Harold Tanouye, founder of Green Point Nurseries, started in the flower business when he returned to Hawaii from college. It was 1957, and Hilo’s economy had not yet recovered from the impact of WWII. People were moving away.
My father, Harold wanted to live in his hometown and needed work. He recognized a demand for anthuriums, which military personnel and civilians were sending home to parents and girlfriends during the war via airmail and special delivery. Harold realized at that time this was going to be his life’s work.
Growing anthuriums in Hilo was only a part-time, backyard-type industry then. “I decided I wanted to do it as a business,” he (Harold) said. “I engaged myself. And now it’s been 42 years.” My dad took a big risk when he broke ground at our Panaewa nursery in 1976. He knew the risk was even greater because he had a wife and four children, but he believed that flowers grown in the islands are intrinsic to Hawaii’s “sense of place.” In essence, when you send flowers to a customer, you are sending the beauty and romance of Hawaii.
To bring his dream to fruition, he personally made sales calls throughout the islands and in states across the country. I brought my marketing background to Green Point Nurseries in 1977. There were trips where he was gone for as long as a month. Mom held a job to help make ends meet. Being the eldest, I made sure that my siblings got home from school and that we all did our homework. That, in a nutshell, is how Green Point Nurseries got its start. It was a family endeavor from day one. My father and I are the third (Sansei) and fourth (Yonsei) generations of the Tanouye family to farm in Hawaii.
Dad was an entrepreneur, a consummate professional and an innovator. He got along well with people and all of these qualities were reflected in the growth of our nursery.
I remember decades ago when a group of mainland wholesalers toured the farm, and then told my father that the reason they decided to buy from Green Point was because the farm was so neat and clean. We still maintain a very clean environment on our farm, and that’s only one aspect of our insistence on quality.
- We also focus strongly on our customer service; for example, we arrange our shipping schedule not for our convenience but for the convenience of our customers.
- We are founding members of the State Department of Agriculture’s Seal of Quality program, which has exacting standards for its farmer members.
- We take leadership positions in trade and flower associations.
- We lobby for issues relating to the flower business in Hawaii.
We’ll never stop looking for new varieties and efficiencies without sacrificing quality to provide you with the best selection and value. Helping you succeed is our ultimate goal, now and into the future.
At Green Point Nurseries, we do not sit back. We are innovators. It was my father who came up with the hermetically sealed, gusseted polyethylene bag inside the carton, which changed how flowers are shipped and is now the industry standard. At Green Point, we were among the first to put up large shade houses for growing. We were the first at large-scale use of cinder as growing material, and to start irrigating here in Hilo. My father always said, “We have made it because of innovation, we won’t be here for very long unless we continue innovating.”
We started a new greenhouse operation at a higher elevation in Kurtistown in 1993. It allowed us to grow new varieties that provided our customers with a greater selection. We were offered county water when we purchased the land but it was only a 2” line servicing this agricultural subdivision. My dad declined the offer knowing that if he drew water from the line others would be left with very little pressure. At a greater expense he installed an elaborate rainwater catchment system with reservoirs and electric pumps for irrigation. He was a good steward of his community. His quiet actions and the values that he lived by had a profound impact on me.
I studied how the ancient Hawaiians farmed these lands before us in an agricultural leadership class I attended at the University of Hawaii. They came to an understanding of how to sustain balance. How the rain fell down from the sky in the mountains, the rainforest area; how the water went to the streams and how it collected. They farmed in terms of what grew best where and they protected their resources. These are lessons we live by at Green Point Nurseries. If we don’t have balance when we do business and in how we do our business, we aren’t going to be able to sustain ourselves-the environment, the crops we produce, the employees and the business.
My dad is no longer with us but he has left a lasting imprint. Now it’s my kuleana (responsibility) to upgrade our nurseries to pass onto my sons. We now harvest the sun’s energy to provide power to complement our rainwater catchment system in Kurtistown. Solar panels will also go up at our Panaewa nursery. The “green” in Green Point Nurseries now has a greater meaning. My father summed it all up by noting that he lives here and his grandchildren live here. Every decision we make at the farm takes this into consideration. On my watch for the next 40 years, it is our intent to improve what we do so this business can continue to grow and thrive through future generations.
President, Green Point Nurseries