Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – 6:00pm
Waimea Valley Pikake Pavilion
Honoring the 2016 North Shore Kama’aina of the Year
About our 2016 NS Kama’aina of the Year: Susan Matsushima
Susan Matsushima, the multi-skilled and creative founder of Alluvion, Inc. and this year’s Kama’aina of the Year, wants to be remembered for her passion for agriculture and her work toward self-sustainability. Her philosophy of cooperative partnerships linking local farmers and businesses to promote success is based on her deep-rooted (no pun intended) aloha spirit. This year Alluvion, Inc., a full service florist including plant rental and nursery, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, but Susan is the last one to sing her own praises.
“I’ve never tried to promote Alluvion,” she says. “I’ve always tried to promote our community,”
There is no better place than the North Shore because it has the only contiguous acreage on Oahu left to develop farming, according to Susan. That’s the reason she has devoted herself to our area and tirelessly volunteered her time to community, school, and legislative organizations throughout her career including Haleiwa Main Street/North Shore Chamber of Commerce. She recently retired from the Chamber Board of Directors after 10 years, of which three were as chairperson.
Over the years, her community involvement has been exhaustive. She’s served as member of the state Board of Agriculture, chairwoman of the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Committee, and consultant for several other national groups. She has received many honors which she is too modest to mention, but she may drop the fact that her efforts in the schools once earned her recognition in the esteemed Wall Street Journal.
Clearly, education and students are where her heart is. She beams when she talks about the educational programs she implemented in many local schools across Oahu where schools were actually able to earn some cash. Her concept focused on teaching agriculture while promoting production. She’d give classes plant starters; students would grow them; then she’d buy them back for her business. It was a win-win.
So how did a girl from Kaimuki schooled in elementary education at University of Hawaii, Manoa, end up in farming? A passion was ingrained in her from the time she was a small child spending her weekends with her younger brothers and cousin on their uncle’s farm in Waimanalo. She’d pick fruit and swim in the ditches with tadpoles and minnows. Even in Kaimuki, her family always had chickens in the backyard.
After marrying Paul and moving to Seattle for his job with Boeing, she worked as an elementary school teacher for five years and had three children, all born within 17 months. However, after eight years away, the two were homesick for the islands. After many job inquiries, Paul was offered a job with Dillingham Corporation, but few teaching opportunities came Susan’s way. As luck would have it, shortly after their return to Oahu, she was offered a position as Amfac Garden’s first salesperson. It awakened her love for all things growing and launched her career. Her creative talents and innate entrepreneurial spirit quickly earned her a respected place in the agricultural community.
Within 12 years she became the company’s general manager of operations over four islands and was being courted by other companies. After a short stint with a nursery in Ka’a’awa, she purchased the business and moved it to the former site of Meadow Gold Dairy in Kawailoa on the North Shore, a Kamehameha Schools property. That was in 1996, and Alluvion, Inc. was born. It was a critical time. The Waialua Sugar Mill was closing and a new direction to sustain the local economy was crucial. Farmers and local agricultural businesses needed to develop and find new ways to successfully market their products. Susan had the vision, determination, and temperament to work with a diverse community and various legislative groups to help make it happen. The name “Alluvion” reflects this direction – it means the formation of new land through deposits of running water.
Susan’s devotion to farming and her business rubbed off on her family, especially son Chad, who took over as Alluvion’s president 15 years ago. However, it doesn’t seem that Susan has any plans of slowing down. At the age of 74, she still volunteers her time in various capacities promoting agriculture in our community and can often be found hard at work in her florist shop making sure every floral creation has that special loving touch.