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Meet Your Farmer: RL Tropical

Leslie and Roy of RL Tropicals have been managing their 15-acre fruit orchard in Laupahoehoe for three and a half years. They grow lychee, macnuts, cacao, lemons, limes and several varieties of oranges and tangerines. If you’ve been with the DA BOX program for a while you might remember getting some of their delicious and refreshing citrus in past bags. This year as they patiently wait for the citrus to come in full flush, they have been selling us small batches of lychee and green papaya for salad.

We enjoyed a farm visit recently and while Roy was out on the mower cutting the grass between tree rows, Leslie took us on a tour. RL Tropicals is a no spray farm and keeping the grass down takes a lot of labor hours. Leslie let us harvest a few bunches of lychees to eat while we checked out the property. She showed us some fruit that had been stung by bees, explaining that she hand-sorts the fruit in the field as she’s harvesting to make sure she sells only Grade A fruit. She also explained that harvest times have been difficult to predict as the weather patterns have fluctuated in the years that she’s been on the farm. Different fruits require different amounts of sun and rainfall. When we get most of our food from the grocery store it is easy to forget just how much the weather affects the quality and availability of certain crops.

Visiting and chatting with local farmers is always a good reminder of the labor and unpredictability of the profession. Another farmer reported that lack of rainfall along the Hamakua coast has forced her to switch from catchment to county water to grow her tomatoes. When we commit to supporting local farmers, it may mean being more flexible with our diets as we shape them to fit the seasons and weather patterns. In the meanwhile, we can’t wait for the next big flush of citrus to be ready for harvest.

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