Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy of Naty Tumbaga
With the closing of Maui Land and Pineapple and HC&S (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company), there are acres and acres of land on Maui that are not being used productively. It is very challenging to be a farmer because one is always at the mercy of the weather to receive a good harvest. It takes a lot of risks and determination to survive as farmers.
Natividad Galindo Tumbaga and her husband Silvestre are one of those successful farmers who had the determination to take the risks to go into farming.
Naty is the daughter of the late Fermin Galindo, a 1946 Sakada who worked for the Maui Land and Pineapple Company (Hāli‘imaile Division). He was a pineapple planter and a truck driver until his retirement. Fermin was from Sinait, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. Naty’s mother was the late Visitacion Galindo who immigrated to Hawai‘i in 1965 to follow her husband. Naty and her sister Anita came along with her. Visitacion also worked at the Maui Land and Pineapple Company (Hāli‘imaile Division) until she retired. The Galindos lived in one of the plantation homes in the quaint Hāli‘imaile Village in Upcountry Maui.
Naty was born on November 28, 1952 in Baranggay Cadanglaan, Sinait, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. She attended elementary school there until the fifth grade and moved to Manila and she graduated sixth grade from José Rizal Elementary School. When she was 12 years old, she moved to Hawai‘i with her mother and older sister, Anita to be with her father, Fermin. Upon arrival on Maui, she attended seventh and eighth grade at St. Joseph School in Makawao. Following graduation, Naty attended Maui High School and graduated there in 1971. She took two years of Secretarial Science at Maui Community College (MCC), now known as University of Hawai‘i Maui College and graduated there in 1973.
While in high school, during her summer vacation, she worked at the pineapple cannery in Kahului. While attending MCC, she worked as a cashier at Ah Fook’s Supermarket full-time until she found a job at American Security Bank at the Kahului Branch as a teller in 1975.
After four years, she moved to work for a newly formed bank, Bank of Maui, N.A. in 1979. The Bank of Maui was located at the old Kahului Shopping Center. Working at the Bank of Maui, Naty learned the ins and outs of banking. Because it was a newly formed bank at that time, everything was done manually in the beginning. She worked there for ten years and when she left, she was its Head Teller and Trainer. She moved to work for another bank, First Hawaiian Bank. This time, she was hired as a commercial note clerk to replace the clerk who was approaching retirement. She claims that at First Hawaiian Bank, she learned more about the banking industry. According to Naty, working at the bank was very enjoyable because of the people that she met.
Naty’s husband, Silvestre Tumbaga was also originally from Sinait, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. In 1987, he started their farm. He ran it alone with a few employees. He started it as a part-time business because he was still employed at Maui Land and Pineapple Co. at that time. That is where he received his experience with heavy equipment work.
Naty and Silvestre are a very ambitious couple. Prior to starting the farm, they tried to do other businesses like mobile car polishing, selling jewelry and house decorations. Farming was what Silvestre wanted to do because he found it very rewarding. Silvestre enjoys selling the fruits of their labor.
According to Naty and Silvestre, the farming industry is very challenging with so many obstacles such as weather problems, pests and diseases that attack the plants. These problems are out of their control so they just learn to deal with them, according to Naty.
Their produce is sold at farmers’ markets, the swap meet, wholesalers, stores, and restaurants. Their sweet onions and corn are their signature produce which they are well known for. Currently, their other produce consist of bananas, beans, bok choy, broccoli and cilantro. Their business is under the name Tumbaga Enterprises, LLC. Their brand name on their produce is Syl’s Produce.
Naty and Silvestre once owned a restaurant in Lahaina in 2000 but sold it in 2004. It was called the Blue Lagoon Bar and Grill at the Lahaina Cinema Center.
They are involved with the Chamber of Commerce and are members of the Farm Bureau from which they received several awards. In 1996, Silvestre was a recipient of the prestigious Gintong Pamana Award from the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce. At the 2011 Maui County Ag Festival, they were voted as Grand Taste Education Fan Favorite. In 2013, they were awarded the Silver Award Best in Show Kā‘anapali Fresh Festival by Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi magazine. In 2014, they were recognized as Members of the Year by the Maui County Farm Bureau. Also, in 2014 they received the Gold Award Best in Show by the Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi magazine. Naty and Silvestre are members of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Naty and Silvestre have two successful children.
Leizl Tumbaga Tabon graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in accounting. She and her husband Steven Tabon are parents to Peyton and Briana (twins) and their sister Emily. She is a partner in Levin & Tabon, CPA in Kahului.
Alysha Tumbaga Stephenson graduated from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs with a degree in Psychology. She is currently employed with the State of Hawai‘i as a Social Worker. She and her husband Chase are expecting their first child in March.
Some of Silvestre’s co-workers and contemporaries were very skeptical when he and Naty quit their jobs to start their farm business. With their determination and brave risk-taking, they proved them wrong. With the knowledge that Naty gained from working at the banks and Silvestre’s experience working at Maui Land and Pineapple Co., they harmoniously are able to work together as successful workers of the land to sustain all of us, providing us the fruits of their labor with vegetables and fruits that they raise.
The Tumbagas are successful farmers and thriving well. One must taste their sweet onion and sweet corn sometime. If you haven’t tasted it yet, you should try it this year. You owe it to yourself. They are very addicting.
The Tumbagas wish all of you a blessed New Year!