Mayor Kenoi Announces Agriculture Plan for County Lands

From the Mayors Office:

County of Hawai’i Mayor Billy Kenoi told a community meeting in Honoka’a last night he is committed to making 1,739 acres of county-owned land at Kapulena available for community-based agriculture.

Mayor Kenoi outlined efforts by his administration to partner with the Hamakua County Farm Bureau and other farming experts to develop a sustainable plan for agriculture on the lands. Uses of the Kapulena lands could range from community gardens to larger-scale ranching and commercial production of crops to educational programs that will encourage youth to enter agricultural fields, the mayor said.

“We want to support the hard-working Hamakua farmers and ranchers, and we also want to plant the seeds of opportunity for our next generation of farmers,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We want to make these lands available to entrepreneurs, educators and community groups with a vision for the future of agriculture on this island.

State Sen. Dwight Takamine, Dist. 1 (Hilo, Hamakua, Waimea) and state Rep. Mark Nakashima, Dist. 1 (North Hilo, Hamakua, N. Kohala) worked closely with the Kenoi administration on preliminary planning for the Kapulena lands.

“This is really a win-win scenario for the community,” said Sen. Takamine. “By making these lands available to the community, we protect prime agricultural lands from development and maintain the rural character of the community.  Given the economic reality of so many families struggling, providing agricultural opportunities makes sense and honors our statewide goal of improving sustainability.”

Rep. Nakashima said the plan to partner with the Hamakua County Farm Bureau and other agencies to make the land available for farming is “an outstanding opportunity to return agricultural land to agriculture, and to put farmers back on the land.”

Other participants in the discussions, planning and research related to the Kapulena lands include the Farm Bureau, the University of Hawai’i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Outstanding issues at Kapulena that are still being studied include the ideal locations for disparate activities such as ranching and farming of truck crops; vehicle access and availability of water; and soils analysis to determine which crops will be best suited to the area.

Richard Ha, president of Hamakua Springs Country Farms, said the Kapulena lands represent a new opportunity for growth in agriculture on the island. Hamakua Springs is the largest banana and hydroponic vegetable farmer on the Island of Hawai’i.

“Everybody wants to make this work, and there are a whole bunch of people who are supporting it including state and federal organizations,” Ha said. “Everybody is going to do whatever they can do to help support this. Everybody was cooperative, upbeat and enthusiastic. They want to make this work.”

The County owns 10 parcels of land mauka of Honoka’a-Waipio Road at Kapulena. The lands are mid-way between Honoka’a and Waipi’o Valley at elevations ranging from about 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. The parcels range in size from 778 acres to less than 1.5 acres, and are generally considered the best of the County-owned lands for farming purposes because they have the easiest access to water.

The commitment of 1,739 acres in Hamakua represents a major increase in the available opportunities for farming on the Island of Hawai’i. The state operates agricultural parks in Pahoa, Hamakua, Panaewa and Keahole, but the 1,739 acres at Kapulena amounts to more land for farming than all of those existing state-run agricultural parks on the island combined.

The largest single state-run agricultural park in Hawai’i today is a 753-acre park on Moloka’i.

One Response

  1. Very interesting.
    Thanks for posting this.

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