Civil Beat Op-Ed: “Context Needed To Understand Kakaako Houselessness”

Denby Fawcett’s severe call to action, Give Us Back Our Parks, generated several well-reasoned responses. We share with Fawcett a sense of urgency — the reality of pervasive homelessness needs effective action.

What we wish to add to previous critiques of Fawcett’s essay is context. Understanding the historic, bureaucratic, fiscal, political and other contexts of houselessness in Kakaako is critical to understanding the problem we must face creatively and collectively.

The specific historical context of the unsheltered in Kakaako has been stunningly ignored.

Over a century before the area was branded “Kakaako Makai,” the productive fisheries of Kukuluaeo and Kaakaukukui were filled in with ash from waste incinerators, and then became a large native Hawaiians settlement, derisively called “Squattersville.” The area served as a refuge for Hawaiians and locals priced out of other areas, until it was forcibly cleared by the city in the 1920s.

Before the Oct. 8 sweep of Kakaako Waterfront Park. The region has a long history of evictions.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

The 1920s eviction matches up with today’s sweeps, forming a pattern that belies Fawcett’s conclusion that “Now, it’s time for the state government to act.” Rather, now it is time to realize we are merely witnessing the latest part of a century of failed government action.

Time and again the government has tried to exploit the area for economic gain over the objections of those who assert residence there. The repetition would be comedic if it wasn’t interwoven with such deep cruelty.

Fawcett also avoids known disparities in public-land management with her suggestion we should rage against those “… who seem to believe they have a special right to commandeer public land.”

Across our coasts unregulated wedding photographers, yoga sessions and surf tours proliferate. Branches of the military lease thousands of acres for $1 per year. Water agreements for massive volumes from public land charge rates that have barely risen in decades.

In this light, the homeless’ “special right” is only wrong because it is unattended by political influence.

HCDA’s Misguided Outrage

Fawcett’s article described damage to the Waterfront Park that similarly obscured the government fiscal context.

Had that been provided, readers could more fully appreciate the irony involved when the Hawaii Community Development Authority points fingers. Since HCDA’s establishment to “address a lack of suitable affordable housing,” they have spent tens of millions of public dollars in Kakaako.

These efforts have resulted in some affordable units, but more so a proliferation of high-end luxury condos and a pervasive wafting smell of sewage. We are now asked by HCDA to be outraged at people who caused damage to electrical wiring and water lines as they sought to meet basic needs.

The specific historical context of the unsheltered in Kakaako has been stunningly ignored.

Finally, there is a political context that Fawcett invokes but does not examine. She pleads to give “us” “our” parks. But Kakaako’s houseless include local families and others with strong ties to Hawaii.

There is no bright line between recreational user and “hardcore homeless camper.” Some Panics surfers have gone through periods of homelessness due to the regular things that happen to regular people.

A parent dies, and the bank forecloses on a home that is home to several generations. One or more people in a household lose a job. Hospital bills come due after a wife’s death from cancer.

Moreover, referring to the housed as “law abiding citizens” fails to recall that for at least Hawaiians and Micronesians (who comprise some of the houseless), U.S. citizenship and state control were impositions by the United States for military and economic ends. The U.S. went to Micronesia and that brought them to Hawaii. Hawaii did not move to the U.S. — the U.S. came to Hawaii.

Kakaako skyline Honolulu city view. view looking up Diamond Head on King Street.

Besides many homeless people, Kakaako is also home to more and more luxury high rises.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Bringing in these contexts highlight some of the absurdities and ironies in coverage of the houseless and current government actions. We must also together examine the much larger national contexts that have lead to pervasive homelessness across the U.S. — including decades of dismantling of the social safety net, post-industrial economic dislocation and failed federal housing policies.

We need a conversation where we recognize that an economy which can readily produce $1 million condos but can not produce attainable housing is part of the problem. We need to look at all these factors, because they all lead to people living in parks, and we need to immediately see how many factors are outside county or state control.

What we can control is how we define the problem and where we spend limited local resources. The move to create a new unit in the Sheriff’s Division dedicated solely to enforcing a new criminal trespass law on state land seems, in these contexts, doomed to failure.

Defining a complex problem as only having one cause (the houseless) and therefore one solution (their forced removal) will not identify the collective actions needed to help all people live in basic safety and dignity.

