Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Musings: Obstacles to Sustainable Ag

In keeping with my practice of occasionally turning over the blog to guest writers, today we have a post on the obstacles to local food sustainability written by Les Drent, a 46-year-old Kapaa farmer. Les moved to Kauai in 1991 with a car and a couple of credit cards, then went on to build three successful brands under his company, LBD Coffee. Les owns and leases 34 acres on Kauai, where he grows several boutique crops, including organic coffee, fruit, corn and tobacco. 

I am as concerned about the future of these Islands as anyone, and it is my sincerest wish to foster a stable and sustainable way of life for my family, and our community. Sustainable agriculture of the kind that is being discussed today is a beautiful ideal. Everyone wants food grown locally. Everyone wants to keep money here in the Islands. Everyone wants food sovereignty and independence. These are unassailable virtues. But they are, I must report, practical improbabilities—if not impossibilities—for Kaua‘i. The numbers simply do not add up.

We are faced with a number of obstacles, any one of which by itself makes sustainable local agriculture nearly unachievable, but when faced together put it completely out of reach.

First among these obstacles is the skyrocketing cost of land, which is well beyond the reach of most small farmers. The greed of real estate speculators, the mortgage companies and the Federal Reserve who backed those lending institutions have created a situation in which land in Hawai‘i is overvalued.

In the current market, furthermore, development is far more profitable than agriculture; local planning commissions, which have been overrun by lawyers exploiting loopholes in zoning laws, have allowed prime agricultural lands to be developed. While it is possible to lease land and grow food, there is little if any chance that the profits from such a venture will ever be sufficient for the farmer to buy land. And as any experienced farm owner will tell you, the land beneath your feet is the only equity you will ever have towards retirement.

Second among these obstacles is the simple reality that we consume far more food than we can ever hope to produce locally. The population of Kaua'i is roughly 67,000. Based on my estimates of how much the average omnivore American consumes in one year, we would have to produce the following every year to achieve complete food independence:

10,050,000 pounds of wheat, rice, or corn
20,770,000 eggs
9,045,000 pounds of potatoes
6,700,000 pounds of vegetables
5,695,000 pounds of fruit
1,750,000 gallons of milk
1,675,000 chickens
67,000 turkeys
22,110 pigs
6,700 cows

These numbers are for Kaua‘i residents only; they do not even begin to account for the demands of part-time residents or the resort industry. Even at their most conservative, these numbers clearly illustrate that the rate of consumption far outpaces what our Island can produce.

A third obstacle is the high cost of living in Hawai‘i as a whole and on Kaua‘i in particular. Agriculture simply isn’t profitable enough to attract small farmers. Let’s suppose that it takes a combined net income of $100,000 before taxes for a couple to sustain a modest living on Kaua‘i. There is no food crop—not even boutique crops like coffee, chocolate or vanilla—producing enough per square foot to support the purchase of land, home construction and the cost of operating a farm while providing for that modest living. Many farmers who undertake such boutique crops come to the effort with a large capital investment, and many have had successful business careers outside of Hawai‘i. These farms may succeed despite the odds, but don’t be fooled by the romantic notion that these gentleman-farmer estates are either the norm or economically viable.

At this point you might be asking, “Well, if you came to Hawai‘i with nothing, Les, and became a successful small farmer, can’t anyone do it?” It’s a legitimate question, and the answer will illustrate why local sustainability initiatives are not practical.

My business looks like an industrialized, successful farm with greenhouses, a certified kitchen, a roasting facility, tractors and other implements, but the truth is that I rely very little on my farm to create the final products I sell. And what my farm does produce is subsidized with profits from other parts of my business: I operate a consulting company that provides various farm services to a foreign entity conducting research in Hawai‘i.

I consider myself to be a well-rounded agronomist and businessman; I have followed the USDA National Organics Program for eleven years while also adhering to the strict permitting standards established by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Both require extensive permitting and conduct routine audits that make an IRS audit seem effortless. I play by the rules, even going above and beyond what’s required. 

And I speak from experience when I say that sustainable food-based agriculture is not financially possible on Kaua‘i at this time without huge government subsidies. The costs make it impossible for farmers on this island to earn a modest living let alone to compete with corporations importing food to Hawai‘i.

