As part of its nationally-recognized North Shore Plan, we have dedicated 100 acres of land between Ashley Road and Punalau Street in Hale‘iwa exclusively for organic farming. Rather than lease the land as individual parcels, KS land managers are using a unique, whole-ecosystem approach.
We are currently in active discussions with a potential master lessee for the new Punanue Organic Farm who will partner with us to educate and grow new organic farmers. The site would dedicate educational farmland and facilities for this purpose, along with a co-op type program that coordinates a rotation of diversified farming around several plots.
While this concept is still in development, this farm is also envisioned to provide lands that are irrigated and ready to farm. It would also offer a menu of additional resources to support marketing of specific produce and value-added opportunities and support for individual farm operations — all things to make it easier for interested organic farmers to get started.
Over the last 15 years — and particularly since the development of the Strategic Agricultural Plan (SAP) in 2009 — Kamehameha has migrated from passive land management to active agricultural engagement and stewardship. We currently manage more than 800 agreements in agriculture, more than any other private land owner in Hawai‘i.
The SAP allows us to take a holistic view of our landholdings and to balance educational, cultural, environmental, economic and community returns. It also spells out specific goals and benchmarks over the next 20–30 years for increasing market share of locally-grown produce, restoring and revitalizing traditional agricultural systems, increasing renewable energy opportunities and providing local jobs.
This direct approach, coupled with our significant financial investment in infrastructure, has led to an incredible diversity of crops on our land today.
After the shutdown of Waialua Sugar operations in Kawailoa, 11,000 agricultural acres were immediately available. In 2006, we partnered with Stanford University environmental researchers at the Natural Capital Project and embarked on a two-year process of collecting data and modeling scenarios in order to help inform the planning for this abandoned sugar plantation. Using a software tool, called InVEST, the researchers proposed three land-use scenarios: growing sugarcane for fuel, diversifying agriculture and forestry, or selling the lands for a residential housing development. Ultimately, we decided to reinvest in diversified agriculture and the final plan for the North Shore received the American Planning Association's 2011 National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Sustaining Places. For more information on the Stanford Report, visit http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/april/hawaii-land-management-042412.html.
Monsanto farms 400 of KS’ 11,000 acres at Kawailoa Plantation. Their lease totals 1,033 acres, a small portion of the more than 180,000 agricultural acres under KS kuleana throughout the state. The balance of the property they lease is maintained as buffer zones and other ancillary uses, such as office and processing space.
Monsanto’s lease was originally issued to another company in 1996. In 1999, the original lessee sold their interest and assigned their lease to Monsanto. Monsanto has been our lessee since.
There are several reasons:
Our lease requires the lessee to comply with federal, state and county laws and all regulatory guidelines. Only if Monsanto is found in violation of the law then they will be in default of their lease with KS. Without a lease default, there is insufficient cause to seek termination of a lease that is otherwise in good standing. If we did, it is highly likely that the judicial system will protect the lessee’s contractual rights. Therefore, KS’ fiduciary responsibility requires us to abide by the terms of the contract.
Health and safety are primary concerns, and because the state’s Department of Health is the qualified entity to determine the safety of growing GMO seed corn in our community, we have to rely on their expert advice and research as they are responsible for making such determinations. They keep us informed as to the risks and benefits of these kinds of operations. We encourage folks who feel they are being harmed by any of the operations on our lands to report their concerns to the qualified state and federal authorities. To date, we are not aware of any GMO-related health claims validated by a public health organization in Hawai‘i.