Board of Directors
Hawaii Agricultural Foundation
Alan Wong – Director
Chef and Owner, Alan Wong's Restaurant
A 1996 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest and a renowned master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Chef Wong has made a successful career marrying elements of the different ethnic flavors of Hawaii’s immigrant past. Using the finest Island-grown ingredients, he enjoys taking something old and reinterpreting it with a contemporary twist, always giving his customers a taste of Hawaii.
Dean Okimoto – Chairman
President, Nalo Farms
Dean Okimoto graduated from Iolani High School in Honolulu, HI in 1972 then continued his education at University of Redlands, in Redlands, CA earning a B.A. in Political Science.
He came back to the family farm and in 1983 became Chairman and President of 'Nalo Farms, Inc. In 1986 after growing green onions, daikon, and American parsley as his father did, and started a hydroponic system to grow lettuces, the opportunity was seized to grow herbs such as basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary for the mainland winter market.
Mae Nakahata – Vice Chair
Agronomist, Alexander and Baldwin, LLC Diversified Agriculture
Mae Nakahata is an Agronomist at Alexander and Baldwin, LLC Diversified Agriculture. She is formerly the Director of Agricultural Research and Crop Control for HC&S, a position she has held since 1984. As such, she is responsible for the overall health and nutrition of the 35,000-acre plantation, including its variety selection program and the management of pests through breeding and biological control. Most recently she oversees the company's efforts in Energy Crop development.
Meredith Ching – Secretary
Senior Vice President, Alexander and Baldwin
Meredith Ching has been employed with Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. since 1982, and currently holds the position of Senior Vice President, Government and Community Relations. She is responsible for developing and implementing government relations, community relations and public relations programs for Alexander & Baldwin and its subsidiary companies. Ching has served on numerous non-profit board and governmental boards and commissions, and is currently a board member of Kapiolani Health Foundation, Girl Scouts of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation. She is also president and an executive committee member of the Land Use Research Foundation.
Patricia Morgan – Treasurer
Senior Payroll Manager, DFS Hawaii
Born and raised in Hawaii, she has been involved in agriculture most of her life. She grew up at Kualoa Ranch, and her first job after college was as Bookkeeper for the ranch. After moving to the island of Hawaii, she held the position of Land Manager for Hamakua Sugar Company. Part of her job responsibilities included representing the plantation on the HSPA (Hawaii Sugar Planters Association) Legislative Committee. After leaving Hamakua, among other positions, she was Controller for CPCSD (California Planting Cotton Seed Distributers) for eight years. Patricia is currently the Senior Payroll Manager for DFS Group LP, overseeing the payroll for the North American, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan divisions, along with all of the U.S. expatriates working for the company.
Russell Hata - Director
Chairman & CEO, Y. Hata
Russell Hata is the Chairman and CEO of Y. Hata & Co., Ltd., a 100-year-old kamaaina foodservice distributor. Starting as a part-time janitor at 16, Russell ascended into management after college. Having worked in every division within the family company, he assumed the Managing Director position in 1987. As the first 3rd generation executive of Y. Hata, Russell was initially responsible for reviving and transforming Y. Hata into a viable competitor in Hawaii's foodservice industry. Today, his focus has shifted to expansion and diversification, as well as nurturing a mutually beneficial people-oriented culture. Russell understands the local foodservice industry, and as part of his culture initiative is committed to helping create food sustainability in Hawaii by leveraging Y. Hata's distribution infrastructure to help local businesses and farmers. Russell attended public schools and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and an Executive MBA at the University of Hawaii Manoa campus.
Yukio Kitagawa - Director
Former Chairman, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture
Yukio Kitagawa has been a strong supporter of the agricultural industry in Hawaii for many years. A graduate of the University of Hawaii with a Masters Degree from Oregon State University, from 1988 to 1994, Kitagawa was Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture. Prior to that, Kitagawa served as Assistant Director, Cooperative Extension Service, for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Services (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii. He is currently a board member of the Hawaii Agriculture Resource Center and the City and County of Honolulu Agriculture Development Task Force. He has served on the National Association of County Agricultural Agents as president of the Hawai‘i Association in 1971, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture as president from 1993 to 1994. Kitagawa has been honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.