Letter to the Editor: “A&B’s negligence putting lives and property at risk”

Letter to the Editor published in The Maui News

A&B’s negligence putting lives and property at risk

Who will be liable for loss of life and property due to Alexander & Baldwin’s negligence leaving thousands of acres of cane to burn across this island? Our public schools, homes, churches and businesses are all at risk as the cane is not replaced, plowed under or mowed down. Does A&B just walk away from its responsibilities while still trying to horde the public’s water?

I’ve been calling our representatives for months in what was obvious to me (and I’m no genius) but have gotten no response from council members or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

The recent fires should be a warning call. Maui needs to be equipped with a Super Scooper fire plane and A&B land should confiscated by eminent domain unless it cleans up its act.

Bruce Oatway


Op-ed Column: “Maui needs farmers and to grow what we have the capacity to grow”

Maui needs farmers and to grow what we have the capacity to grow

According to the state Department of Agriculture’s “Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline” study, released back in 2015, prior to the sugar cane industry shutting down Maui had 44,360 acres in total area of crops being grown. This included seed production, commercial forestry, sugar cane, bananas, tropical fruits, pineapple, flowers, taro, macadamia nuts, coffee and other diversified crops.

As you can imagine, most of those crops consisted of sugar cane, some 36,000 acres out of the 44,360.

Alexander & Baldwin has been looking at different crops to replace sugar. In the meantime, the County of Maui has received a $5 million appropriation from the state with a $1 million match from the county to expand the Kula Ag Park onto former plantation land.

Currently, the Kula Ag Park consists of 445 acres and supports 26 farmers off of Pulehu Road. There are a multitude of crops grown in the ag park now, including Kula onions and other vegetables, turf grass, flowers, bananas, dry-land taro and landscaping nursery products.

We are hoping that the expansion to these lands will at least double the size of our ag park. Understandably, some people pointed out to me that even this addition would be a small drop in the bucket out of the 36,000 acres.

I don’t disagree, but it is a start. And quite frankly, finding the solution of which crop to grow next in our central plain is not simple.

Soil, climate, elevation and access to water all play a part in what a farmer decides to grow in his or her field. By all accounts, Central Maui is a desert. The only reason sugar cane grew so well there is because it is a flexible, adaptable crop.

Look at all the advantages of growing sugar cane: It’s a crop that didn’t need to be harvested every 90 days or even a year, but every two years, which cost less for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.; it was adaptable and grew in different soils and at different elevations; you could irrigate sugar cane with fresh and brackish water and it didn’t significantly affect the crop; it could even go without water for a week or two, an important advantage in a challenging area with little rain, lots of wind and desert-like conditions.

This is why we’ve seen a multipronged approach from A&B. A map that it released in April showed where it thought different crops would grow in different areas: coffee crops makai of Omaopio, cattle ranching near Hamakuapoko, biogas feedstock crops in Spreckelsville, etc.

This is a good, diversified plan, but in response I keep hearing quips from people saying that they don’t want the land to feed cattle, that we should only be growing “food” and that it has to be “organic” or nothing at all.

This is a needlessly self-destructive overreaction to what is our agricultural industry’s reality on Maui. We have to grow what we have the capacity to grow. It’s that simple.

Look at it this way: On any given day on Maui we have roughly 200,000 people on island (165,000 residents plus tourists). To feed them, we would need around 3 pounds of food per person per day.

That’s 600,000 pounds of food. Even if we farmed all 36,000 acres of A&B land, we could not produce that much. On the Mainland that’s just a small farm in Texas.

And yes, there are all kinds of farming techniques that we can and should look into, including composting, greenhouses, aeroponics, hydroponics, aquaponics and vertical crops, just to name a few. We are considering everything. If people are serious, come to the Kula Ag Park and apply, we welcome both old and new farmers.

We want more community farming. More importantly, we need the next generation of farmers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of farmers has gone from 50 to 58 over the last 30 years.

We need to cultivate the next generation of farmers, just as we would cultivate any crop.

What we don’t need are people who have no intention of farming telling the farmers what to grow and how to grow it. That doesn’t add anything to this important conversation.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, is about county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.

The Maui News: “County considering an expansion of ag park with former sugar land”

County considering an expansion of ag park with former sugar land

During a meeting at the Kula Community Center on Wednesday, Mayor Alan Arakawa points out the 869 acres that the county is thinking about purchasing to expand the Kula Agricultural Park. The county invited local farmers and ranchers to ask questions and offer their thoughts on the expansion. • The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

KULA — In his 35 years with the agricultural program at the University of Hawaii Maui College, rancher William Jacintho has seen plenty of young farmers graduate “and find themselves against the wall.”

