Waiahole Poi Factory & Farm - The Amazing Reppuns

July 6th, 2009
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Waihole Poi Factory  & Farm - The Amazing Reppuns

No, they're not a family of circus acrobats, but the Reppun boys (and one girl) are truly amazing. Descendants of Dr. Carl Reppun who, in the 1920s, emigrated from Russia to Kahalu'u, practiced medicine all over the island, operated on then Princess Kawananakoa's son, David; traveled on horseback to practice also in Makapu'u to Kahuku as a government physician, sired three boys who had more boys... the Reppuns who remain on the windward side of Oahu to farm their taro are originals.  The 6 Reppun men include Paul (summa cum laude from Harvard with a couple of degrees that may include biology and Russian lit) who is interviewed in this video; and his brother, Charlie, who are taro farmers.  Tom is a doctor.  John is Executive Director of Kahalu’u Ecumenical Youth Project, instrumental in getting the windward side involved in anti-meth programs and public involvement.  Josh is one of the first educators I have ever known. He teaches at Hawaii School for Girls. David lives on the Big Island but I have not met him nor his sister Martha. Not to mention the next generation of Reppun children, one of whom is Fred, who grew up on his family's taro farm in Waiahole, left to attend Harvard University, got a degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and returned to Hawaii to restore native ecosystems and re-building of ancient Hawaiian farms.

"You grow to eat first. You get surplus... you sell that."  says Paul, with 7 acres, 9 major crops, 70 different types of edible foods.  Suited for wet land taro with 3 of 7 acres designated to dry land crops the Reppuns also grow trees for lumber used to make furniture, outrigger canoes, and "Mix it all up. That's one of the tenets of farming".

With 4 hydroelectric plants on the property this is how they derive their electricity that roasts coffee, runs the shop, powers their computers and the machinery used to make chocolate. Everything they do that requires electricity is "naturally" sourced, off the grid, on this family farm that produces 800 lbs of produce every week. And they manage this lifestyle in a cooperative atmosphere with family, friends, extended ohana, visiting scholars and school kids stopping in to help clean the loi or bag fruit.  Hard work and dedication to preserving the aina might be their mantra.  They are all highly educated but don't just spout rhetoric. When the day is done I am sure the Reppuns of Waiahole, in spite of all the sweat and back breaking work it requires to perpetuate and sustain this lifestyle they have created, can all sit back with a sense of satisfaction most of us may never achieve, and sigh a big, "Life is Good".

For more video visit http://news.pacificnetwork.tv/LifeIsGood/.

For more green programs visit   http://travel.pacificnetwork.tv/Ecotravel/

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3 Responses to “Waiahole Poi Factory & Farm - The Amazing Reppuns”

  1. moke young:

    Aloha,

    Great subject matter and it's nice to see educated folks tilling the soil and cultivating fertile Hawaiian soil! It's like a miracle!

    Waiahole has long been a special location to grow awesome fruit and veges and this song speaks of that & more so the harvest.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB9cLfsQiEs

    I loved hearing Paul Reppun speaking of the micro hydroelectric plant powered by running water. I saw a gent in Costa Rica explaining how the micro system was savior for their resort complex.

    During hard times & good times, the successful farmer will never grow hungry and instead provide others with food & much needed hope.

    I've learned why it's so important that your diet contain a lot of fiber incorporating fresh fruit into every single meal and can remember about so many fruits and when I saw the big green Guava & I am ready to make a soy & vinegar sauce for dipping the guava or mango; whoa...palette blast from the past!

    My Auntie Honey has a farm in Kahalu'u where we learned to construct Taro patches by hand and took our excess produce to family and it was always nice to give our Kupuna fresh poi.

    I am not crazy about poi but love fresh boiled Taro with cream and sugar with some of the water used to boil the purple speckled root!

    Aunty Honies main concern was the water system where the government redirected our windward water to Moanalua and the like that was BS and those folks destroyed our ability to really grow some good wet land taro that is superior to the dry land equivalent.

