December 25, 2009 – Honokaa, Hawaii
VIDEO by David Corrigan
Leaders and farmers in the Hamakua region went on a field trip Wednesday morning through the Kapulena portion of the county’s Hamakua ag lands.
In November, amidst a storm of controversy over a plan to sell county owned lands in order to balance the budget, Mayor Billy Kenoi announced a commitment to make 1,739 acres of the Kapulena land available for community-based agriculture.
Wednesday’s trip was the first group examination of the project. State Senator Dwight Takamine, State Rep. Mark Nakashima, and members of the County Farm Bureau (among others) joined the mayor in a brainstorm over what sort of approach would be best for the project. Discussions included ideas on what type of crops would be best suited for the land, infrastructure needs, and community involvement. The gathering was mostly intended as an opportunity for interested parties to see the lands first hand.
The county says 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 project would be the largest of its kind in the state, dwarfing the next largest state-run agricultural park in Molokai by a thousand acres.
The lands are mid-way between Honokaa and Waipio 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 county says 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.