Breadfruit expert, Big Island farmer to receive UH agriculture honors

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources announces major award recipients

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Cheryl S Ernst, (808) 956-2405
Events & Public Info Officer, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resource
Posted: Feb 11, 2015

Dr. Diane Ragone
Dr. Diane Ragone
Richard Ha
Richard Ha

Dr. Diane Ragone has been named the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources 2015 Outstanding Alumna for her work to understand, conserve and promote breadfruit as a valuable tropical crop, and Big Island farmer Richard Ha will receive the Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award for his advocacy on behalf of local agriculture, business development and the college.

“The work of both Dr. Ragone and Richard Ha contribute greatly toward achieving food security and sustainable agriculture production in Hawai‘i,” said Dr. Maria Gallo, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) dean and director for research and Cooperative Extension. “Both are visionary leaders who find solutions that tap the wisdom of the past in meeting the needs of the future.”

Diane Ragone, the 2015 CTAHR Outstanding Alumna, has been director of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) since it was founded in 2003. She has combined multidisciplinary scholarly work with outreach initiatives to increase awareness of the once venerated canoe plant while building the world’s largest and most comprehensive breadfruit germplasm collection. Since spearheading the effort to revolutionize propagation techniques, Ragone has overseen distribution of thousands of highly nutritious, superior varieties of breadfruit trees throughout the Pacific. She also co-directs the Ho‘oulu ka ‘Ulu project with the Hawai‘i Homegrown Food Network to revitalize ‘ulu in Hawai‘i as a culturally appropriate staple for sustainable food production and a nutritious diet. Ragone’s interest in breadfruit dates to her CTAHR doctoral work on ‘ulu. She has also contributed to conservation of other Native Hawaiian plants as director of horticulture and conservation and director of science as well as other positions at NTBG since joining the congressionally chartered organization in 1989. She also serves as a research associate or affiliated faculty member with the Chicago Botanic Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Bishop Museum and University of Hawai‘i.

Richard Ha, the 2015 Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award recipient, is the pioneering president and founder of Hamakua Springs Country Farms in Pepe‘eko. The Vietnam veteran and graduate of UH’s accounting program began with 25 acres on his father’s farm, chicken manure, recycled boxes and a charge card with a $300 credit limit and created the state’s largest banana farm. He diversified into hydroponic vegetable production while implementing sustainable agricultural practices, becoming the first banana operation in the world to earn the Rainforest Alliance’s “Eco-OK” certification. He demonstrated how scaling back on yield and focusing on employee safety can produce positive results, and he shares his brand with other farmers who have followed suit. He serves on the Hawai‘i State Board of Agriculture Executive Board and as CTAHR’s 2015 delegate for the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching. He previously served on the CTAHR Advisory Council and UH Hilo Advisory Board, and has been active in numerous business and civic organizations. His Adopt-a-Class initiative to cover costs for an elementary school’s educational field trips inspired another donor to expand the program islandwide. He speaks on agricultural sustainability issues, organized support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea, co-chairs the Geothermal Working Group and participates on a steering committee seeking to form an energy co-op on the Big Island.

The Outstanding Alumna and Ka Lei Hano awards will be presented at CTAHR’s 27th Annual Awards Banquet on Friday, May 8 at the Ala Moana Hotel.

About CTAHR: The founding college of the University of Hawai‘i, the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is integral to UH Mānoa’s Carnegie designation as a very-high activity Research University and works extensively with the citizens of Hawai‘i in fulfilling the university’s federally mandated Land Grant mission of instruction, scientific research and extension outreach to address state needs. More at 

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