    It was also a major concern for the late Sam Lono whom fought to prevent recurrence. The whole area was and still is extremely sacred. Waihole and Waikane provided much for the kids of Royal Blood whom attended school at nearby Ku'uloa.

    I Waipio Valley the water is not diverted and the water supply is of the correct temperature when it hits the low land patches.

    One of the finest things to eat beside the taro was Pupu or Snails from the Taro patches that I loved as a kid and watched my Dad soak them in fresh water for a few days changing the water out in scheduled intervals.

    I also love Kulolo made from Taro, coconut & sweet potato. I would like to see someone create a healthy Power Bar using Kulolo as the base ingredient while adding stuff like sunflower, other nuts and fruit like coconut flakes.

    Taro chips are insanely good tasting, at the same time, the cost can be inflated sky high.

    I am hoping that the Hawai'i farmer will stay in business and start growing many of the exotic food stuff no longer available for sale.

    In Chinatown, I try hard to bring home Taro Buns for my kids and the little one just loves them and they are not too sweet but just right.

    I am hoping that more of the younger generation will learn to til and cultivate Hawaiian soil before they leave High School because there are so many life lessons that must be experienced to provide much needed coping and culinary skills.

    My friend suggest that if a person can play the Guitar & Sing, Pilot an Aircraft and Cook good food life would be all so sweet! I like to take that a few steps further because a relationship with the Aina is ever so important and a dying trade!

    Many of my friends hunt wild boar there and where we use to get Army canned foods found left in their training area. We would camp at Kuuloa Point near the Army bunker and feed off the canned rations & a case would last us a couple of days and everything we needed. That was good living with surf and fishing at our door step!

    Beside the great farming in Waiahole, we fished Kaneohe bay and the Waiahole & Waikane area loaded with squid & fish.

    Living in Waiahole is pure and I am happy to see new & sensible technologies applied where necessary and perhaps supply the electrical energy grid or others within the community.

    Many Hawaiian activists and leaders of Hawai'i appear to be so far removed from the Aina and the intricacies of modern technologies that really makes me sad.

    Many fight for land but I doubt if they have what it takes to be a farmer and the correct mindset to engage in super hard labor while using their education to apply high technological solutions.

    My favorite Hawaiian phrase has been Hi'i Po'i I Ka Aina Aloha, Cherish the Beloved Land, at it goes well beyond a sprawling vista and instead infested with Love & technological innovation & what I see the Reppun's doing as documented in the article and attached video clip.

    I am hoping that someone with smarts and a passion for tilling the soil will step forward and enter Hawai'i politics to take us into the future with direction, cause and reason for being!

    Many of our Hawaiian leaders are taking us down the path of no return with their personal short term goals as the focus while using Land acquisitions as a smoke screen to appease many when they lack the agricultural and power generating expertise & would be more focused on breaking a finger nail than breaking into new ground with the working end of a shovel.

    Mahalo's for bringing light to an awesome subject.

    The motto Hi'i Po'i I Ka Aina Aloha was developed and coined for good reason; just ask our Kupuna.

    With Aloha,

    Moke Young

    July Fourth on the Beach at Montauk complete with good cheer, good food, fellowship and Hawaiian music. Many left their suits and laptops in the city to pay tribute to the simple things in life.

    Hey, "Life is Good!"

    See some images here:

    http://mjrphoto.smugmug.com/gallery/8795310_oWgjK#582350931_CpS5f

    Keep up the awesome works highlighting the works of many unsung hero's. Dr. Reppun's name is highly valued in Kaneohe and as a youngster growing up, many a friend went to that clinic in town for treatment and/or medical advice.

    I always loved paying respect to Lono & the Makahiki celebration that reminds me of the Sweet Lady of Waiahole and the many farm stands!

    Hana hou!


  2. theDman:

    That is a very interesting clip. How can people so educated live so close to the earth?

    These are very special people.


  3. elee:

    Hi theDman, I think they are capable of living "so close to the earth" because they are educated.
    They know what is possible, how to do it, and that when the sun goes down they're not taking from nature
    but working with nature. We can all do more! Thanks for your comment. I will send to the Reppuns.