EXCLUSIVE: One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo

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One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm
Dr. Ted Radovich, UH Manoa's Sustainability and Organic Farming Systems' Associate Specialist Dr. Ted Radovich, UH Manoa's Sustainability and Organic Farming Systems' Associate Specialist
One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm
One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm One thousand pounds of kalo stolen from Waimanalo farm
WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly a thousand pounds of kalo were stolen from a Waimanalo farm just days before harvest -- and this wasn't just any taro either, but Hawaiian varieties that were being grown organically for research. 

"People do different things for different reasons, so I really don't know what the motivation was.  I suspect hunger was probably not part of it because they took so much.  We suspect it was for sale or for an event," explained Dr. Ted Radovich, an Associate Specialist with the University of Hawai'i at Manoa Sustainability and Organic Farming Systems.  Radovich oversees the organic kalo research program, which is focused on understanding how crop yield and quality can be optimized in agricultural systems that reduce reliance on conventional chemical inputs and increase use of ecological farming practices. 

Radovich says sometime overnight on Monday, June 23, thieves made off with more than 700 pounds of taro.  Just two weeks prior, he says another 300 pounds were stolen. 

"For us the most disappointing thing is the data lost, for not just us, but for the community," said Radovich. 

Eight months of research vanished in a matter of hours. 

Officials say once they harvest what they need for testing, the majority of the kalo is donated to area schools and non-profits. 

"Hopefully somebody is eating it and enjoying it and we hope it nourishes them," Radovich said.

According to Radovich, the research plot in Waimanalo is the only certified organic Hawaiian kalo in the state. 

"We're disappointed.  It's not just a face-less entity that they were stealing from.  This is actually folks working long and hard with the community to really try to generate some data that is valuable.  They're not stealing from nobody, they're impacting people," described Radovich. 

Radovich believes whoever is responsible is clearly familiar with kalo, because of the amount and way it was harvested, despite all the waste left behind. 

"They cut the huli and they left most of the huli in the field, so it's clear they have experience with the crop for sure," Radovich described.  

Radovich says agricultural theft is a major problem, not just at his location, but across the state.

"As disappointing and as a big a setback as this is, we have resources/  We'll continue to move on.  If another grower was expecting to sell this in order to pay bills, pay tuition, buy food and clothes for their family -- that would have been a tremendous setback.  This is a huge problem that all our growers face," Radovich said. 

Of the 45 Hawaiian varieties growing in Waimanalo, Radovich says at least ten were completely removed.  He says they'll be able to replant from what's left behind of the others, but they won't be able to publish the information that were waiting on from this harvest, which would have been the third since starting the organic program.

"It's frustrating and disappointing but we'll replant and we'll keep moving and we'll take additional security measures," Radovich said.

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