Wong Way Farm

Wong Way Farm

Farmer Story: 

On the slopes of Mauna Kea, with the ocean glimmering in the distance, you will find Wally Wong tending to his orchards, gardens and animals.

Wally Wong

Wally Wong grew up in Kaimuki in the heart of Honolulu. Although he wasn’t always a farmer, his father and grandfather grew kalo and went fishing for food. In the early 90’s, his job at the telephone company prompted a move to Waimea on Hawai’i Island. As a city person he knew nothing about tending to plants. He started a small taro patch in his backyard to experiment.

In 2005 Wally and his family moved to Hakalau on the Hamakua coast. He initially planted maiʻa, kalo,ʻulu and kukui trees. Since then he has added a few citrus, avocado, mango, lychee and niu trees as well as chickens, ducks and goats. Occasionally he also grows ʻuala.

“We started farming to make use of our land and to grow things to eat,” Wally said. “I traveled around the island collecting different varieties of trees and plants. My favorite stop was the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Botanical Garden.”

taro roots

The abundance of rain in this area makes for ideal growing conditions. Wally originally started growing kalo to make his own poi.

“The price of poi was outrageous,” he said, “and the supply was scarce. There was never poi in the store when you were ʻono for it and if it was available it would cost almost $20 per pound!”

Wally primarily grows mana ‘ulu, a dryland kalo variety that his neighbor ‘Uncle Pete’ shared and showed him how to grow. He also plants pa‘lehua which is a cross between Hawaiian and Palauan varieties that he got from the UH Kona Research Station in Kainaliu. He also credits his friend Jimmy Naniole who encouraged him to “just stick it in the ground!”

wally and his ulu tree

Before joining the co-op Wally didn’t know what to do with the abundance of ‘ulu from his trees. He would try to take the fruit to the farmers market in Hilo to sell to vendors but it would turn soft too quickly. He is happy that his surplus breadfruit and taro is now being processed by the Hawai‘i ‘Ulu Cooperative, a farmer-owned organization that receives crops from over one hundred local farmers like Wally. 

taro patch

Wally says his favorite thing about kalo is watching it grow. He and his family built a Kuahu behind his house which is a traditional Hawaiian altar where he prays to be thankful.

When the ‘ulu is in season he enjoys filling up the imu with breadfruit to share with friends and neighbors. His favorite ‘ulu dish is a vegetarian style curry with carrots, onions, and celery.

“I usually make enough ‘ulu curry to last me a week, but my family won’t eat it!” he jokes. 

When Wally started his farm he wasn’t sure if he was doing things the right or wrong way. This is why he chose the name Wong Way Farm. Just one look at his beautiful farm, his happy animals, healthy trees and immaculate kalo fields will show that he is doing everything right.

Wally Wong holding up a breadfruit from his tree

Farmer Recipe: ʻUlu Mac Salad

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Featured Recipe: Easy Poi Recipe

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