“We’ve had plenty students that got nowhere to go,” Jacintho said. “They graduate. They want to farm or do a nursery. . . . The whole bottom line is that there aren’t parcels for people to farm at a small size, and to me that’s critical.”

That’s why Jacintho is supportive of Maui County’s plans to expand the Kula Agricultural Park. With funding from the state, the county is thinking of leasing and eventually purchasing 869 acres of former sugar cane land from Alexander & Baldwin. Several residents who showed up to a meeting at the Kula Community Center on Wednesday said they hoped the park expansion could open the doors to more small farmers, who face challenges in the availability of farmland and its cost.

“I think it’s wonderful. We need all the farmers and ranchers we can get,”lifelong Kula farmer and rancher Annette Niles said. The challenge is “trying to find land, especially for young farmers. You go to spend all this money in college, you go to the ag program, you become a farmer, where do you go?”

The current Kula Agricultural Park on Pulehu Road spans 445 acres and supports 26 farmers on lots ranging from 10 to 30 acres in size, according to the county website. Kula onions, vegetables, turf grass and dryland taro are among the crops growing there. Land in the current park is leased out for $100 per acre per year, said Teena Rasmussen, director of the county Office of Economic Development.

Onion sprouts of a variety trial at the Kula Agricultural Park blow in the wind Wednesday morning at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources farm lot. In the background, ag tech Ward Murashige creates a shallow drainage swale between the onions and a test patch of dryland taro. The county is considering purchasing old sugar fields to expand the park. • The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The 869 acres that the county is considering are divided into four parcels bordering Omaopio and Pulehu roads, just west of Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Surfing Goat Dairy.

“Compared to the present Kula Agricultural Park, the elevation is much lower, so it will be warmer or hotter for a longer period during the year,” said Kenneth Yamamura, agricultural specialist with the Office of Economic Development. “It will also be windier since the trade winds will blow over that area.”

Yamamura said there are plenty of crops that could be grown there, including bananas, papayas, cucumbers, pineapple, tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes and chickpeas. The site also could be used to raise livestock. Growing numbers of wild pigs, axis deer and various birds in the area could pose a challenge to farmers, he added.

The state Legislature has set aside $5 million for the purchase, and the county is chipping in another $1 million. However, a deal with A&B is still in the early stages.

Mayor Alan Arakawa said the county first has to figure out what farmers envision for the land — lot size, crop types, farming methods and more. The county is thinking of buying some of the land and leasing other parcels that it will eventually purchase. He said the park is open to all crops and farmers.

“What we’re trying to do from the county side is to provide opportunities for those on the smaller scale to be able to actually create farms,” said Arakawa, who is also a farmer.

Arakawa said he hoped the water costs would be lower in the extended portion of the park, because it sits below the 55-million-gallon reservoir and can be gravity fed. Water has to be pumped uphill to the current agricultural park.

Depending on the type of crops grown in the park, Arakawa said the county may have to install a system to generate potable water to wash hands or produce.

Some residents raised concerns about having conventional and organic farmers in the same area.

Yamamura said that “if there’s a great interest from organic farmers, essentially they have to come together as an organic coop so they can manage an area, rather than having individual 2- or 4-acre farms, and figure out the best way to put some kind of buffer.”

Rasmussen said it’s only “Day 1” of the process to expand the park. The county has to work out a plan for the additional acres, and the County Council has to approve the purchase before the state can release the funds. Arakawa said it could take two to three years before farmers could actually get onto the land.

“That’s why we have to know more as to what people want to be able to do,”he said. “Because we’re going to have to try to plan out areas and later on do soil testing to try to put farmers in appropriate places for the best chance of success.”

Simon Russell, chairman of the Hawaii Farmers Union United’s legislative committee, said one of his big concerns was affordable housing. Cultivating 869 acres will take a lot of workers, and housing isn’t cheap Upcountry, he pointed out. Farmers also can’t live on their plots or build any nonfarm structures in the agricultural park.

But Russell said the low cost of rent in the agricultural park would help attract farmers, many of whom don’t have their own land.

“Food security is something that I’m very concerned about for the long term,”he said. “There’s other things that are more profitable than vegetables, but frankly we need vegetable crop production, and Kula is a wonderful place to grow vegetables. I would hope that the people growing the food would be able to live up here.”

Russell grows sugar, papaya, vegetables and herbs on 2 acres in Makawao and hopes to lease 100 acres in the extended park.