It gives me no pleasure to state these facts and the conclusions they logically lead to. I, like everyone who lives in Hawai‘i, would love to see an agricultural utopia created here, one in which we grow our own food, generate our own energy, treat the land with respect and offer farmers the hope of a decent life. But those who push for sustainability have so far not dealt with the obstacles in an honest and clear-minded way. Sustainability has become a political brickbat to throw at corporate agriculture or a soapbox for politicians pandering to the electorate’s romantic notions about food sovereignty.

Sustainability can be a wonderful thing in concept, and there’s no harm in supporting efforts to produce as much food here as we can. Backyard gardening should be encouraged and local farmers should be supported in every way possible. Agricultural land should be protected from development. Best practices should be researched, shared and implemented locally. But we should not labor under the misapprehension that such measures can replace the systems of food production on which we rely. Unless we reduce the population of the island, and unless we change our diets to fit what and how much our island can produce, sustainable agriculture and food independence is a quixotic dream.

And in tilting at windmills by focusing on localism and sustainability we risk losing sight of the bigger picture. If we invest more of our limited resources to this effort than it can ever return, we are moving in the wrong direction. I do not believe sustainable agriculture is achievable or economically viable for Kaua‘i, and any suggestion that it can be is a misconception that demonstrates the disconnect between the well intentioned idealism of government leaders and the economic reality for Kaua‘i’s working farmers.

So where should our focus be, then, if not primarily on local sustainability initiatives? We should be strengthening our ties with those nations that do supply our food. We can best assure sustainability through improved international relations. My company, for example, is fortunate to have manufacturing partners in Nicaragua and China that help me produce many of the wonderful products we enjoy; without them, it would simply be economically impossible for me to create those products.

Additionally, I encourage political leaders, educators and economic drivers to emphasize educating our youth in bio-science, math, technology and business management. The United States has positioned itself as a world leader in those areas, and as much as the romantic notion of returning to Thoreau’s Walden harkens us, we cannot afford to ignore this future. We must embrace it, push into new endeavors, and show those that produce for all of us, we care about their livelihood.


Unknown said...

Thoughtful, thorough and explicit, this article should be required reading. Reality check.

Anonymous said...

100% spot on Les. And there are other challenges too. As Director of the Office of Economic Development for five years I saw first hand how difficult it is to bring Ag on Kauai to a higher level. Cooperatives could play a role, but our ranchers and farmers are highly independent and it's been virtually impossible to create a working model here. Also, many of our food farmers don't wish to expand. Selling at the weekly Sunshine Markets is enough for them - but that will never feed all of us. There was a very insightful study completed by OED and presented to the Council a few months ago that touched on these things and more. I'd highly encourage anyone interested to read it.
Beth Tokioka

Gina Lobaco said...

This is perhaps the most articulate discussion I have read about the challenges to sustainable farming on Kaua`i. Thanks, Les, for sharing your thoughts and hard-won expertise with us--and to Joan for turning her blog over to you today.

Your thoughtful, fact-based and cogent arguments stand in stark rebuke to the pie-in-the-sky claims of so many activists who airily proclaim that our island paradise can sustain us all with seemingly no effort and no modern agricultural methods.

Manawai said...

Les Drent - You make such a good argument that you may well convince the many leftists amongst us that the County should follow a socialist model and condemn all privately-owned ag land for redistribution at low rents amongst all the wannabee farmers.

But I disagree with you on the causes of why land prices are so high. It’s far simpler than that. It’s supply & demand where the demand for warm scenic Hawaii property is far greater than the supply of it causing prices to rise to the level where demand equals supply. This edges out the middle class buyer in favor of the world’s myriad of wealthy people who have in past decades discovered Kauai for themselves. Realtors, mortgage companies and the Fed are merely tools in, not the cause of, the transition of land ownership to the wealthy. You could add lawyers, gardeners, restaurants, hospitals and everything else that makes Hawaii an easier/nicer place to live to that list.

