Archive | February, 2012

Nuts about Hawaii

28 Feb

We meet Jerry Allen at the Post Office along the main highway that runs through tiny Pepeekeo, Hawaii. It is raining.

We follow him back along the highway and onto a heavily rutted road that takes us to our destination: acres and acres of macadamia orchards.

There we get out of our vehicles and walk between rows of trees as Jerry explains the growing season (late July through early March), the harvesting (the nuts fall from the trees onto the ground, and his crop is harvested by hand, although some growers use mechanized harvesting tools), and the complex processing of the one of the island’s most sought-after resources.

“We’re not selling nuts,” Jerry smiles. “We’re selling Hawaii.”

Jerry lives on Oahu in the windward town of Kailua (population 36,513), but his macadamia groves are on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The trees, he explains, need a warm, rainy climate, and the Hilo coast of the Big Island is one of the best places on earth to grow macadamia nuts.

Jerry has lived with his wife, Bev, in the same house in Kailua since 1964. (“Oahu is the most beautiful of the islands,” he says.) Following his graduation from Iowa State in 1955 with a degree in engineering, Jerry was a member of the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii and served during the Vietnam War before going to work for C. Brewer & Co. Ltd., a major player in Hawaii’s sugar cane industry that had also diversified into the macadamia business. He was part of the team that created the well-known Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation.

Today Jerry owns, leases, or manages orchards that produce two percent of the entire Hawaiian macadamia nut crop.

About macadamias, Jerry says, “They’re delicious. Eat a lot.”

The Big Island

17 Feb

We’re back in Iowa after a wonderful visit with Jerry Allen on the Big Island of Hawaii. Jerry graciously flew to the island from his home on Oahu to meet us, and he gave us a tour of his macadamia orchard. Jerry’s a great teacher. He explained all the ins and outs of growing and processing macadamia nuts. It’s definitely not like growing corn in Iowa! The trees are at the end of their growing season right now, but we were able to see a few nuts still on the trees and on the ground, where they are harvested.

I’ll post the Hawaii alumni stories and more photos soon.


11 Feb

We’ve been in Hawaii since Feb. 8 (after a LONG series of flights from Iowa), and I have to say this is one of the most culturally and geologically diverse places I’ve ever been. It’s my first trip to Hawaii — the only state I hadn’t visited before. So it’s been an interesting experience.

We have had a warm welcome from our Iowa State alumni connections: Don Hess, Garret Pick, and Jerry Allen. Yesterday afternoon, when we met with Don (’65 distributed studies), the staff of the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor rolled out the red carpet for us. Don is the former president and chief operating officer of the memorial, so maybe the public relations staff was bending over backwards in respect for Don, but deep down I think they just have incredible customer relations and give everyone the royal treatment. At any rate, we had a great afternoon with Don and I’m anxious to share more about his story with you later.

Today we met with Garret (’93 electrical engineering) and Jerry (’55 industrial engineering) in their homes and also had a lovely time doing a photo shoot with Garret on the beach (above). I am constantly amazed at the talent and success of Iowa State alumni — and I find it so interesting where they’ve all ended up. In this case, they’re all in Hawaii, and it’s just been my good fortune to meet them here. Garret is a software engineer and Jerry is a retired vice president for corporate planning for C. Brewer and Co. Ltd. on the island and currently an owner and manager of a macadamia orchard.  Yum!

I’ll post more later — we’re meeting Jerry again tomorrow on the Big Island. Jim, of course, takes all the professional photos but you’ll just have to make do with mine for now.


Getting ready to travel again

1 Feb

After a long break from VISIONS Across America travel — during which time we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in The Bronx — Jim and I are ready to get back on the road. Or, in the case of our next state, up in the air.

We’re heading to Hawaii next week to meet with three Iowa State alumni, all of whom live on the island of Oahu. I won’t give away more than than — you’ll have to follow the blog.

It’ll be a quick turnaround after Hawaii. We’re heading to the Southeast in March, with stops in Atlanta, Georgia; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Oxford, Mississippi; Alabama; and Tennessee. I’m still finalizing the schedule, but it’s getting closer!

Don’t forget to check out the state pages on our website to see what other Iowa State alumni are doing in your state. Be sure to add your own stories and send photos for the state photo galleries.