Jacintho, who runs Beef & Blooms and Na’alae Beef Co., isn’t planning to lease land in the park, but said he hoped the county could set aside smaller parcels of a few acres for farmers. He pointed to a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census that showed that most small farms in Hawaii were from 1 to 9 acres. In Maui County, 711 farms were of that size, with 293 farms of 10 to 49 acres and 61 farms of 50 to 179 acres.

He knows smaller plots are harder to manage, “but there’s a need for that.”

For more information, call the Office of Economic Development at 270-7710.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at

The Maui News: “Corn and sorghum trials initiated”

Corn and sorghum trials initiated

A&B subsidiary to supply biofuel for power project at wastewater plant

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. has begun growing sorghum and corn on Maui as part of a test project to develop biofuel to feed a planned anaerobic digester that would produce methane gas to power the Kahului wastewater treatment facility, an A&B spokesman said last week.

The trials have been ongoing for several months and could reach 500 acres, A&B spokesman Darren Pai said Thursday. A map showing possible uses of old Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. fields, released during the Maui Energy Conference in March, showed “Biogas Feedstock Crop” on land near the Kahului Airport and Spreckelsville.

HC&S, a former subsidiary of A&B, shut down operations in December, which opened up 36,000 acres of former sugar cane fields. A&B has said that it is developing various diversified agricultural ventures on the old sugar cane land, and announced in May that it had set up wholly owned subsidiary Kulolio Ranch on 4,000 acres in Hamakuapoko to raise cattle for Maui Cattle Co. partners.

Last month, A&B announced a partnership with Oakland, Calif.-based TerViva to produce biofuel from pongamia trees on 250 acres in north Kihei/Maalaea. A&B CEO Chris Benjamin said in May that the partnership to produce seed oil could expand to 2,000 acres.

Pongamia, however, will not be powering the anaerobic digester at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility near Kanaha, Pai said. The pongamia project is “still in the early stages,” and A&B has not decided on processing facilities for the seed oil, he said.

But A&B is “focusing on crops that grow in rows and can be mechanically harvested, such as sorghum and corn” for Anaergia Services Maui All Natural Alternative’s power project at the wastewater treatment plant, Pai said.

“We will rotate these plantings with cover crops and legumes to fix nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil,” he added.

Pai said that “initial trial plantings of corn and sorghum have been encouraging.” The trials at this stage will be used to determine yields, the economics and “what it will take to scale up the production,” he said.

Both the development of biofuel for the Anaergia project and the pongamia TerViva partnership are programs of A&B subsidiary Central Maui Feedstocks LLC, which was organized in November. The company falls under the purview of Rick Volner, the former HC&S general manager who currently heads up A&B’s diversified agricultural initiatives, said Pai.

“Central Maui Feedstocks is focused on growing energy crops,” Pai said. “We are conducting trials to learn more about the yields and costs involved with growing different kinds of energy crops on our former sugar cane lands.”

The company also is “exploring the possibility that these crops may also produce byproducts that can be used as feed and forage for animals,” he said.

Central Maui Feedstocks’ two current programs are separate and not related, Pai said. He said that the terms of the company’s contract to supply energy crops to the Anaergia project are confidential.

An environmental impact statement preparation notice posted last month for the Anaergia project cited the contract with Central Maui Feedstocks. It said that the energy crops would be grown on former HC&S land.

According to the notice, the energy crops would produce methane through a digestion process. The natural gas would be refined on-site and fuel a combined heat-and-power engine to generate electricity for the treatment plant.

Waste heat from the engine would dry solid matter, or sludge. The project would power the wastewater treatment plant but not be hooked up to the Maui Electric Co. grid.

In December, the Maui County Council approved a resolution for a 20-year lease for Anaergia and Maui All Natural Alternatives for a 1-acre site on the treatment plant property.

The environmental review process is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and the project is planned to be operational by the end of 2019.

Anaergia contracted with the county in 2014 to build a waste conversion facility at the Central Maui Landfill. It also has proposed building a $50 million Maui Energy Park in West Maui to grow sorghum.

* Lee Imada can be reached at

Article: ASU Design School Reimagines More Sustainable Hawai’i

See the original article here.

Students from the resource ‘island’ of Phoenix enlisted to help create strategy

Update: The team featured in this story, led by ASU Professor Darren Petrucci and Assistant Professors Chingwen Cheng and Paul Coseo, all from The Design School, took top prize in the University of Hawaii’s “Make the Ala Wai Awesome” competition; in addition, the team was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects’ award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture. The winners of the international student design competition were announced June 18 at the opening ceremony of the World Youth Congress, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Hawaii faces a range of sustainability threats: The state can’t grow enough food; it imports 90 percent of its energy and water; coral reefs are disappearing; the islands are being overrun by invasive species; and because of global warming, residents are increasingly vulnerable to flooding, hurricanes and tsunamis.

