We’re pretty sure the things we can always count on in life are change and wild, unexpected turns. Sometimes change is sought after and embraced, sometimes it’s forced on us and we’re left reeling to adapt. Sometimes wild, unexpected turns bring us indescribable joy that leave our hearts bursting and other times these turn of events leave us gutted, heartbroken, fearful, and lost. Real life is a mix of a whole lot of complex duality. For instance, you can’t truly know joy and satisfaction without also knowing pain and loss. We at Anuhea Flowers had big plans to celebrate our 25th Birthday last year, it’s a nice number and milestone that is often celebrated. However, the joyful arrival of my miracle-rainbow baby meant we would need to celebrate a little late. Just as we were gearing up to do just that, the devastating news of an acute, rare, and very serious diagnosis of cancer for Tasha’s husband, sent us all reeling in survival mode as we navigated these two very major changes in our personal lives. The impact of these events were, of course, going to spill over into the day-to-day operations of the business and potentially have adverse effects.
As owner-operators, Tasha and I are two members of a small crew of five conducting all the needs at the farm and flower business. While my pregnancy was unexpected (after several miscarriages and no real answers as to why, doctors weren’t sure I could have children), we had time to adapt and plan as much as is possible (as if we are ever in control, right?). For example, during my pregnancy, we were able to restructure roles to accommodate for any physical limitations I had in the fields as I progressed. Instead of each of us being in charge of our typical aspects of the floral work, administrative tasks, and field work, I took on more of the floral work and all administrative tasks with very limited field work and Tasha shouldered more of the farm operations. We planned for me to work up until I went into labor and we would limit shipping days from five to three days a week once I had the baby; therefore reducing the workload since I was not going to be at the farm to do my part. I would be out a total of 12 working days for maternity leave (welcome to being self-employed) and thankfully, this all went according to plan as I had a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated delivery–praise the Lord and huge shout out to my husband, doula, and medical team guiding me through. I returned to the farm after that short time while my husband was still on paternity leave. I would often wear the baby at the farm and work, or when my husband had him, I would pop up to the cottage (where we live on property) to feed the baby and pop back down to the farm as my husband took on his care.
Cancer diagnosis, on the other hand, you can’t plan for. Going into the doctor for a check up and blood work panel because of atypical fatigue and headaches turned into the urgent warning: “Get to Oahu right now or you could die.” Tasha flew with her husband, Kai, to Oahu immediately and during those first few days I will never forget the fear we all felt. Thankfully, Kai received the interventions needed to stabilize him and set forth a treatment plan. That plan of course changed constantly and was predicted to be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on the outcome of many variables. So much was dependent on so many factors “lining up just right.” Tasha traveled back and forth from Maui to Oahu between October and December and ultimately went on to California in January as her husband prepared for and went through his bone marrow transplant. She traveled back and forth between February and March, coordinating with other family members to be not only her husband’s caretaker but also caretakers for their sons depending on where she was able to be any given week.
When she was on Maui, she would be caring for her boys and working at the farm as much as she could–again, welcome to being self-employed. In March, she was able to take their boys to see their dad. They hadn’t seem him since a brief stint in December. They were on Spring Break and able to get away from school, but were also approved to be around their dad as he was progressing well from the transplant and allowed in out-patient care. Then COVID-19 began to shut down the airports and they were stranded in California. While it was wonderful they could all be there together, it of course meant an added stress of keeping them all healthy as her husband’s immune system was severely compromised and Tasha was not able to be at the farm to help out at times it was planned she would be there.
With work from home orders, my husband was able to take on more of our baby’s care while I ran things at the farm, popping up and down like I had when he was just a month old to feed him and I wore him down at the farm with me plenty, too. There was a bassinet in the packing shed and a pack-n-play outside where we make arrangements and another one in the wreath tent. I had various baby carriers and wraps and we just made it work. As many customers can attest to, they would hear him babbling (or fussing…or flat out crying) while I was on the phone taking orders. We adhered to all CDC standards and local government mandates and were grateful that as a farm that primarily shipped goods, we were allowed to stay open. Due to stay-at-home, work-at-home orders, 2 of our 3 employees were more comfortable being at home during the shelter-in-place decree, so it was just me and one other crew member for half or March and all of April, but we were so very grateful to be getting business and we continued to harvest and create with Aloha, shipping out 5 days a week.
It was a miracle that Tasha and the whole family were permitted to come back to Maui as early as they did. Certainly, the heavens were smiling upon us as Kai’s transplant was incredibly successful and he was allowed to travel much sooner than expected. There was of course risk in traveling and exposure to COVID-19 but thankfully they made it home, completed their 14 day quarantine and were healthy. Tasha was able to complete her quarantine by the weekend before the Mother’s Day rush. It’s really just incredible that it worked out the way it did—for everyone and everything.
Thankfully, as business partners, we were able to cover for the other so we could have a semblance of a maternity and family-sick leave. However, without the support of our amazing crew, incredible family and close friends there is no way we would have been able to manage that and pull through. It’s rather daunting looking back and seeing all that has happened since our last birthday.
While we are celebrating turning 26 as a company, we are also really celebrating the rawness of real life and the joys and hardships it brings us. In the end the vulnerability that comes from those experiences allows us to connect with others and ourselves on a deeper level and experience life more fully than before.
While we wanted to create some protea specials for our birthday, we also wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary and extra special. We wanted to offer some tasty treats as a gift to our wonderful customers for their support and loyalty to us. So, we sought out working with Kati at SoReal because we like what she stands for and it comes through (quite literally) in her dessert bars: real, raw, goodness. As we’ve always known, supporting local, small businesses is so important. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified that tenfold and we are grateful for people like Kati, her heart, her creations, and her efforts to source as many locally-made ingredients as possible. We hope that our protea and her dessert bars fill your soul, mind, and body with goodness and we send you our warmest Aloha and deepest gratitude for your love and support.
With warmest Aloha,
Anuhea Farm and Anuhea Flowers
Anuhea Farm/Anuhea Flowers was founded in 1994 by William (Bill) and Judy Mertens. In September 2018, the sale of the company officially transferred to Emily and Tasha. Emily worked with Bill and Judy seasonally for many years beforehand, eventually becoming their apprentice and learning the business, and allowing them to take some time off to be with family here and there. As they got closer to the reality of needing to retire for various reasons, Emily approached Tasha, a co-worker at the time, both who were working in education, to begin a partnership and seek ways to buy the existing business. After a year of transition with Bill and Judy, the business officially changed hands in September 2018. It has been our honor to carry on the legacy of Bill and Judy Mertens. Anuhea Farm/Anuhea Flowers has been no stranger to overcoming hardship as they experienced saturation of wholesale market, forcing them to adapt and creating the retail line that you all so love and adore today. They also weathered crop disasters, storms, and the economic crisis of 2008. With the support of our customers, we have never shied away from hard times and so appreciate your loyalty and generosity. Mahalo nui loa for allowing our small, family business to continue on during these uncertain times. Our highest hope is that we are here to serve you for years and years to come and the business will pass on to the next generation.
With warmest Aloha,
Emily and Tasha
Owners-Operators of Anuhea Farm and Anuhea Flowers