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When Bryan Otani’s great-grandfather moved from Japan to Hawaii many decades ago, he put his homeland farming knowledge to use right away and fed his family with the sustenance crops he raised. Bryan’s great-grandfather grew vegetables like potatoes and cabbage. The livelihood was passed down to his grandfather and then to his father, Paul. When Paul headed up the operation, his primary focus was cabbage and some onions. The varieties both came out of Texas and there were 20-23 acres farmed at that time.
Today Bryan, who heads up B. Otani Farm in the Kula district of Maui, continues that heritage with green beans, broccoli, multi-colored baby carrots and the popular Maui Kula sweet onion. All of their produce is grown on the 45-acre Otani Farm. Bryan’s “retired” father still helps out on the farm. It’s a year-round operation, with Maui Kula sweets shipping from April through January and other items running 12 months.
Like other sweets, the all-yellow Maui Kula pull their characteristics from the soil and the conditions. Maui has a near perfect climate for his line of business, with warm days and cool nights. And of course there’s the volcanic soil that onions find so welcoming.
They grow from direct seed, transplants and sets, and they hand plant and hand harvest most of it. Hands-on care is practiced at every level of the farm. Right now the farm has about eight full-time employees who work all the crops.
One of only about a dozen onion growers in Hawaii, Bryan Otani said he believes locally grown produce is the best, and he’s fully committed to providing just that.