Hamakua Springs shares free bananas from final harvest in Hilo Friday (April 1)


Richard Ha and family at Hamakua Springs Country Farms. From left: Richard Ha, his mother Florence Ha, Richard’s wife June Ha, son-in-law Kimo Pa and daughter Tracy Pa.

Hamakua Springs Country Farms will be giving away 300 boxes of bananas from its final banana harvest this Friday, April 1, 2016 (no fooling). That’s 12 thousand pounds of bananas – about 30 thousand bananas – so there’s definitely enough for everyone who’s interested.

Bananas will be available for people to drive in and pick up at Kumu Street in Hilo. (Turn off Kamehameha Avenue onto the short Kumu Street, which is just past Ponahawai St. at the soccer fields.

Hamakua Springs owners Richard and June Ha, along with other family members and workers, will be at the Hilo soccer fields from 10 a.m. Friday morning.

“It’s our way of saying thank you for the community’s support over all these years,” said Richard Ha. The company, first as Kea‘au Bananas, then Mauna Kea Bananas and most recently Hamakua Springs Country Farms, was in business for 35 years.

The primary reason they stopped farming bananas, Ha explained, was that Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) was found on the farm. “We had experience with BBTV at our banana farm in Kea‘au, and we knew that if the disease became imbedded in the gulches it would become a constant source of infection,” he said. “That’s the main reason we decided to stop bananas.”

Another factor is the rising cost of oil, which has significantly driven up farm costs such as fertilizer, plastic, and other items with oil petroleum costs embedded in their price. When the oil price dropped recently, those costs stayed up. “We know the oil price will go back up again, and anticipating that we had to make a decision,” he said. “It’s not that we’re going bankrupt – we’re not. We just needed to do what we had to do before it got to that point.”

The former banana acreage has been leased to another farmer, and other possibilities are being investigated for the farm land and hydroelectric system.