You might also consider that our taxing policies also foster high-priced development. Private landowners are subject upon death to a high rate of estate tax currently up to 56% (State & Fed) on the value of their holdings. To me the logic is if I am forced to sell my land to pay taxes then I’m going to make darned sure that I get the highest price for it so I have the most I can make left over. So it is also our taxing policies that encourage land prices to be max’d out. But S&D is the main reason.

But then…..I’ll stick my neck out and say “Who needs food independence here?” Did we all starve during Iniki and Ewa? No. So many less-than-critical thinkers give no credit to the ability of man to overcome and deal with large-scale threats. Have you even heard the term “peak oil” lately? Nope! That’s because it’s no longer a concern. If and when we do run out of oil, there’s all sorts of other sources of energy to power ships to carry our food over from the mainland. But an exemption from the Jones Act would certainly make food more affordable for us. But again, government gets in the way of affordability and thereby is one more reason born & raised folks have to leave their island homes for cheaper cost of living locales.

Kauai is slowly becoming the land of the rich as has happened in many other desirable places to live. S&D

Anonymous said...

Government didn't cause A&B to develop subdivisions for the 1 per centers. When land is rezoned, there should be some mechanism in place to ensure housing for all income levels. Instead, we get Kukuiula and Princeville. You think that will change with this council? Plus, all the rich who move here don't want to mix with the poor and people of color. They like segregation. It reminds them of home.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting article:

The Earth's Freshwater Reserves Are Disappearing

Most of the major aquifers in the world's arid and semi-arid zones — the parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater — are experiencing rapid rates of depletion because of water use by farms. As shown in the chart above — based on data collected by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) — this includes include the North China Plain, Australia's Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America, the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers of the United States, and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East.

The situation is looking particularly grim in California, a state currently suffering from extreme drought. The extent of the drought is visible in the series of GRACE maps of dry season (September-November) water storage anomalies shown below. Red areas show the height of the water in comparison to a 2005-2010 average.

California's Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 cubic kilometers (4 cubic miles) of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually. Over half of the water losses are due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley, according to Famiglietti.

No water, no farming. We may have to grow our own sooner than we think.

John Wehrheim said...

Excellent Les. I started farming on Kauai in the 70's and at one time managed the largest papaya and banana farms on Kauai. What you've outlined is my experience and opinion. The specialty and niche markets provide some opportunity for a farmer to "break even" but depend on tourists and wealthy local residence to make it work. Commodities are impossible without a guy like Omiydar subsidizing the operation. Yes, reality check!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent explanation. I would only disagree with your conclusion that high land prices are caused by the "greed of real estate speculators". It may be a shock to some, but the laws of supply and demand are probably responsible for 95% of the current land values in Kauai. I don't know how many tourists I've met who, moved by the island's unique beauty, express a desire to buy a 2nd home in Kauai, or retire here. I've never heard one of them say, "..and I want to do this so I can make a lot of money!". I think that's usually the last thing on the mind of anyone who has ever told me they wished they could live or have a 2nd home in Kauai. Whether a developer is greedy or not, the developer is not the party responsible for the high land prices in Kauai - people simply want to live in, or vacation in, the most beautiful place they can find. Why are land prices high in Malibu and Aspen, and low in Kansas? The real estate industry is simply the middleman in the tug between supply and demand.

Anonymous said...

Known as "Haole John" back then you worked
as a farm hand on Johnny Boy Akana's farm in Kalihiwai and Moloa'a. Later in life you turned around and developed the very valley that provided you a home and sustenance once you outgrew your hippie days.

Kanaka Maoli not only survived but thrived without any dependence from the outside and we can do it again given the land that was stolen and return of water. Many of the challenges are created by American capitalist culture and can be eliminated with a Kanaka model.

Anonymous said...

Hey 12:18 PM! Does the "Kanaka Model" include having a new Hawaiian royalty follow the old royalty that owned the vast majority of land where you live, sell it off to finance their wannabee European royalty lifestyles? Not much Ceded Land that isn't already owned by HHL in Kalihiwai and Moloa'a! Re-writing history is a bitch!

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis from someone who knows what they are talking about with knowledge derived from real world direct experience as a practitioner!

