Wow Farm: Hodson ‘Ohana Grows Family Business
PU‘UKAPU, HAWAI‘I – When Tricia Hodson inherited her father’s agriculture homestead lot in Waimea back in 1989, she and her husband Mike, knew very little about agriculture and farming.
Mike had spent 27 years with the Hawai‘i Police Department, and Tricia spent her time homeschooling their four children.
Now, Tricia and Mike run one of the most successful organic tomato farms on theBigIsland– Wow Farm. The Hodson kids – Risse, Chrystal, Micah, and Baba – are all grown up and help run various aspects of the family business, on top of their own educational and entrepreneurial pursuits.
“When we first started, they weren’t too sure if this was for them. They eventually came on board,” said Tricia, “I think they thought, ‘If this is going to be a family business, then we better get involved.’”
The farm produces about 5,000 – 10,000 lbs. of tomatoes a week on their five-acre lot in Pu‘ukapu. Wow tomatoes are sought by chefs at the Four Seasons Hualālai, Mauna Lani Bay Resort, and the Hilton Waikoloa. Not to mention their loyal farmers’ market customers on both Hawai‘i and O‘ahu.
But success did not come easy for these first-time farmers. The Hodsons committed early on to an all-organic operation, using no chemicals or pesticides, which took them through a series of trial and error.
“It was tough in the beginning. We lost our crop three times because we never wanted to compromise and use Roundup,” said Tricia, referring to the herbicide commonly used by farmers to kill weeds.
Mike calls it “mālama ‘āina.” This traditional concept of mālama ‘āina continues to guide them.
“(Farming) is in our DNA,” said Tricia, “No need read about it in a book. If we put our hands back in the land, the kūpuna will come and teach us.”
The Hodsons built their first greenhouse in 2006. When they first started seeing profits from the sale of their organic tomatoes, this taste of success helped build ambition and drove them even further.
“It was that burning desire to succeed,” said Mike. He made sure they tempered their excitement with responsible business sense.
“The mistake people make is they think they gotta go big,” said Mike.
Rather than spending their initial profits on expansion, they reinvested in their one and only greenhouse. Fast forward to today, the Hodsons have 35 greenhouses, with an additional two, recently-completed greenhouses up the road on another five-acre lot. According to Tricia, having this many greenhouses in Pu‘ukapu is a rare sight.
“There are 115 lots, all agricultural here in our community, but only three are being farmed,” said Tricia, “We wanna change that!”
The Hodsons recently secured funding to run a pilot program that would provide turnkey greenhouses to 12 homestead lessees. The self-help program would require all ‘ohana to kōkua each other in building greenhouses on each others’ lots, while at the same time growing and harvesting food for their ‘ohana.
“We wanna make good on what Kūhiō did for us,” said Mike, “If he did all of that, sacrificed his life for get this land, then we better do what he wanted us to do.”
For more on the Hodson ʻOhana & Wow Farm, visit www.WowFarms.com
Here are photos from the DHHL staff visit to Wow Farm in 2011: