Richard Ha writes:
The Yogurtland folks came by the farm a couple of weeks ago. Yogurtland’s flavorologist, Scott Shoemaker, was here on the Big Island and one of his goals was to find a special banana flavor to make Bananas Foster frozen yogurt.
After Scott walked through our fields, he made a call to his company headquarters.
He had tasted our bananas at the Farmers Market and been very impressed. He wanted to see the farm and hear our story.
I told him that a Chiquita engineer had called me several years ago, on his way over to the Philippines, and told me that Chiquita was in the process of developing a high-elevation banana plantation there. His objective was to lengthen the time to harvest, so that more complex tastes could develop. He was attempting to replicate the taste of bananas in Hawai‘i and in Taiwan, which is 22 degrees north of the equator.
Hawai‘i bananas take up to three weeks longer before they are ready for harvest compared to those at the equator.
I told Scott that we are located where the prevailing tradewinds drop lots of rain as they meet the slopes of Mauna Kea. We measure rain in feet instead of inches (11 feet per year) and bananas love that. Also, our soil was formed from volcanic cinder, so the combination of good drainage and water retention is unusual and very good for banana production.
I told him that our farm was first in the world to be certified ECO-OK by the Rainforest Alliance, which is the world’s first and largest third-party certifier of banana production methods. This program transformed the banana industry, worldwide, by making it comply with stringent pesticide regulations, waste disposal, employee conditions and rules of environmental protection.