Anonymous said...

@12:39 - Taken straight from the journals of Thurston and the like. That's where the first re-writing of our history began and continues today.

All across Polynesia, land was not owned.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not owned .....but certainly sold

John Wehrheim said...

Aloha Anonymous @ 12:18 -- I would guess that we don’t know each other as my friends from back in the day call me HJ. Uncle Boy Akana gave me the name “Haole John” and I wear it proudly. Uncle Boy was one of the finest men I’ve ever met—he had a natural nobility--kind, intelligent and with a wry sense of humor. He named me when I started working as a diver for Boy Akana Fisheries. There were three “Johns” on his boat and it became not only confusing but dangerous when he would bark out our orders as we scrambled to pin the nets, contain the pile and bang out the sharks. Since I was the only haole he straightaway cleared up the confusion and reduced his orders to the fewest words possible.
You are correct Anonymous @ 12:18 that years later I partnered with my good friend and neighbor Delbert Goo and we bought and restored 40 acres in the valley of what was then mostly abandoned lo’i and auwai covered in hau bush and unusable as a result of the tsunamis. Delbert bought 15 acres, I bought 25 and we worked together to build upon the foundation of the community that Delbert's father created soon after he arrived from China in the late 1800's. To finance the improvements we sold some of the land but most of it is still in our families. My daughter and her husband grow kalo, fruit, vegetables and raise goats. Our families are “self sufficient” in kalo, luau, ong choy, papayas, avos, peppers, citrus and bananas and our daughter markets her surplus. You might want to call it a Gentleman’s Country Estate but our daughter and son-in-law live in two 20 foot shipping containers cover with a totan roof.
Regarding my "hippie days" -- I've worked 2 or three jobs for the last 42 years on Kauai. Back in the day when I earned the name HJ I was the photography instructor at KCC, worked for Boy Akana Farms and Fisheries, started a banana farm up at Namahana, designed and built my first hydroelectric plant, was providing ag engineering and irrigation trenching services to other farmers and worked for Monsanto and No-Till Farmers Inc. doing field trials in Kilauea during the winters. I sited the Namahana hydro plant above series of lo'i and planted kalo. We used pressurized water from the system to irrigate our greenhouses (cucumbers and tomatoes…) and furrow irrigate our dry land (pake) kalo. I built a processing plant and worker housing supplied with water and electricity provided by the hydro. The control energy from the hydro gave the employees unlimited hot showers—a great comfort farming in that cold and wet climate.
Those were my “hippie days” Anonymous @ 12:18.
I first heard the term “Professional Hawaiian” from Uncle Boy. I had no idea what he was talking about and asked him what he meant. I’ll never forget his wry smile as he explained. I won’t repeat it here, as it is no longer politically correct. Let me just say this: When I got to Kauai I thought I knew what hard work was all about. I didn’t. Boy Akana and his family taught me.

Anonymous said...

Once konohiki rights were no longer followed or respected, the demise of the kanaka way was complete. Fisheries went downhill to the state they are today. Uncle Boy was the last Konohiki of Kahili Kai, Kalihiwai and Wanini. If kanaka could fish and farm like the not too distant past, we could be independent of the continent. Many indigenous cultures understand and do just that.

Anonymous said...

Les, thanks for your snapshot of farming on Kauai today. I think one problem is that most people think the future will resemble the recent past. It will not, because it can not. If something is not sustainable it can not continue by definition. Industrial Ag food production is totally dependent on fossil fuel. We, in effect, are eating oil. Ten calories of oil are used to provide one calorie of food. Peak oil is now history. The easy low hanging oil is gone. Now we are polluting our ground water and our air to frack out and cook out the remains. The food industry is totally dependent on just in time deliveries and warehouse on wheels. There is a three day supply of food in the stores. Anyone who thinks that supply line will remain operational in the future is whistling past the graveyard. Anyone who thinks the only possible disruption to that supply line is a hurricane has not looked hard enough. There is a reason that our federal government is spending money like there is no tomorrow, they know what the future has coming our way, but they don't want you to know or to be prepared. The petrol dollar has no backing other than the U.S. military. The rest of the world is fed up with paying tribute to the U.S. empire and our unlimited money printing. How much food will you be buying when the dollar has no value? Every empire in history has collapsed, we are next. Anyone not paying attention to the earth changes and the cosmic events that are causing them is going to be rudely surprised. We can grow all the food we need on island. It was done in the past and it will be done in the future. It is the transition that will be difficult. The time to start making that transition painlessly has passed. Hard times and hunger are ahead.

