Tony 's Story
As the COVID pandemic reached Hawaii in spring 2020, local farmers were hit hard. With many on very slim margins, the pandemic made operating small family farms incredibly challenging to sustain.
“As business slowed down, we asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to deal with it? Do we still keep planting?’ It all happened so suddenly, but we knew people still needed food,” said Tony Wong Cam of Huang’s Green Leaf Products – a farm in Wai’anae, Hawaii.
But the farm persevered – thanks to a partnership with the Hawaii Foodbank.
“Thanks to Hawaii Foodbank, we kept planting, and we were able to keep our 35 employees working,” said company matriarch Fanny Gan, Tony’s mother. “For me, I really rely on the food bank, and I believe other farmers are, too.”
The food bank committed to purchasing $750,000 in local agricultural products for its food programs – including more than 21,000 pounds of pak choy and kai choy from Huang’s Green Leaf Products. And in doing so, the food bank helped preserve the family’s farming legacy, which began on a two-acre lot in Wai’anae more than 20 years ago.
“I just needed something to do with the skills my husband had. He’s the one who chose farming,” Fanny Gan says of their humble start. “After working all those years, I’ve learned little by little, and now I enjoy it because I know we’re providing food for a lot of people.”
Over the next 20 years, the family expanded operations and diversified their crops to include choy sum, green onions, Chinese parsley, mustard cabbage, cilantro and eventually fresh herbs. Today, they have more than 40 acres of farmland in the Wai‘anae Valley.
“When they began, my parents saw a need to provide for me and my siblings. Now, they are providing food and sustenance for many people,” says Tony.
While Tony believes creativity and staying relevant are important, he also knows believing in what you do is what truly brings success. “When COVID-19 hit, our operation of planting remained normal because we believed. We never stopped believing. And when Hawaii Foodbank wanted product, we were ready,” says Tony. “The program really supports local farmers, and the extra demand for locally desired vegetables is something we really appreciate. It has not been easy but hearing how people are receiving our products makes my mom and dad very happy. They feel like they are giving back.”
So far, the Hawaii Foodbank has partnered with 19 local farms, ensuring key sources of agriculture remain sustainable, and fresh, local produce is available to communities facing hunger.