It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but students from the desert have been enlisted to help.

“Phoenix is ostensibly an island, and the way resource allocation occurs is not much different than Hawaii,” said Darren Petrucci, a professor in Arizona State University’s Design School. If the Hawaiian Islands can become a sustainable, then “all of the other islands in the world can do it.”

In an example of interdisciplinary problem solving, ASU students and faculty from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the School of Sustainability, and ASU’s LightWorks energy center worked recently with a Hawaii public-private partnership network to find new answers.

The ASU teams developed a four-tiered strategy, focusing on flood mitigation, community education, economic health and overall resilience. They incorporated plans from wetland filtration on a municipal golf course to creating a boardwalk for flood control.

“The big idea of this project is to empower local neighborhoods to find their own solutions,” said Paul Coseo, an assistant professor in landscape architecture in The Design School.

Students work together

The three professors working with the Hawaii sustainability project give advice to students in the graduate design studios. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now


The project is the sort of thing that ASU has become known for. ASU has positioned itself as a pioneer of interdisciplinary learning and a leading center for entrepreneurship and innovation. The university was the first in the nation to offer a degree in sustainability and has been involved in partnerships including solar power and waste reduction. Also, the Herberger Institute pushes students to revitalize communities and transform neighborhoods.

“Designers don’t engage in problem solving the way an engineer might look at things because we always start with the human condition and how it engages with nature,” Petrucci said.

To that end, many of ASU-led proposals focus on neighborhoods and residents. Homeowners would learn to remove asphalt, build rain gardens and install green roofs to reduce storm water runoff, said Kristin Antkoviak, a former microbiologist studying landscape architecture.

“If everyone did just a small intervention,” she said, “it could make a great impact.”

Many strategies could be planned within a year and completed shortly thereafter, depending on funding, Coseo said.

ASU’s involvement began when President Michael Crow met with Hawai’i Green Growth leader Celeste Conners. They, along with faculty and staff from LightWorks and the School of Sustainability, discussed a statewide initiative to achieve environmental, social and economic prosperity for future generations.

LightWorks enlisted help from The Design School, which turned it into a class project for graduate students in design and sustainabilty, to address climate change, water, food, energy and natural resources sustainability on the Ala Wai Watershed, an 11-square-mile boundary on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.

Images of Hawaii taken during the trip to Hawaii

Images from the ASU Landscape Architecture social media accounts (@asulandarch) documenting their exploratory trip in Hawaii in spring 2017.


ASU teams visited Hawaii in the fall of last year and the spring of this year to listen to stakeholders and create strategies.

They found a familiar story of indigenous people living sustainably and industrial development throwing the ecosystem off-kilter.

“We have a global economic system that’s based on a growth model, which is completely incompatible with sustainability,” said Leah Gibbons, a second-year doctoral student in the School of Sustainability.

People, in general, have become “disconnected from nature,” creating a “downward spiral,” she said.

At this point, even a simple thing such as a rainfall can have negative consequences, said Chingwen Cheng, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at The Design School.

“Storm water runoff from the ridge flows downward and flushes silt, oil from cars and other pollutants into Waikiki Bay and contaminates the ocean, killing the reef,” Cheng said.

O’ahu’s mountaintops receive about 150 inches of rainfall annually, and a particularly heavy storm could flood about 40 percent of the areas around the Ala Wai canal if something isn’t done, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

ASU’s teams hope their plan — which has been incorporated into a 36-page e-book and 10-minute video — will be implemented by Hawai’i Green Growth to make a difference.

“I feel fantastic knowing something we’ve developed as a class can make the world a better place,” said Nicholas Knoebel, a candidate for Master of Landscape Architecture. “More habitable with fewer problems.”

Students work on things

Seven of the graduate and doctoral students working on the sustainability project gather at their table in the graduate design labs on April 26. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now


Top photo: Darren Petrucci, a professor in ASU’s Design School, looks at the display board of the project area on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Petrucci is also the coordinator for the Master of Urban Design (MUD) program and works with the landscape architecture studio. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

The Maui News: “Partnership rounded up for cattle ranching on former sugar lands”

Partnership rounded up for cattle ranching on former sugar lands

A&B’s Kulolio Ranch aims to raise calves to maturity, market weight

Alexander & Baldwin has established Kulolio Ranch in Hamakuapoko, a grass-fed cattle pasture operation. The formation of the ranch on 4,000 acres comes after trials that began in late 2015 on old Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands. Alexander & Baldwin photo

Alexander & Baldwin has entered the ranching business on Maui, forming Kulolio Ranch in Hamakuapoko in a diversified agriculture venture on 4,000 acres of old Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar lands.

