Richard Ha is a retired farmer and small business owner on Hawai’i Island. A 1973 graduate of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Richard started Kea’au Banana Plantation in 1982, a farm that became the largest banana farm in the United States. When diseases threatened the banana harvest in the 1990s, Ha moved the farm out to Pepe’ekeo, where a new operation began: Hamakua Springs Country Farms. The farm expanded and diversified into hydroponic vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, exporting their produce to almost every major supermarket across the state. When rising operational costs led to the closing of the farm in 2016, Richard shifted his focus on a different kind of crop: medical cannabis. As CEO of Big Island Grown (formerly known as Lau Ola LLC), Richard and his team received one of only two state licenses allocated for Hawaii County to start operations for a medical marijuana dispensary.
Throughout his career, Richard has served as a member, director, founder, or president of countless public and private boards including Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United, the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative, PUEO (Perpetrating Unique Education Opportunities), Sustainable Energy Hawaii, and Hui ‘Oihana, the Hawaii Island Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce. He has also received many awards and accolades, including the 2006 Farmer of the Year for the State of Hawaii, 2008 Hall of Honor Inductee at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Shidler College of Business, and the 2015 Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award for advocacy on behalf of local agriculture and business development from the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Recently, Richard authored a book titled, “What Would Our Kupuna Do? and what we can do for future generations“, which discusses how growing up in a Hawaiian family shaped his thinking, the impact of rising energy costs on everything and everyone, and specific areas we could focus on right now to protect the future of our ‘ohana and our island home. “We, too, are somebody’s ancestors. We need to make wise decisions now to take care of future generations and meet our people’s long-term goals.“