Anonymous said...

Les Drent, thank you for articulating a REAL farmer's perspective of AG in Kauai as well as the State. I discussed with my good buddy from the Big Island that everyone should work on a farm as you grow up to truly appreciate what has been provided for you (I'm not talking about your back yard). The understanding of struggles and hardships farmers face has been lost. The only thing that continues to be passed on to the newer generations are perceived negative connotations of spraying. Education is the start, bolstering youths understanding of "bio-science, math, technology and business management" Les - well said. Another great Ag article from today: http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/can-hawaii-feed-itself/

John Wehrheim said...

Anonymous @3:37 -- In 1991 started working as a hydropower consultant in Bhutan, an indigenous culture, totally organic, self-sufficient and like the pre-contact Hawaiians trying to live in sacred harmony with their environment. I knew it couldn’t last. It was a rare moment in time that would vanish like dew before a rising sun. In a way I felt it was like my time with the Akanas when I arrived on Kauai in 1970s—an aberration in the rapidly globalizing world. There was no TV on the North Shore then. For that brief moment Kauai had a period of low population, very localized communities and natural abundance—a breathing space as the engine of the plantation economy wound down and the real estate bonanza and cultural assault of tourism had yet to begin. TV came to Bhutan in 1999 and the Internet soon followed. People moved to town from the farms for education, cash jobs and stuff. Anyone well read in Hawaiian history (or the history of any indigenous culture…) knows that’s the way of our world; and it was certainly the migratory pattern of the kanaka population during the Monarchy. Bhutan is no longer food self-sufficient. However, they are energy self sufficient (hydropower) and make enough hard currency exporting electricity to India to import much of their food. How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree!

Anonymous said...

A couple of points-
Les Drent- Great article and mostly true. Real Estate prices are high because the government will not re-zone land. The government squeezes the lifeblood out of anyone who wants to develop, whether for locals or new-comers. Ultimately, it is the wealthy who can afford property.
I am surprised that John Wehrheim has to tell us all what a great guy he is. Usually he s in the background. He is very smart and talented. His talents have been immensely multiplied by his wife , JoAnn Yukimura. All gates open when you have this asset.
John and JoAnn made a lot of money in their CPRing of Kalihiwai. He has had many sweetheart construction deals that appear to many to be because of his wife's influence. Also Bhutan in his fantasy, probably did not starve and expel 1/5th of it's Nepalese population...but I ramble. And John, the NorthShore may have been nice back in then, but still Haole John is not a proud moniker. Most of us old haoles that worked in Pine or construction back then made it straight up, do not call me Haole. There have been thousands of "Haole Boys" that got the racial moniker and they were always Haole Boys, forever, in the eyes of their co-workers.
Fact- JOANN Yukmura has been and is responsible for NO LOCAL housing. Her objective appears to have all the local people live in subsidized apartments (that end up costing more than single family homes).
She extorts huge dollars from any developer for her fantasies, loves to add sidewalks, waliking street dreams and other cost items and now she has her wish.....no development, no houses for the locals and only the wealthy can come and buy..JoAnn, the locals just like own one house..but, she is in tune with most of the newcomers and their lofty, anti-GMO ideals and the newcomers love her anti-development stand...after all they have their paradise now, so bring up the drawbridge.
Than you Les Drent and Joan Conrow.
No thanks to JoAnn Yukimura...as many live in three generation households due to her anti-Housing agenda.

Anonymous said...

When will you "locals" stop biching about what is happening on Kauai ? You blame anyone and everyone about everything You were here first.... You should blame your Mothers and Fathers if you do not like the changes. Take responsibilty or do something besides pointing fingers at others . Your problems are the results of your own famalies actions .

Anonymous said...