The ranch, a wholly owned subsidiary of A&B, will be collaborating with Maui Cattle Co., a partnership of six ranches, five on Maui, A&B said in a news release Tuesday. Under a grazing agreement, the ranchers will provide calves, while retaining ownership, to Kulolio Ranch, which will raise them to maturity and market weight, said Alex Franco, president of Maui Cattle Co., on Tuesday. Kulolio Ranch will be paid based on the weight gain.

“Having Kulolio has been a game-changer for us,” said Franco. “Our goal is to keep all our cattle here on Maui for the local market.”

Chris Benjamin, A&B president and CEO, said that “by raising grass-fed cattle on Maui, we believe we can increase and stabilize the supply of local beef and help increase consumer demand for local, fresh food products.”

“The goals of our partnership with Maui Cattle Co. are to increase local food production, support our local ranching community and deliver high-quality, healthy animals to the local market,” he said.

The ranch’s name comes from the wind that blows in the area, A&B said in a news release. Cattle trials, which included irrigated pastures in Hamakuapoko, have been ongoing since late 2015.

“We are really pleased with the results,” said Franco. “We like the quality of the beef that’s been coming from Kulolio.”

The ranch recently doubled the size of its grazing herd from 150 to 300 animals and is in the process of installing more than 18 miles of perimeter fencing and irrigation systems for the pastures, A&B said.

The ranch hopes to have 900 animals grazing in the fields by the end of the year and 3,500 animals by 2021.

Maui Cattle ranches will focus on producing calves rather than growing the cattle to maturity, said Franco. The 3,500 animals at Kulolio Ranch represent how many calves the local ranchers expect to be able to produce comfortably. With the focus on calf-raising, local ranches could produce more animals, he said.

The calves sent to Kulolio Ranch are 8 to 10 months old, and the ranch raises them for 12 to 15 months to maturity, he said. Franco did not disclose the rates to be paid, noting that they are based on a complicated formula, but did say they are compatible with market rates for the cattle industry.

Kulolio Ranch with its irrigated fields solves a problem ranchers have been dealing with for many years — drought, Franco said. Without green pastures to graze during drought, ranchers have been forced to reduce their stocks and to send their calves to the Mainland.

“When you are trying to supply the local market, whether it is drought or not, people are seeking the product,” Franco said. “When they are not able to get the product, it becomes problematic.”

The irrigated fields provide “a consistent means of getting our product into the marketplace” and “mitigate drought due to irrigation,” he said. While most of the trials were held during rainy times, the irrigation worked in getting grass established.

This arrangement allows Maui Cattle ranches and Kulolio Ranch to do what they do best, Franco said. He added that older mother cows are more able to handle drought conditions than cattle being grazed to market weight.

The addition of Kulolio Ranch offers a chance at a stable marketplace for the longtime ranches in Maui Cattle, which average 70 years in operation, Franco said. They include Ulupalakua, Kaupo, Hana, Haleakala and Nobriga ranches on Maui and Olumau Angus Plus on Kauai.

“You are looking at established companies that have been a big part of Maui for many, many years,” he said. “We are close to the market.”

They will provide jobs, buy materials from local vendors and “bring a lot into the economy,” Franco said.

Currently, 92 percent of beef on Maui is imported from the Mainland, New Zealand and Australia, he said. “We enjoy just a small portion of the marketplace,” he said.

Franco hedged when asked about the impact of Kulolio Ranch on imported beef but said “it is going to be real minimal,” maybe a 3 or 4 percent increase in locally produced meat.

There also will not be a major sway on meat prices. Franco said that the cost of doing business is higher in Hawaii and the scale of operations is smaller than the Mainland. He noted that some packers on the Mainland process 3,500 head of cattle in a couple of days.

“As far as price, our costs are still higher than our Mainland counterparts,”Franco said. “Our price still needs to be a little higher, so we can remain sustainable.”

Having grass-fed animals might be an advantage in the more health-conscious society. They are leaner with less intermuscular fat and higher in omega-3. Franco added, though, that the selection of grass- or grain-fed meat “depends on the palate of the consumer.”

