August 20, 2010 – Hilo, Hawaii
Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Tim Bryan
Last week, Big Island Video News took a look at the progress being made at the planned community agriculture project on former Kapulena sugar lands.
This week, Mayor Billy Kenoi took the time to go over some details on the project, which promises to breath new life into these fallow and overgrown ag lands.
The county aquired large tracks of land along the Hamakua Coast years ago, when Hamakua Sugar went bankrupt. While many in the community saw the property as an agricultural commodity, the county initiated plans to sell.
But unloading the land would not be an easy.
Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong led the charge against the mayor’s plan to sell the vacant lands in 2009. A community of local farmers rallied. And the native Hawaiian community stepped in, saying the lands did not belong to the county in the first place.
The county council argued for months about whether or not to approve the land sale, and ultimately gave the OK to the administration.
But by that time, the administration had a change of heart. Now, the Hamakua parcels are off the market, and the mayor hopes Kapulena will become a model of sustainable agriculture on Hawaii Island.
Once the infrastructure is restored to working conditions, and abandoned vehicles like this are removed from the property, the county plans to move cattle in to graze down the guinea grass.
Some community concerns still exist over the project, and a plan for an experimental set aside is stirring fears over GMO – or genetically modified crops. The mayor says that is not going to happen.
The project is paid for with up to $100,000 in county Research & Development Department funds and the use of county work crews.