Greg Friel, paniolo, Kalakaua Ranch, Maui

Greg Friel, paniolo, Kalakaua Ranch, Maui

The paniolo and staff at the ranch were really wonderful. They clearly love the land and their work. Quick smiles and thoughtful gazes were abundant, as was the amazing, rich beauty surrounding us. I asked the paniolo why ranching, what got them started.

Greg, a thoughtful quiet man, came to ranching by reading Louie L’Amour. “I didn’t come from an agricultural background.”

Quick with an affirming nod, TK calls herself a “jill of all trades,” helping where needed. She loves working with animals, the land, and loves being in nature; “I’ve loved this from the day I was born. We end up running into people, things mesh, it becomes a calling.”

Jimmy Gomes, Ulupalakua Ranch, with Greg Friel

Jimmy Gomes, Ulupalakua Ranch, with Greg Friel

Jimmy is quick and funny. He’s a rancher because of the quality of life. “What other job can you have with this scenery, from the mountains to the oceans? No people interference, no phones? It’s just you, mother nature and your cows. Malama pono aina, respect for the land. We’re just passing through, and hopefully we’ll leave this place a little better than when we came.”

Alex Franco, Maui Cattle Company, with Peter Liu

Alex Franco, Maui Cattle Company, with Peter Liu

Alex, who is thoughtful, patient and engaging, thought about my question. “It was an interest of mine since I was a little boy. I was always kind of fascinated by it. There’s something about it that’s replenishable. It’s hard to put into words. With our combined efforts it allows us to have some degrees of economies of scale.”

A common thread of renewal, diversity and cooperation emerges. During our conversations around the ranch, we heard these themes expressed in many ways, from grazing the cattle in different areas to protect the land, working with smaller farmers to help them, and to the Auwahi preservation at the top of the mountain. Alex pointed out that “original homesteads were very diverse, providing a cash flow throughout the year. This diversity gave them flexibility to fall back on; the best lessons are from the history books. It’s difficult to find people that know the history.” TK adds that “the elders hold a lot of valuable knowledge. They are a good resource.”

Becky and Elli, Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui

Becky and Elli, Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui

It’s a lovely, warm, and social evening on the ranch. I had to laugh, secretly doubting that our kind paniolo see as much enthusiastic and supportive chatter–and technology–as they do in our group. The air is filled with wonderful music as George Kahumoku, Jr. sang and played a lovely slack key guitar.

At the outdoor grill, Elli Funakoshi (Office Manager) and Alex expertly cook steaks for our dinner. Becky momentarily watches in the background; she’s responsible for some of the special products that are offered in the store (like natural beef jerky).