The plan is to have all of the cattle slaughtered and processed on Maui, Franco said. Darren Pai, A&B spokesman, said Tuesday that the company has had “preliminary discussions” with groups interested in leasing land for expanded slaughterhouse facilities.

“Those discussions are still preliminary and have not been finalized,” he said.

Kulolio Ranch currently has two full-time hands in the field every day, Pai said. The ranch is expected to increase the number of workers as the operation progresses.

The ranch will be employing sustainable ranching practices with animals moved daily within paddocks. This will allow the cattle to graze freely while allowing grass and other forage to accumulate and grow during rest periods, A&B said.

“The cattle naturally fertilize the soil, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers,” A&B said. “This holistic management process improves soil quality, sequesters soil carbon, reduces runoff and provides a healthy environment for the cattle.”

Franco said that the establishment of Kulolio Ranch will allow for management of previously unmanaged, fallow sugar cane land. This will reduce the fire danger and provide a habitat for birds.

“This is another sign of progress as we transition from sugar to diversified agriculture,” said Benjamin.

The establishment of Kulolio Ranch is technically not A&B’s first venture into diversified agriculture for its former 36,000 acres of sugar fields, Pai pointed out. The company recently formalized an agreement with Oakland, Calif., based TerViva to grow pongamia for biofuel on a 250-acre demonstration project in the north Kihei/Maalaea area.

A&B said it aims to transition 8,000 to 10,000 acres into diversified agriculture this year and “to aggressively convert more acreage over the next few years.”

Benjamin told investors in May that he did not expect diversified agriculture operations on the old sugar lands to show a profit in the near term. A&B shut down HC&S in December.

“We expect this project (the Kulolio Ranch) and our other diversified agriculture programs will become profitable over time,” Pai said when asked about profitability of the ranch.

“This is a strong start, yet there’s much more progress on the horizon,”Benjamin said. “Establishing viable agriculture on these Central Maui lands will not be easy, but we are committed to being good stewards of these lands and working with the county, state and other partners in the community to improve food security in Hawaii and make diversified agriculture on Maui a success.”

* Lee Imada can be reached at

The Maui News: “A&B moving forward with repurposing of sugar cane land”

A&B moving forward with repurposing of sugar cane land

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar  Co. equipment is lined up in front of shuttered Puunene Mill on Thursday afternoon. Alexander & Baldwin shut down sugar operations in December. A&B President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Benjamin told investors Thursday that agricultural diversification on former sugar land is “coming along well” but that there is no expectation of profits from those operations in the near term. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. equipment is lined up in front of shuttered Puunene Mill on Thursday afternoon. Alexander & Baldwin shut down sugar operations in December. A&B President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Benjamin told investors Thursday that agricultural diversification on former sugar land is “coming along well” but that there is no expectation of profits from those operations in the near term. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

While agricultural diversification of Alexander & Baldwin’s 36,000 acres of former sugar lands on Maui is “coming along well,” there’s no expectation that the effort will be profitable in the near term, A&B President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Benjamin told investors Thursday.

“In fact, we may continue to have some modest net expenses as we work on repurposing the sugar lands,” he said in a conference call. “But we’re making good progress in discussions with several interested tenants who will help keep these lands in active agriculture.”

He referred to a recent announcement that A&B had entered into a partnership with Oakland, Calif.-based TerViva, a seed oil-producing company to produce biofuel from pongamia trees on 250 acres on Maui.

“If successful, the partnership could expand up to 2,000 acres,” he said.

Benjamin said the company also is working on trials with cattle grazing and other energy crops on Maui.

“Our objective is to deploy as much of our former sugar plantation lands as possible in viable agricultural uses as quickly as possible,” he said.

The company reported $2.4 million of after-tax income from discontinued Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. operations, while the results of the first quarter of 2016 included a $10.8 million after-tax loss related to the sugar plantation’s shutdown, which was completed in December.

A&B announced income of $4.4 million, or 9 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2017. That’s compared with $3.7 million, or 8 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2016.

Results for this year’s first quarter included $3.7 million of after-tax costs ($4.8 million, pretax), which was related to the evaluation of real estate investment trust conversion.

Revenue for the company’s first quarter was $93.2 million, compared with $91.4 million for the same period last year.

“The increase in revenue is attributable to increased development and parcel sales, partially offset by lower materials and construction sales revenue and lower commercial real estate revenue,” A&B said.

A&B’s development of the Ho’okele Shopping Center, a 94,000-square-foot, 8.9-acre Safeway-anchored retail center in Kahului, was mentioned along with the La Hala Shops and Pearl Highlands Center on Oahu as part of “our strategic objective of increasing recurring earnings from our commercial portfolio,” Benjamin said.

