Megan Kono from the Class of 2012 serves as the General Manager of the Farmers’ Markets for the Hawaii Farm Bureau. She has connected with the island’s food producers, and she knows them personally.
In addition to managing the Farmers' Markets, she also serves as the magazine editor for Hawaii Farm & Food and the Hawaii State Farm Fair coordinator. These and several other initiatives are all a part of efforts by the Hawaii Farm Bureau. This local nonprofit organization has represented and supported Hawaii's local farming and ranching industries since the 1950s.
During the onset of COVID, they worked in conjunction with the City and County of Honolulu to create "Farm-to-Car," an online Farmers' Market to help farmers sell. It also provided a safe way to distribute food to families via curbside pick-up with minimal contact.
Here is our Q&A with Megan about her role at the Hawaii Farm Bureau and her experience at HBA.
Did you ever imagine that you would serve in this role?
I never thought I would end up in the agriculture industry. In fact, I never thought I'd even like it. However, the more exposed I was to it, the more passionate I became. As I learned more while hearing about the farmer's issues, like land management, water, off-grade products, lack of selling outlets, theft, etc. I realized that without the perseverance of our farmers, we would not have any locally produced food to be consumed in our state.
What has changed since the pandemic?
Like many other industries, we needed to rethink our approach to food distribution since the pandemic. Farmers expressed that the Farmers' Markets were their lifeline serving as the primary or only source of income, so we needed to create a new safe outlet for them to sell in so they could keep farming. That's when Farm-to-Car was born.
What is gratifying about the work you do?
I love my job because I know that I am making a difference. We are supporting the local community and bringing value to our land. We are making it more feasible for farmers to farm, and helping them succeed is a win in our books.
When did your journey at HBA begin?
I started at HBA in the 7th grade. We were the first to attend classes on the brand new Middle School campus in 2007!
How do you feel HBA prepared you for life?
HBA set the bar high. I believe the heavy workload prepared me to accomplish anything I put my mind to, so I’m not scared to put in the work and the hours. I also learned how to be passionate. We had great teachers and mentors that taught me how to be caring and understanding of others.
While not the biggest fan of Bible class while attending HBA, I'm incredibly grateful for it and chapel now. The principles of caring, forgiveness, honesty, and loyalty have been embedded in me and guided me throughout my personal and working career.
What’s the most important thing(s) you learned at HBA?
Perseverance. The school workload taught me how to tackle every obstacle that comes my way.
Acceptance. Because our school has students from all around the island, I believe this taught me how to accept all people from different backgrounds and experiences and value their differences.
Forgiveness. In business dealings, I quickly found out that people do take things personally sometimes, making it hard to move past previous issues. But with HBA's teachings, I learned how to forgive and often reinforce the relationship stronger than before.
Any particular person(s) at HBA that impacted you as a student?
Mrs. Ustare. She was the strictest teacher there. She would minus 10 points for a run-on or incomplete sentence. Her high expectations are what led me to major in English.
Mr. Malinger. He was so fun! He had an eye for detail, and he'd always catch me wearing my shoes with the heel down because I used to only like wearing slippers. He helped me direct a movie in one of his classes. He taught me how to be creative and how to be a leader without being bossy.
What will you do going forward?
With the Farmers' Market now reopening and the agriculture industry's remaining needs, I'm always looking for other innovative ways to support the guys that continue to cultivate our land. I hope I'm spearheading local food production and food security for Hawaii in any position I hold in the future. I have learned to love the agriculture industry and understand the complexities of it. It is an industry that is continually challenging and forces me to think outside the box.
Anything else you feel makes HBA special?
I think the most surprising thing is the heart of the alumni. As soon as people find out you're an HBA "alum," it's like you're instant family.