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Ag-cellent work

WAIMEA — Roy Oyama is a humble man. 

Oyama, who will be recognized for his achievements in agriculture and the Kauai County Farm Bureau, was inducted as a Kauai Museum Living Treasure in 2005.

“I don’t do things for recognition,” Roy said. “I just feel good about agriculture. Phyllis put pressure on me to accept this honor because of the work I did with Uncle Tony to open up the Moloaa farmlands.”

Roy, his wife Gladys, and his family will be honored as the featured family during the opening ceremonies of the Kauai Farm Bureau Fair starting at 6 p.m. Thursday. Roy served many years with the farm fair, the annual event that offers a showcase of agriculture on the island as well as four days of family fun.

“You gotta know what you want to do,” Roy said. “And you need to do it well — it’s not just about fun. I didn’t expect them (Kauai County Farm Bureau) to do this, but Laurie Ho, the current farm bureau president, is a person who makes sure things get recognized. And you know Laurie, you can’t say no.”

Roy and Gladys were enjoying lunch at Wrangler’s Restaurant in Waimea where they deliver produce from Oyama Farms.

“It’s about health now,” said Roy, who suffered a stroke in 2004. “I follow the doctor’s advice. When I had my stroke, none of the Kauai doctors could give me answers so I went to Honolulu. Now, I go to Honolulu to see the doctor and whatever he says, we follow. Colleen Faye is really good because she knows my health and we come here six days a week for lunch. She keeps me healthy.”

The deliveries to Wrangler’s are not limited to just the menu, but extends to its staff, some who have been working there a long time and struggle to make ends meet, Gladys said.

“We had some extra produce, today,” she said. “When we gave it to them, they asked how much. We just told them, ‘No need. This is for you and your family because we have extra.’ They were so thrilled to receive the produce which helps their family budget.”

Roy said the family budget is how he was introduced to agriculture.

“My father used to work with the cannery,” he said. “Those days, they had a contract to grow pineapples, and they worked hard. You work hard all year, and at the end of harvest, they still had debt, so it was put into the next contract — they knew how to hold us! You work, work, work, and you still cannot get out of debt.”

From raising chickens, Roy said he started planting crops like peanuts which he would sell to players using the park on weekends.

“That made money,” Roy said. “When my father started working at the Kalaheo Elementary School as a custodian, the peanuts was making more money than he did.”

The peanuts grew into cucumbers that he shipped to Honolulu because there was no market on Kauai.

He was introduced to the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair.

“The fair was in Wailua (in the site known as Marine Camp),” Roy said. “Francis Takahashi was one of the people involved, and he started a Junior Division, the early days of 4-H. I ended up winning Outstanding Junior for several years, my prizes being things like fertilizer, supplies, and even agricultural lime. This got me started in learning about the products I won. I found out that by using agricultural lime on my peanuts, you could get better peanuts, which meant more money.”

Roy said when he became a leader for the fair, his belief was to get the young people interested in agriculture.

“My three girls were all in 4-H from the time they were 9 years old through high school,” Roy said. “At first it was only animals — livestock. It taught them to be leaders, got them to understand the animals and become motivated. It wasn’t easy — we had to cut grass every day — and they found out there were no holidays — you had to feed the animals even on Christmas, or New Year’s. But the 4-H program kept them in line, and they got to understand about life.”

During that time, Roy said he told the girls to think about college — or come back to the farm and work.

The girls went on to successful careers — one working for the federal government in soil conservation, another as the director of scholarships and financial aid at the Kamehameha Schools in Kapalama, and the third married to the director of the Honolulu Country Club.

Agriculture extended beyond raising produce and livestock.

“Gladys’ family has a history of health problems,” Roy said. “I told her to work so her health stays good. Now, she stresses because sometimes there is not enough time to harvest what is coming out, and I just tell her, ‘We retired. Let it go.’ Farming is relaxing, and my kids try to tell me about different lifestyles like having free golf, or something. I don’t need that. I enjoy farming so I’m going to stay with that. People say you gotta eat ‘organic,’ but the doctor said ‘eating organic doesn’t give you an extra day.’”

The Kalaheo farmer said agriculture has always been a family affair.

“Family life is important because it changes values for young people,” Roy said. “Parents might not think it’s important, but they need to follow through on what they say. Young people need guidance to make the right decisions and choices. This is just like coaching a team.”

The importance of family working together is reflected in Roy’s decision to attend Thursday night’s honor.

“When Laurie told me about what is happening, I just told her, ‘if you’re not doing my family, I not going,’” he said. “We all work together, and without the 4-H program, we wouldn’t be this strong.”

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