In its commercial real estate segment, the company reported selling the 16,600-square-foot Maui Clinic Building for $3.4 million in January. The company also closed a sale of a Maui Business Park property for $2.4 million, and it sold an urban-zoned vacant property of 0.8 acre for $1.6 million.

A&B reported there were two Maui industrial tenants (both in the P&L Building on Papa Place) who chose not to renew their leases.

The company’s commercial properties increased operating profit 9.2 percent to $14.3 million in the year’s first quarter, compared with $13.1 million in last year’s first quarter. Occupancy of A&B’s commercial properties was “stable” at 94 percent, the company said.

The Maui News: “The Last Harvest-The Final Chapter in the Story of Sugar on Maui”

The Last Harvest: The Final Chapter in the Story of Sugar on Maui

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. sounded the death knell of sugar on Maui and in Hawaii on Jan. 6, 2016, when it announced the end of operations at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. after the 2016 harvest.

The announcement was abrupt and caught many off guard, but was not totally unexpected. A&B said that its agribusiness sector, which was mostly HC&S, faced $30 million in losses in 2015 and “significant losses” going forward, which corporate officials called unsustainable.

The losses stemmed from lower yields due to wet weather and a significant increase in the world sugar supply, which depressed prices. HC&S also faced headwinds from those opposing cane burning and the drawing of water from streams in East Maui and the West Maui Mountains.

It was difficult news to hear for the 675 workers, all but 15 of whom would lose their jobs at the end of the harvest in December. Workers were laid off as the company completed its series of “lasts” — from harvesting to the shipping of the sugar out of Kahului Harbor. Workers and retirees marked the arrival of the last Tournahauler filled with cane at Puunene Mill on Dec. 12.

The fire went out at the mill four days later and the last workers were laid off about a week after that.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. workers gather for a group photo at Puunene Mill on March 1, the day the final harvest of sugar cane began. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A&B worked with federal, state, county and nonprofit officials to help the workers find new jobs, new lives. As of late December, A&B reported 200 of the workers had found new jobs, 99 had retired and 13 had relocated off-island.

An auction was held last week to sell off the equipment of HC&S.

As the sugar plantation fades into history, A&B looks for uses of the 36,000 acres of former sugar cane fields. Diversified agriculture, biocrops and irrigated pastures for cattle are among the options being mulled by company officials. Members of the public have been vocal in offering their thoughts on uses for the fallow fields.

Old-timers will say that there was a time when “sugar was king.” There were plantations all over the island from Hana to Lahaina, and ruins of those old mills still can be found in Kipahulu, Ulupalakua and Haiku. In the 1960s, three sugar plantations dominated the Maui landscape — Wailuku Sugar, Pioneer Mill in Lahaina and HC&S. Wailuku Sugar was the first to shut down in the late 1980s; all that’s left of that business is Wailuku Water Co. Pioneer Mill closed in 1999; the smokestack near the intersection of Lahainaluna Road and Honoapiilani Highway is a reminder of the company’s 139 years of sugar operations.

The plantations diverted water from wet areas through tunnels, siphons and ditches to feed the thirsty sugar crops. Those diversions currently are being disputed by taro farmers, Native Hawaiian practitioners and others who say that the plantations and their predecessors have unfairly removed water from the streams for commercial purposes outside of their regions.

The plantations literally changed the face of the islands, bringing in workers from China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines. Those cultures blended for generations to create the multicultural mix of Hawaii’s population today.

Old-timers remember their days in the dusty, rustic plantation camps with fond nostalgia, but it was a difficult and harsh life. Workers toiled in the fields for long hours and minimal pay. The years have washed away the rough edges, the conflict over union organizing, better working conditions and higher wages and the social and economic hierarchy.

HC&S was born in 1870 when Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin planted their crop on the newly established Alexander and Baldwin Plantation in Makawao.

Before sugar on Maui disappeared into history, The Maui News embarked on a project to document “The Last Harvest” for future generations. The reports in words and photos throughout 2016 were intended to detail the process of growing and producing sugar at HC&S, whose large-scale and efficient operations were key attributes to its longevity and being the last sugar plantation in Hawaii.

This publication is a compilation of all of those stories and a few others that document “The Last Harvest.”

The Maui News thanks A&B and Tran Chinery for setting up the visits and HC&S and its workers for opening the doors to the mill and letting a reporter drive a Tournahauler in the fields.

It was a last harvest to remember.

* Lee Imada can be reached at