Thursday, February 5, 2015

AgroLiquid's Excellent Adventure

So the blog has been on winter vacation. Did you miss it?  Well I've been busy, but sorry to be so tardy with the report on AgroLiquid's adventure in what is truly a paradise....beautiful Kauai.  In January a group of top selling Retail Partners, some grower customers and some AgroLiquid employees made the journey over.  Below is a view from a room at the fantastic Kauai Beach Resort looking out across the property towards the ocean.  Nothing could be better than to be here.
 The first morning everyone assembled for the welcome and orientation breakfast.  I was tabbed to give the itinerary for the week.  Never without my camera, here is our group.  They may not look totally alert since they have probably been up since 3 am or so.  After all, it is five hours earlier there than Michigan, and it is hard to not wake up early despite going to bed late. 
 One activity I always enjoy is to climb the Sleeping Giant mountain.  Here is the group that accepted my invitation the next day.
Here is a view of the mountain.  Doesn't it look like a reclining giant with the head on the left?  The highest point is the nose I guess, but the point on the right is the chin. The trail is around 4 miles long up to an elevation of 1300 ft.  It is mostly pretty easy but it can be steep and slippery in places.  
Here is a close up.  We would be up there soon.  Well kind of soon.
We kind of got spread out a little on the way up.  But here is Grandfather Troy helping Levi up to the top.  Pretty good for a little kid. That's Mom Andrea next and Howard below to catch anyone who slipped.  You can see that we are pretty high up.  And there are no guard rails.  So watch your step. 
 Kelly is glad for a chance to sit.  (Me too.)  We are between the nose and chin.  Just beautiful up there.
Paige takes it on the chin...the Giant's chin I mean.
Another fun thing we did was go out to Kauai Eco-Sporting Clays for some shootin'.  That's the owner, Ben in the middle going over some safety issues.  Ben is big on safety, as you have to be, but also big on fun.  And it is very fun.  We had some practice, another great meal, and then when it got dark, the lights came on and everyone got to go through the shooting drill.  None of my night pic's came out too great.  But it's just like shooting in the day, but darker.  Oh and harder.  But funner.
One day we went to the roasting plant of Kauai coffee.  I had not seen that before.  Here we are getting briefed and covered up.  I mean you don't want a hair in your coffee, do you?
After being roasted it is emptied here to be loaded into the bags.  The different flavors are made by blending the different varieties.  And do you know why it is so good?  Because they use Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers.  Well not on all of the 3000 acres...not yet anyway.  But on quite a bit.
Next we went out into a field that was ready for harvest.  Here they explain the growth cycles, fertilizing and harvest.
 Here is one of the harvesters.  It is like a blueberry harvester where these rods vibrate and shake off the beans, or cherries as they are called.  They are dried and find their way to the roasting plant. Harvest is running behind this year due to a cold summer.  (Sounds like home.)  They are getting closer but don't expect to be finished till mid-February.  Which is a challenge as they will be starting to flower by then, and you don't want to shake off the flowers.  No crop is easy, is it?
Back at the visitor center and gift shop, they have all of their different coffee flavors are available for tasting.  That is a fun visit.  And you can drink all you want when you come visit us at AgroLiquid corporate HQ in St. Johns.
 And to prove that no crop is easy to grow, there is a new pest that is threatening the coffee regions of the world, the Coffee Berry Borer.  It has not been seen in Kauai, but has been in Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.  It can bore into the cherries and ruin them. Now they are trying to pick up pruned limbs and crop residue on the ground, which is a burden. Hopefully they will not have to deal with this pest here.  They now have traps all around to check. 
We had a nice banquet which was outside under this tent right next to the ocean.  There was a band for your listening pleasure, fantastic food, and a brief address of encouragement and thanks by CEO Troy Bancroft.
 One thing I like is to watch the sun come up.  It does it every day. The resort is on the East side of the island which helps the viewing.
 A ritual of offering a Hawaiian chant, or Oli, at sunrise is a tradition that goes back many years on the island.  There are a number of ancient sacred sites called Heiau's around the island where various ceremonies were held.  One for welcoming sunrise was close to the resort and one of the employees, Kapule, took some of us early risers up there.  He said the oli "E ala E" which means "awaken" and chanted for the sun to rise up to Heaven.  He learned it from his family as a boy there.  Very informative, and pretty sunrise too.
 One day a group of us had the opportunity to visit Pioneer's Waimea research facility.  We saw their lab where they are testing corn to ensure that the desired genes have been incorporated into the DNA. We also saw some of their field plots and how they test these inbreds and parent seed that leads to new hybrids for the corn growing mainland.  They wouldn't let you take pictures, so this is all I got. We use some Pioneer seed at the NCRS and some of it may have gotten it's start here.
On the last night of the company week in Kauai, a group of us went to a luau.  It was fun, and of course, served great food.  During dinner in the dining pavilion there was a Hawaiian band.  One popular luau staple was roast pig that was slow-cooked all day over coals buried in the ground.
And then we moved out to the show stands to see a very nice hula dance show with many costumes and dances.  It was very colorful.  In fact, on my very first visit to Kauai back in 1995, Mr. and Mrs. Cook along with Troy and Jill took Cathy and me to this very luau.  This was my first time back, although I didn't recognize any of the dancers from back then.
So it was a great week and I will sign off by saying what they all say there: A-LOOOOOO-HA! (By the way, all of those "O's" have the long "O" pronunciation.)