Basilio “Bunga” Fuertes said the company that provided the onion seeds were tickled when they found out he had to tell people not to eat the onions.
“They saw the article where we told people the seedlings were not for saimin,” Fuertes said Wednesday afternoon at the First Hawaiian Bank, Waimea Branch. “These are seedlings for planting. They come out as bulb onions.”
Fuertes said the seedlings were Granex Onion, both in yellow and red types.
More than a hundred bunches of the seedlingswere distributed to people on a first come, first served basis at the First Hawaiian Bank, Eleele and Waimea branches.
“We’re just volunteers,” said Roy Miyashiro who worked with Jeff Emoto at the Eleele branch. “You know Bunga, he’s going to call you and you end up helping him. But it’s not long because we gave out everything in about an hour.”
The free seedling distribution was a collaborative effort between the Waimea High School science and agriculture students under instructor Gregg Harding, Syngenta Seeds, Bayer CropScience, and Fuertes who got help from Gutsy Okada at the Waimea branch.
All of the First Hawaiian Bank workers were leaving work with their packages of seedlings when Arthur Brun of Syngenta Seeds stopped by to pick up a supply for his family. One of the workers joked about putting it in chop suey.
“I’m going up the (Waimea) Valley to return the refrigerator,” Brun replied. “I can take some and drop them off to people who want to grow them.”
Fuertes said the Granex onion is similar to the Viodalia Onion that’s grown in Georgia.
“They also grow them on Maui and people call them Maui Onions,” Fuertes said. “The Granex Onions are a short-day variety which means it matures during the shorter days of fall, winter and early spring. It is suited for growing here where we have mild winters.”
In addition to the free supply of seedlings, Fuertes made sure growers got an instruction sheet as well as demonstrated the proper way of preparing the seedlings for planting. A recipe from the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee was also included.
Fuertes said there are still more seedlings in the ground, and he is contemplating doing a distribution for Lihue people.
“I don’t know when it’s going to be,” he said. “But maybe we can do it at the First Hawaiian Bank at the shopping center. We’ll let you know.”