beach Resort. The evening event is a benefit for the festival and Kona Pacific Public Charter School. Enjoy a silent auction, avocado-themed pupus, Kona Brewery beer, music by Nahko of Medicine for the People and dancing for a $15 donation at the door.

Photo by Randy Magnus

Festival fun moves to Kealakekua Bay Bed and Breakfast Friday, Feb. 17 for a Farm-to-Fork Hawaii Dinner. The menu of the five-course, avocado-inspired meal is by Chef Devin Lowder of When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie. Dessert Chef Hector Wong of My Yellow Kitchen in Honolulu will prepare a seven-layer avo dessert. Seating is limited and a portion of the $85 price benefits the festival. For reservations, phone 328-8150.

Photo by Randy Magnus

The celebration culminates Saturday, Feb. 18 with the family-friendly 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Hawai‘i Avocado Festival at the Keauhou Beach Resort. The free, community event offers a wealth of activities for attendees of all ages sprawling throughout the resort’s grounds.

Get tips on growing and grafting avocado trees, plus trees will be on sale for the home orchard. Leading the educational botanical sessions is a team of University of Hawai‘i staff: Dr. Ted Radovich, assistant specialist, Sustainable and Organic Farming Systems Laboratory; Dr. Mark Nickum, assistant professor, Sustainable Farming Systems, Tropical Fruit and Nut Crops; and Andrea Kawabata, assistant agent, coffee and orchards with UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Continuing the discussion from last year’s festival, Dr. Radovich will again lead a panel in deliberating the topic, “Bringing the Culture Back to Agriculture.”

Photo by Randy Magnus

Enjoy free avocado sushi rollups—while they last—by West Hawai‘i Community College culinary students and an avocado recipe contest. Chef Matt Dulin, Denver sushi guru at Elways Restaurant, is overseeing the contest with competition for Best Guacamole, Best Entrée, Best Dessert and People’s Choice. Find entry and prize details at www.avocadofestival.org.

Chef Hector Wong will demonstrate how to make a seven-tier Chocolate Oblivion Cake while using organic Hawaii Island avocado and Keauhou’s Original Hawaiian Chocolate—which is totally grown and made on the Big Isle.

Also on tap are over 80 artisan and food booths, a farmer’s market, a variety of healing arts, alterative energy demonstrations and a full lineup of performing arts headlined by Bolo, Maka and Nahko of Medicine for the People. Volunteers with Kona Pacific Public Charter School are coordinating keiki activities.

This year’s original festival art is by Antoinette Sharfin, “Illuminature.” The art will be sold on organic cotton T-shirts and Sharfin will be available to sign the official commemorative festival poster that will be available for purchase.

For information, contact Randyl Rupar at 808-936-5233.