Recently, John Marshall and Geoff Parker, accompanied by their wives, Jacky and Debbie, spent two weeks in the Hawaiian Islands on a horticultural exchange visit.

They held three public meetings on exotic fruits, which were attended by over 200 enthusiastic growers. Members of the audience expressed amazement at North Queensland's rapid development in the area of tropical fruits and were openly impressed by the slides which showed many varieties of high quality fruits.

Hawaii consists of five major islands, situated just below the tropic of Cancer. Climate and rainfall is similar to coastal North Queensland. The major agriculture of Hawaii is pineapple, banana, papaya, sugar, guava and taro. Haden mangoes and Kwai Mee (Tai Tso) lychees were seen in the market, but there were no 'exotic' fruits available.

In Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii, John and Geoff were amazed to see how well the fruit trees were growing, especially as the 'soil' is basically lava rock. Some farms were reminiscent of a stone quarry, although with such a good year-round rainfall, irrigation was virtually unnecessary. Bouquets to the tenacious fruit growers of Hilo.

Bobby and Susie Hamilton, together with Eric and Jennifer Weinert, who are partners in the 'Plant it Hawaii Nursery' in Hilo, were our very gracious hosts. We visited their new exotic fruit farm and nursery and exchanged cultural information and experiences.

On a visit to the Department of Horticulture Research Centre at Hilo, the boys were very interested to see groves of very old Durians, Pili nuts, Rambutans, Longans, Pulasans, Pejibaye palms and many other exotic fruits and spices. Although the trees were growing in lava rock, they still managed to produce a good fruit crop.

A public meeting was held at the University College, with a slide show and talk on the development of Australia's exotic fruit industry. The question and answer time was well-used, reflecting the success of the lecture, and emphasising the Hawaiians' thirst for knowledge about the 'new' fruits.

The beautiful 'garden island' of Kauai was the venue for the next two meetings. The first was held at the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden in the Education Centre, and hosted by John and Stephanie Townsend, ably assisted by Robert Barkeirch, senior educator at the gardens. Prior to the meeting, John and Geoff were taken on a guided tour of the gardens, which specialise in endangered species of tropical plants. A sumptuous evening meal prepared for them by Stephanie replenished their flagging stamina and fortified them for the long evening ahead.

Photo of Coco de Mer palm

The boys felt especially privileged to have the opportunity of meeting William F Whitman from Florida. William is a founder member and was the first president of R.F.C.I. Florida. William and John Townsend were about to embark on a trip to Borneo to look at that country's exotic fruit. Bill has been responsible for introducing to Florida, many new promising varieties of exotic fruits, many of which have proved to be quite commercial.

The following day an inspection tour of the Kilohana farm of Ed and Joyce Doty resulted in a very interesting exchange of cultural information between William F Whitman of Florida, Mike Strong of Kauai (farm manager) and John and Geoff from North Queensland.

The fruit-packing shed on the Kilohana farm proved to be an ideal location for the last meeting. Local growers created a very friendly country-style atmosphere in the barn, with Mike and Candice Strong being mini-hosts. The farmers were anxious to find out about exotic fruits as a supplementary or alternative crop. They virtually hung on every word of the lecture and oohed and aahed all through the slide show.

Everyone agreed that the exchange of information was most rewarding to all involved, and certainly many new friendships were formed, along with some new memberships for the RFCA Inc.


John Marshall, Jacky Marshall and Debbie Parker (left to right) in the Foster Botanic Garden, Honolulu, standing under a female coco-de-mer palm in flower. 
Jacky Marshall

DATE: September 1987

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