There once was a flourishing taro patch up Waianae Valley. Harry George Poe, Senior, cherished his lo’i during the mid-1960’s and raised taro for the market and for his family. During his lifetime the area in the valley was known as Puea, a nickname. He handed down his land and lo’i to his son Edward H.G. Poe, Senior, who continued his father’s tradition of keeping the taro patch alive. His daughter, Darlene Poe Cuarisma, recalls the days of her childhood when the family would work in the lo’i. From the time she was ten years old she helped weed, plant, and harvest taro with the family.
Harvest time was done every nine months. The taro was packed in 80-pound bags, and a hundred bags at a time were delivered to Kalihi Poi Mill where it was made into poi. The taro leaves were distributed to Tamura Store for sale. In addition, they delivered to the store the tea leaves which they grew around the edges of their lo’i. These tea leaves were in much demand for making laulau, a Hawaiian food which uses taro leaves. Small brown, round, snails, which George called “pupu,” were found inhabiting the taro leaves, and these were gathered and sold to Filipinos who regarded them as a delicacy.
Poe’s land consisted of one acre of which three-quarters was devoted to the taro patch. The lo’i consisted of ten patches, and fresh water freely flowed from the mountains into the lo’i , thanks to their kuleana rights or fresh water rights. The water was transported by wrought iron flumes, which were wide enough for Darlene and her friends to swim in. She remembers finding crayfish and tadpoles in abundance in the water.
During the last 15 years of this lo’i only taro leaves were harvested. The main reason for reducing the harvest was the cost of water. The Board of Water Supply started to pipe the water that once flowed freely, and the family was assured that they could still retain their water rights and not be charged for the water. However, when the BOW required that they produce documents and evidence to prove their water rights, they were unable to do so because all these rights were handed down verbally and through the family. Because the BOW made their own rules, the Poe estate was charged for all the water they used. Thus, traditions ended and the death of a lo’i came to pass.