There's a couple of agriculture business models that are present in Hawaii that are currently effective. The first is of the large farmer who puts a lot of resource behind a handful of products and then generates income by volume sales. Those fresh market products that the model applies to are fruits and vegetable. Especially those that weigh a lot and those for which there is a large amount of consumption (high demand). This model puts private resource behind land leasing, irrigation infrastructure investment, and couples them with solid business practices. This model targets specifically certain fresh food items and may, or may not, produce and sell lower volume market products, such as jalapeno peppers. The very fact that the farmer has the technology and infrastructure in place for the main crops allows for the smaller items to take advantage of the scale.

The other model that, I think, is successful is the farm that focuses on 1 or 2 items only for which it gets very good at but does not make income off of fresh sales. The items that generate the income are value added. This returns 3 to 5 times as much income to the farmer as what the consumer is willing to pay for the fresh market version.

Additionally there is a niche model that has developed which is, overall, organic production and products. Typically organic farmers grow a variety of fresh products so that they spread the risk. In some cases there may be premium prices too for the certified organic label. Which is a bonus. But this is a risky model. The trend is toward more organic food consumption but the reality is that it doesn't take much land to fill all of the demand for a product (organic and conventional). For example, to fill our entire statewide tomato consumption, for one year, it could all be done on less than 500 acres. The bottom line is that too many organic farms will mean competition that puts many of those farmers out of business or, at the very least, forces them to sell product for a loss.

Within the organic model there is a possibility to focus on large consumption items that are heavy as well as a variety of possible value added products that would really tip the scales in favor of success, which is really what we desire as the end result of sustainability.

So, for would-be farmers (conventional or organic): Study the market. Within the context of what is in greatest demand can it be grown? Can it be grown in quantity? Can it be value added?

The basis for successful agriculture/business is to make sure your foundation is in place. That foundation should include your lease and your access to cash. Included in your lease is affordable irrigation water and energy. It is not possible for every fresh market crop we consume and can grow in Hawaii for this to work but there may be a few.

In this grand quest that we are on for agricultural sustainability we either accept defeat in the effort to produce all of our food needs sustainably or we take pride in the fact that we able to market a few of those crops successfully and sustainably.

P. S. Don't get me started on somehow producing our own sustainable inputs, such as fertiilizers, pest management products, lumber, paint, nails, vehicles, plastic, gasoline, etc.! If we are able to do that, along with meeting all of our food needs, then we will be truly sustainable.

Anonymous said...

5:16 JoAnn Yukimura has done more to build long term affordable housing on Kauai than any other politician. Granted it has not been nearly enough and many of her efforts to hold the developers' feet to the fire on their housing requirements and agreements have been thwarted by the politicians that they have in their pockets. Check the record. You don't know what your talking about.

Anonymous said...

6:06 Why did you waste electrons and our time writing that? We can tell the wheat from the chaff which you clearly represent.We're complaining about folks just like you and not everyone. Please take it personally.

Anonymous said...

10:59 "When land is rezoned, there should be some mechanism in place to ensure housing for all income levels."
A&B is required to build housing for all income levels at Kukuiula.

Dawson said...

Anonymous 6:06 PM said:
When will you "locals" stop biching about what is happening on Kauai ? You blame anyone and everyone about everything You were here first.... You should blame your Mothers and Fathers if you do not like the changes. Take responsibilty or do something besides pointing fingers at others . Your problems are the results of your own famalies actions .

You, sir or madam, will no doubt scream in outrage at the following analysis of your post. So take a deep breath and let fly -- your post is outrageously racist.

Your viewpoint is an echo from centuries of European and Euro-American colonial racism and a shoutout in support its continuation. You are the inheritor of an ancient tradition of Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Hawaiians and uncounted other cultures being blamed for their condition by those who directly caused it or indirectly profited from it.

Over the years, your forefathers have pinned "the native problem" on their heathen religion, their scandalous sexuality, their low intelligence, their lack of cultural sophistication, their backwoods clannishness and their backwards understanding of economics. Now it is your turn.

