A Fruitful Venture

One couple has been helping Hawai‘i eat better with their organic products.

Text and image by Haren Soril

Amidst the busy district of Kaka‘ako, there exists a small, organically certified kitchen whose voice for supporting local organic produce is making a big impact on the way local farmers are raising their crops in Hawai‘i. Started by Lee Kehaulani Harper and Merima Halilovic, HaHa Hawaiian Organics has been helping Hawai‘i eat better since 2012.

The health-food power couple first met in Baghdad while working for the U.S. Embassy. “We wanted to leave Baghdad. We had done it for three years,” says Harper, who grew up in Hawai‘i. “When we actually got together as a couple, Merima got harassed by the people in her company. Most of it was out of jealousy because she would come back to Hawai‘i with me for vacation.” Eventually, the Bosnia-born Halilovic was able to file for political asylum, and the couple celebrated a civil union in San Diego shortly after their departure from Baghdad.

Harper and Halilovic originally wanted to open a Bosnian restaurant, but they soon discovered the organic food market in Hawai‘i was ripe for the picking. “When I came here to America, I found a 12-pack of Coca-Cola for $7 and three organic tomatoes at $10,” Halilovic recalls. “I was like, ‘What is wrong with this picture?’”

Harper began researching the legalities of opening a certified organic kitchen—a first for Hawai‘i—and before they knew it, HaHa Hawaiian Organics was born. HaHa is derived from the first syllables of their names, as well as the Hawaiian definition for ha, meaning “breath of life.”

In addition to producing organic products, Harper and Halilovic make it a point to help local farmers get certified as organic by helping them through inspections and guiding them through the procedure, a process that can take up to five years. Upon receiving USDA certification as organic, ongoing paperwork and processes must continue to sustain the purity of the product.

All the produce used in their products, which include juices, baby food, and sorbets, are certified USDA organic. Their concoctions include a delightfully tart Gingerade, a sweet Tropical Breeze, and a refreshing Lili-Nokaoi. In the near future, the couple plans on producing a variety of organic dog treats, dried fruit snacks, a superfood drink, and spirits. All in all, this is definitely one juicy Hawaiian experience that can’t be missed.

HaHa Hawaiian Organic products are available at Whole Foods and Down To Earth stores around Hawai‘i. For more information, call 808-888-7918 or visit hahahawaiianorganics.com.