What Finding Common Ground Means to Us (I)
Sarah Wright believes it would be hard to find a better office location than the CG campus. The Operations Manager for Common Ground, Sarah also sits on the CG Foundation Board and directs the Incubator Program.
“There are some quiet days but when there's activity, it's an exciting environment to experience,” she says. “It's great to also see what comes from the organic exchanges between co-workers. There's a lot of creativity, talent, and expertise on the team, so it's cool to see magic be made when we all get together.”
Sarah was born and raised in the Bay Area of California and received a BA in International Studies and French from Dickinson College. She contributes a decade of administrative and operations experience to the team and maintains a passion for travel. Sarah also enjoys hula, reading and writing, hiking, and surfing.
“To me, finding common ground is a reciprocal relationship between people and place. It means connecting to our roots, sharing unique experiences, and working towards a shared vision. An instance would be our values as they align with food sourcing,” says Sarah.
“I like my job because it is outdoors and I don’t like to work indoors that much,” says Eliseo Varela, Facilities Manager for the Common Ground campus. Originally from Mexico, he grew up in New Jersey, working for Mediterranean restaurants and managing an Italian Pizzeria. He is known for his dough-throwing skills.
In 2007, Eliseo came to Kauaʻi to visit his brother, and soon met Akaylah, who would later become his wife. Eliseo and Akaylah now have two children; Emilio, 4 years old, and Mahealani, 6 months old. In his free time, Eliseo enjoys playing soccer, doing mechanical jobs, and taking care of his family.
Eliseo was formerly the land manager of 50 Kilauea acres which in part includes what is now the Common Ground campus. When the land was sold in 2018, he was asked to continue managing the land for CG. Eliseo now oversees the office buildings, warehouses, and irrigation, and has a small team who helps keep the campus naturally picturesque. “I love maintaining and working with heavy-duty equipment and ensuring Common Ground looks beautiful,” he says.
Eliseo looks forward to the future of the local community that Common Ground will play a role in fostering; working to create a nice space for people to come together and for community events.
Gary Moore believes that a focus on regeneration is more critical now than ever, especially in high-demand resort areas of Hawaiʻi. As a Resort Real Estate Director, Gary has led real estate developments in Colorado, Arizona, Mexico, Italy, and now Hawaiʻi, where he navigates zoning and building entitlement rights and implements strategic development strategies.
Gary joined the CG team when a 4-year friendship with Owner/CEO Oliver evolved into the opportunity to utilize his development and business background to help execute the Common Ground vision.
He most appreciates the serenity and beauty of working on the CG campus. “It is a very calming place, excellent for meetings and thinking through ideas,” Gary says. When he’s not working, he might be fishing, surfing, or skiing.
Gary feels that keeping an open mind and having respect and appreciation for others, even when disagreeing with their views, is the best way to find common ground. “The polarization of the US and the world is making this more and more difficult but when folks with differing ideas, views, and opinions can truly appreciate one another and stay open to others’ ideas, common ground can be found,” he says.
“When I first started work as an engineer after college, I worked in a large factory in a cubical, and artificial winds would blow in the hallways of the buildings,” says Jon Champlin, CG Shop Manager. “Now I have the trade winds and instead of walking around sidewalks and parking lots, I’m able to take a break and walk around the agroforest to see what’s growing, or check in with the nēnē at the mountain apple trees,” he says.
Jon joined the Common Ground team to oversee the online store, with the goal of bringing CG’s exceptional collection of Hawaiʻi-grown food products beyond the farms and markets of the islands. “The position aligned with two of my passions, working to help small businesses and locally sourced food,” he says.
Jon has three boys, ages 4, 7, and 9. His wife, Beth, is a home health nurse. He most loves spending time with his sons and swimming, surfing, and snorkeling.
One of Jon’s favorite things about working on the Common Ground campus is the variety of fruits and vegetables growing. “Kava, ʻulu, kalo, citrus… most of the ingredients used in the products we curate are also grown here,” he says. Jon believes that sharing a new flavor or ingredient is a great place to start when seeking common ground with others.