Kauai Farmer Feature: Kaisen Carrillo founder of Hanalei Kalo Company

Farmer Kaisen Carrillo the founder of Hanalei Kalo Company.

Hanalei Kalo Company was born in March 2018, right before the floods that would change many farms and bring even more together. Founder, Kaisen Carrillo was raised in the loi kalo of Hanalei but “ran from it my whole life. Such hard work!”. He went on to business school, gained professional life experiences and started a family with his partner, Eurielle Blair; all of which came to show him the value of the taro farming culture and industry he had known. He sought out the guidance of Uncles and Aunties, learned through helping them and recently has started his own loi kalo and taking on kuleana of farmers nearing retirement.

After the April 2018 floods, as the farms recovered, Kaisen sought out ways to make better use of available resources. He had noticed that the luau leaf of the taro was rarely utilized by the Hanalei farmers, who mainly grow taro root for poi. So, he worked out an arrangement for him to harvest and sell the leaf, thus increasing the value of the farmers’ crop and helping meet the high consumer demand for luau with local distribution. “It’s win/win, as long as I only harvest where they say. The uncles are really supportive. They like help the small guy who has nothing, but works.”

Luau is well loved among locals and in higher demand than farmers currently supply, so in short time Hanalei Kalo Co. began distributing to caterers, Pono Market, Big Save & Times Supermarkets and direct orders. Kaisen also fills orders for Waipa Foundation Community Farm when they aren’t able to harvest, and refers customers to them when Waipa is harvesting. Hanalei Kalo Co. can be found on instagram @hanaleikaloco, and soon folks will have a chance to support the growth of this small business when they release branded merchandise.

Having made it through an extremely challenging 1st year of business, the most important thing on Hanalei Kalo Co.’s horizon is that their young daughter, Haʻalohi has inspired the hope of getting more luau leaf into Kauai schools. “It’s a steep task, but there is no better reason to be doing this than to feed our keiki. I think if we farmers get together we can do it right.”

Farmer Kaisen Carrillo and his family on his farm.

Farmers interested in the Aina Pono partnership to grow luau leaf for Kauai schools, please contact [email protected]or (808)828-0685 x15