Coordinator of UH Hilo’s bee program Lorna Tsutsumi says just having a large community-based group—local donors, farmers, chefs—come together to celebrate beekeeping students was a big part of the event.
By Susan Enright.
The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s agricultural farm laboratory in Pana‘ewa hosted a special celebratory event on April 22 to honor students, community donors, local farmers, island chefs, and others who are part of the university’s collaborative bee program.
At the heart of Saturday’s “Bee-coming Sustainable” event is a community-based partnership between Professor of Entomology Lorna Tsutsumi from UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management and coordinator of the apiary program at the university’s farm, and renowned island Chef Alan Wong, co-founder of the university’s “Adopt-A-Beehive with Alan Wong” program.
Wong, known as one of 12 co-founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, teamed up with Tsutsumi and UH Hilo to build awareness of the critical plight of honey bees and to promote local solutions to sustaining the honey bee industry.
Also attending the “Bee-coming Sustainable” event were representatives from the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture and Department of Health (some of whom are alumni of UH Hilo’s agricultural college); university staff from Sodexo’s campus dining services; community college instructors and students; and high school students from O‘ahu’s top academic schools. UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin and her husband Ned Huston also attended.
Tsutsumi says having this large community-based group come together at this junction to celebrate a good cause—the beekeeping students and the program—“literally 50 yards away from where the bees are kept,” was a big part of the event.
“Here’s where private and public meet, where the community gathered, where there was a real connection of bee-ing,” Tsutsumi explains in an email. “There was a sense of ‘ohana where we celebrated in both our students and the community.”
Scholarships and beekeeping certificates
At the top of the event was the awarding of scholarships and recognizing upcoming graduates and other students who are earning beekeeping certificates.
Tsutsumi says scholarships are awarded in the spring after students have taken advanced beekeeping, which is required to be eligible, and recipients cannot be a graduating senior.
Valerie Zbesinski, an agriculture major, won the $1,000 Ben and Fusae Fujise Scholarship. Since the Adopt-a-Beehive Program was launched at UH Hilo in 2011, Alison and Vincent Shigekuni have supported a beehive named in honor of Alison’s parents, Ben and Fusae Fujise.
Elizabeth Schmitz, an agriculture major, was awarded the $1,000 “Adopt-A-Beehive with Alan Wong Scholarship” for spring 2023.
The beekeeping certificates are officially awarded at commencement, but there was a small ceremony at the bee event to honor the students who will be graduating in May. Advanced beekeeping students Lael Bukoski, Kamalani Aetonu, and Chad Souza will graduate in agriculture and Brendan Bogue will graduate in communication. Other advanced beekeeping students Abby Obryant and Teresa Mondoy-Jack were also acknowledged at the event.
Seeing the farm
As part of the event’s activities, guests visited the farm’s Bee Garden and Bee Park with its giant hive. They also toured the equine facilities to see that livestock use bee-pollinated plants as feed, and the hydroponic and horticulture greenhouses to see that bees are important to many agricultural crops. The group also viewed and learned about student projects related to bees and beekeeping such as the bee planters made with recycled bottles, each planted with bee-friendly plant.
In addition to Chef Wong, there were several other well-known local chefs and culinary educators preparing food and hosting festivities at the event.
- Allen Hess, recognized by the American Culinary Foundation, Kona-Kohala Chapter in 2018 for his efforts to perpetuate Hawai‘i’s local food culture. He is a renowned chef of FORC that showcases the Farmer, Ocean, and Rancher connecting his food to local roots.
- Brian Hirata, a graduate of the culinary arts program at Hawai‘i Community College who has experience as a sous chef at The Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong and as a culinary instructor at HCC. Hirata’s aspiration at his start-up Na‘au is in preserving Hawai‘i’s food culture while progressing the local cuisine through thoughtful presentations.
- Certified Food Scientist Lauren Tamamoto has over 15 years of food manufacturing experience. She teaches courses at Kapi‘olani Community College incorporating food safety, food science, and culinary arts including a food innovation course.
- Sodexo dining services was represented by UH Hilo’s catering and retail manager Reid Kusano. Sodexo is the primary food service provider on campus and launched a “Local First” program in 2012 that uses 65 percent locally sourced foods to promote farm-to-table dining. Kusano and University Dining Services Manager Bridget Awong continually find new ways to promote local farms and food producers that benefit students and the community.
Needless to say, with this outstanding culinary group, the food at the event was ono-licious!
- Hot Sour, Chili Honey Shrimp by Chef Alan Wong
- Korean Spicy Pork Slider by Chef Brian Hirata
- Slow Roasted Lamb Tacos and Honeycomb Mocktail by Chef Allen Hess
- Scallops with House-made Bacon, Honey Mac Nut Baklava by Sodexo
- “Ice Dreams” Paletas by the Ice House at Alii Ice
- Fresh Ginger-Ale by Chris Jacobson
- Grilled Oysters with AW sauce, Smoked Honey Pork with Bok Choy
- UH Hilo greens with KCC/AW Honey Lime dressing
- Honey Caramel with Roselani Vanilla Ice Cream by Lauren Tamamoto
Adopt a beehive!
Readers of this story who would like to adopt a beehive at the UH Hilo apiary, and support the research and development of healthy beehive practices in Hawai‘i, are invited to visit the UH Foundation website and learn more about how to file “adoption papers.”
Adopters will receive periodic reports and photos of the assigned bee colony from the UH Hilo student taking care of the hive.
Adopters also will receive a personal supply of honey and honey products, along with invitations to join Chef Alan Wong at bee- and agriculture-related activities held on campus or at the UH Hilo Agricultural Farm Laboratory in Pana‘ewa.
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.