You're off to an excellent start. In one post, you succeeded in boiling down a centuries-old pot of racism into a sludge of sixty words of truth: the truth of the fear, insensitivity, narcissism and stupidity that breeds attitudes like yours.

Anonymous said...

"She extorts huge dollars from any developer for her fantasies, loves to add sidewalks, waliking street dreams and other cost items and now she has her wish.....no development, no houses for the locals and only the wealthy can come and buy."

Princeville, Kukuiula and these other "resort" developments are designed for and marketed to rich second home - retiree buyers. You think the developer's choice was this or nothing?

Anonymous said...

"A&B is required to build housing for all income levels at Kukuiula."

They have to build affordable housing units, but the bulk of the project is market housing (meaning million dollar lots and architecturally designed cottages) that won't be sold to local buyers.

Joan Conrow said...

8:17. They also have to build middle income housing, with the market housing subsidizing its cost.

John Wehrheim said...

Smart and talented? Why thank you Anonymous 5:16, I’m humbled by your praise. But I’m puzzled by your reference to my “many sweetheart construction deals” on Kauai. Most of my career in construction was with Trenchless Engineering Corporation—a high tech no-dig underground utility technology that has its greatest demand in dense urban corridors. While we did some work on Kauai, the majority of our contracts were in Honolulu, Hilo and Kona; and our main office and base yard was in town just off Nimitz across from Young Brothers. Can you name some of these Kauai “sweetheart deals” Anonymous 5:16?

Anonymous said...

The middle income housing is not being built in Kukuiula. Just like Princeville's affordable housing was built in Kilauea. Hard to market an upscale project as exclusive if you've got the riff raff living amongst the you.

Anonymous said...

Dawson & 7:37. Why do you blame others for your own mistakes ? The people that live on Kauai are responsible for what has happened in the past as well as what is happening today and will continue to happen.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dent seems bitter. I don't live or farm on Kauai - Big Island.

There are successful farmers in Hawaii. This is undeniable. I would caution readers that his cynicism should not be projected throughout the state. Kauai has it's own scene.

The crops he chooses, his production, processing and marketing savvy all play a role- and I'll cede that he is doing all well-but I don't know.

Perhaps his organic production methods are driving his costs up and yields down, leading to thinner margins? What is his definition of "sustainability"? At one point he claims he does "more than required". That would presumably include a higher cost. Why? Does producing coffee in the shadow of a giant impact his margin?

Don't get me wrong, I respect him and what he does. But if we followed his advice we'd import everything. Hardly "sustainable".

The cost of permitting processes and conditions imposed by counties to develop land are wildly expensive. Cost of labor, compliance with regulations, building materials, taxes, fuel and digging in solid rock all contribute to high development costs, to the point where ag can be more profitable than development. I've got the numbers to prove it.

But if there are people willing to pay, who likely made their money elsewhere, developers will fill that need. That's what you got.

Speculators speculate. Legislators legislate. If you try to shut developers down, you only drive the costs up and attract a demographic that can afford it.

We all pay the price.

Ag in hawaii is a vexing problem. If it were simple we'd have solved it already. Add to the mix a bunch of non-farmers banning farming practices, making wild, unfounded claims and lawmakers lapping it up. Who in ther right mind would go into farming under these conditions?

The same folks who whine about "sustainability" focus on environmental concerns, and toss out the economic and social impacts of their protests.

When they drive farming essentially out of Hawaii, what will be the next crisis in search of their Utopian dreams? We are allowing minds of questionable logic, reason and integrity influence policy. The result of this societal illness is yet to be fully known. I do know it's the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...


The above table is for the percentage of Ag to GDP. The higher the percentage the poorer or more developing the country. USA 1% developing Vietnam 20% war recovery Burundi 41%.

Kauai in the 70's Ag a major portion of our economy. Kauai in 2014 not so much. Go back. Not possible.

Dawson said...

4:21 AM said:
The people that live on Kauai are responsible for what has happened in the past as well as what is happening today and will continue to happen.

Your abysmal ignorance of the history of Hawaii, the consequences of colonialism and the effects of racism is no excuse for continuing the stupidity of the past.

Anonymous said...

All the backwards looking folk need to get a grip. Ain't no turning back.