Sign the 15% for the Future Petition to A&B

The petition is currently on the front page of togetherformaui.org

 Help Us Collect Signatures – A Little Friendly Competition : ) 

Our goal is to collect 3,000 signatures before the A&B Shareholder’s meeting on April 24th. We’re looking for volunteers to collect signatures at events and in your local community! The 3 people who collect the most paper signatures between March 24th – April 21st will each receive a gift certificate for a 60-minute Lomi Lomi massage at Ho’omana Spa.

Be a part of the competition: fill out this form and we’ll get back to you with instructions and supplies!

 

The Maui News: “A&B reports progress in ag and real estate”

A&B reports progress in ag and real estate

CEO: Ag diversification is difficult; may not go according to timeline

Work continues recently on the Alexander & Baldwin joint venture Keala o Wailea condominium development. The project near the entrance to Wailea off Piilani Highway is scheduled to have 70 luxury two- and three-bedroom condos. During a conference call with investors last week, A&B officials reported that 19 units have closed for sale so far this year with another 48 units in binding contracts and two in nonbinding contracts. • The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

While Alexander & Baldwin continues work to diversify its Maui agricultural lands, redeploying 4,500 acres of former sugar cane lands last year, the company sees progress as slow, difficult and unlikely to turn a profit, A&B President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Benjamin told investors in a telephone conference call last week. Continue reading “The Maui News: “A&B reports progress in ag and real estate””

Star-Advertiser: “A&B profit soars after tax benefit”

A&B profit soars after tax benefit

A $225 million tax benefit in the fourth quarter helped major Hawaii retail property owner Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earn $231 million last year that grossly overshadowed an $8 million loss the year before.

Honolulu-based A&B announced its latest financial results Wednesday and said the tax benefit mainly related to its conversion last year to a real estate investment trust. The recent federal tax overhaul also would have had a similar effect.

As a REIT, A&B was able to erase about $220 million in deferred tax obligations that it incurred from selling mainly commercial real estate over many years. A&B deferred paying taxes on gains from the sales by using proceeds to buy other properties, though the company could have had to pay the taxes one day if it sold the properties without reinvesting proceeds in more real estate. Continue reading “Star-Advertiser: “A&B profit soars after tax benefit””

A&B: “A&B Announces Fourth Quarter & Full-year 2017 Earnings”

See original A&B press release here. 

Alexander & Baldwin Announces Fourth Quarter & Full-year 2017 Earnings Release and Webcast
February 20, 2018

HONOLULU, Feb. 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.(NYSE:ALEX)(A&B) will report results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2017 at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. In connection with this announcement, A&B will host a live webcast of its conference call with financial analysts and professional investors on February 28, at 5 p.m. ET.
Continue reading “A&B: “A&B Announces Fourth Quarter & Full-year 2017 Earnings””

Star Advertiser: “Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit”

Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit

COURTESY ALEXANDER & BALDWIN

A stone house on a Kauai ranch Alexander & Baldwin Inc. sold for $8.1 million in the third quarter.

Selling 566 acres of land on Kauai and Maui helped Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earn $6.6 million in the third quarter and reverse a year- earlier $1.4 million loss that included heavy costs to close Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation.

Honolulu-based A&B reported the financial results Tuesday for the three months ended Sept. 30.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $111.5 million in the quarter from $102.9 million in the same period last year.

The company’s three major operating segments — land, commercial real estate leasing and road construction subsidiary Grace Pacific — all contributed to the improved revenue and profit performance.

A&B also said it continues to make strong progress converting itself to a real estate investment trust, reducing mainland real estate holdings in favor of investing more in Hawaii and finding agricultural tenants for its former 36,000-acre Maui plantation Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

THIRD-QUARTER NET$6.6 million

YEAR-EARLIER LOSS

$1.4 million

“I’m incredibly excited about where the company is going,” Chris Benjamin, A&B president and CEO, said in a conference call with stock analysts. “This is a long road we’re on.”

During the third quarter, A&B’s biggest source of profit was property leases largely involving retail space that includes several Hawaii shopping centers and the commercial core of Kailua. This segment’s operating profit was $13.6 million in the third quarter, up slightly from $13.5 million in the same period last year.

The biggest improvement among A&B’s divisions was in land development and sale operations. Operating profit for this part of A&B rose to $10.4 million in the recent quarter from $7.8 million a year earlier.

This gain came primarily from selling a 273-acre ranch on Kauai for $8.1 million and 293 acres of vacant land on Maui for $7.9 million. A&B also earned $2.9 million from sales of two town homes next to its Kakaako condominium tower The Collection, three residential properties at its Kauai vacation community Kukuiula and four residential properties at a similar project on the Big Island called Ka Milo.

The Kauai ranch several years ago was subdivided and marketed for sale by A&B as 24 farm or home lots. But more recently A&B sought a single buyer for the property, which was once the family estate of Kauai sugar pioneer Walter Duncan McBryde and features a 4,200-square-foot stone house from 1860 that used to be a plantation manager’s residence.

A&B’s third primary business segment, rock quarry and road paving firm Grace Pacific, produced a $6.5 million operating profit in the recent quarter. That was up from $5.6 million a year earlier and benefited from laying down 31 percent more asphalt, though competitive pricing pressures cut into the gain.

Previously, A&B had another business segment for agriculture, but that was folded into land operations after the sugar plantation shutdown in December. In the third quarter A&B still had some expenses related to discontinued HC&S operations, resulting in an $800,000 after-tax loss. However, that compared with a $13.6 million after-tax loss for HC&S operations in last year’s third quarter.

Benjamin said A&B is making quicker-than-expected progress finding new uses for its former plantation land, with negotiations to lease 15,000 acres that could bring total use up to roughly 20,000 acres in a few months if negotiations are successful.

A&B since January has converted 4,500 acres into active farming and ranching, and is working to add 900 acres to a Maui County ag park, the company said.

The other big ongoing transition at A&B is converting itself from a regular corporation to a real estate investment trust, or REIT. This initiative is expected to attract more investment capital for A&B to buy Hawaii commercial property, and will also provide the company with tax advantages.

A&B spent $4.4 million on the conversion in the third quarter, up from $1.9 million a year earlier. In total, A&B expects the change to cost $25 million to $27 million.

Shares of A&B stock closed at $45.19 Tuesday before the earnings announcement, closer to the upper end of a 52-week range between $40.02 on May 31 and $46.87 on Oct. 3.

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: “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 leeimada@mauinews.com.

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 leeimada@mauinews.com.

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 leeimada@mauinews.com.