Fresh fruit and local history

Thursday, April 7th, 2011
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North Hawaii News

There are over 6,100 farmers markets nationwide, and 26 on the Big Island, according to recent estimates. It is debatable, however, whether there is another one with as much history behind it as the Midweek Farmer’s Market at Anna Ranch in Waimea.

“We have the best location, and this is a great way to meet local farmers and see what a little slice of Hawaii is all about,” said Kay Kammerzell, Executive Director of Anna Ranch Heritage Center.

The market has been open for about six weeks, and recently celebrated its grand opening. About 20 local vendors offer fresh, local fruits and vegetables, flowers, freshly prepared food, local coffee, grass-fed beef, massage, chiropractic service, jewelry, local crafts and more. On any Wednesday, an even mix of locals and visitors frequent the market, and at the grand opening they also enjoyed live music and giveaways.

The market is spread out on the front lawn of Anna Ranch, the same lawn where Anna Leialoha Lindsey Perry-Fiske held her famous Old Hawaii on Horseback events. She hosted as many as 5,000 people at these popular and extravagant events, where costumed guests help create a stage where Hawaii’s history of ranching could be told, and raised money for Hawaii’s American Heart Association.

Anna, as she is known, was quite a woman. Born in Hilo in 1900, at two weeks old, she was bundled up in saddle bags and brought to the family ranch in Waimea. She was raised on roping, mending fences and tending cattle, but was also brought up with Victorian values of etiquette and decorum befitting a lady of that era.

The ranch was actually started early in the 19th century by an Englishman named James Fay. He married a native Hawaiian woman, Kai’pukai’ikapuokamehameha Kahahana, and they had 12 children. Anna was their great-great granddaughter.

Anna has been called the “First Lady of Ranching” in Hawaii, and by all accounts she was a woman ahead of her time. When her father, William M.S. Lindsey, died in 1939, Anna took over the ranch, then a bold move for a woman. The ranch was heavily in debt, so she performed much of the work herself. Unlike Parker Ranch, Lindsey Ranch, as it was known then, was a family sustained ranch that raised horses and cattle and she did it all. With the help of her second husband, Lyman Perry-Fiske, they used innovative breeding practices and were the first to introduce Brahma and Charolais bulls to improve the quantity and quality of her livestock.

“She was an astute businesswoman who met a lot of challenges and overcame them. She did it all. She was very well loved,” said Lori Eldridge, Anna Ranch Heritage Center Operations Manager.

According to the book “Hawaii’s Incredible Anna,” by Ruth M. Tabrah, Anna was also a licensed butcher (the ranch had its own slaughter house) a community leader, world traveler, humanitarian, a jockey and a cowgirl, although that term offended her. “Don’t refer to me as a ‘cowgirl’ I keep up with the boys,” she is quoted as saying.

Anna was also a glamorous woman. An expert rider, she brought the tradition of pa’u riding, this distinctly Hawaiian art, to a new level. She was the first to bring this style of riding outside of Hawaii, to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and the Calgary Stampede in Canada.

In 1968, Anna was named “Career Woman of the Year” by the Hawai’i Federation of Business and Professional Women, and in 1983, she was credited as the biggest individual contributor to the Hawaii chapter of the American Heart Association. In 2009, 14 years after her death, she was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame.

Although she had no children herself, Anna took underprivileged children under her wing and provided scholarships and fundraising auctions for Hawaii Preparatory Academy.

For all her accomplishments, Anna gave credit to her parents, for raising her with a prim and proper Victorian sense of values. She rode into her early 80s and died in 1995.

After Anna died, the ranch stood empty for a number of years. Eventually, the board of trustees had the ranch restored to the condition and style of 1939, and today, Anna Ranch is on the State and National Historical Registers.

After being restored, the ranch was opened for tours in 2007. Many of the family’s heirlooms and personal items are still preserved in the house. On display in Anna’s small and practical office are many of her riding trophies. An ornate koa dining table and chairs, Victorian style settees and a piano furnish the front parlor. In her bedroom, several of Anna’s gowns, complete with trains, are on display giving testament to the regal figure she must have cut. In the kitchen, Anna’s china teacups and porcelain horse collection line the cupboards, and numerous saddles of varying styles stand in the mud room.

Today, the Heritage Center is cared for mostly by volunteer docents, repairmen, cleaners, and the grandson of Anna’s original gardener who tends the landscape.

A blacksmith and a master saddle maker have recently joined the Historical Center, and visitors can watch the craftsmen as they practice their trades. Ethan Froney specializes in custom ironwork, and Albert Moniz’s leatherworks include the Noho Lio, Hawaiian Tree Saddle. Both men can be seen in action at the ranch, and their items are for sale in the gift shop.

One would like to think that Anna would be pleased that visitors, like Maria and Nat Smith of Seattle, found the farmer’s market online. They came to the grand opening and bought fresh avocados, rambutan, freshly flavored popsicles, Kettle Korn and locally made jewelry.

“Wherever we go we like to find a farmer’s market, and this one is great,” Nat said.

The idea for the mid-week market was Kammerzell’s, and was made possible with the help of many community members.

“Anna wanted this place to be used by the community,” Kammerzell said. “This is really a nice way to have something for the community and support the ranch. She would have loved to see her beloved ranch used this way.”

The hours for the Midweek Farmer’s Market are 12:30-5:30 p.m. Tours of the Heritage Center are Tuesday through Saturday. Anna Ranch is a non-profit 501C, and would welcome volunteers. Call 885-4266 for more information or for Friends of Anna Ranch go to [email protected].

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