From farm to stand to table

LIHUE — A Kilauea business entrepreneur is saying nobody is getting rich off a fruit stand. But he surely wants to feed a lot of people.

“I call it the Noah’s Ark of fruit trees,” Bill Hay said of a 60-acre property he personally cleared to plant an eclectic combination of fruit trees, including eight types of avocados, six different kinds of mangoes and many other fruits.

Hay is seeking approval for a 2,800-square-foot fruit stand across the highway from Kilauea Mini Golf. When his proposal landed at the Kauai Planning Commission Tuesday, commissioners were scratching their heads with the magnitude of the project, and deferred decision to their next meeting.

“How far can you go to bring it from farm to table?” said Commissioner Hartwell Blake, adding he is not for overregulation, but there should be a standard.

When you say “fruit stand,” he said, you imagine a three-walled building.

“This is a produce store,” Blake said. To him, the fruit stand was a “spot zoning,” a major undertaking rather than a “slap-it-up” structure.

Whether it was good or bad, Blake said he didn’t know.

Commissioner Herman Texeira said the proposal is a “great idea for sustainability,” but it could open up the doors for roadside fruit stands all over the island. It may not be a bad idea, he said, but the commission needed to discuss it further.

To clarify things, Hay said the stand itself is only 960 square feet. The roof, on the other hand, is quite large to protect shoppers and staff from the North Shore’s constant rain. And the rain doesn’t always comes down — many times it comes sideways, he said.

When he took on the project a few years ago, Hay said he personally put 1,400 hours on his tractor to clear the land. The entire land includes about 60 acres for planting and another 20 acres for cattle raising.

Andy Friend, who is helping Hay and his wife, Denise Hay, with the permit request, said when the application was first filed, the plans listed 2,000 trees. Since then the planting plans increased to 6,000 trees.

“This is the Garden Isle,” said Denise Hay, so they planted a massive orchard. But it’s difficult to distribute local food, and a fruit stand makes sense, she said. And they have many friends who are farmers and will contribute to the stand.

You can’t always get food from local producers, and that’s got to change, Bill Hay said. Farmers’ markets are only open once a week in different island locations. On the other hand, local producers can’t grow a bunch of food and vegetables and not be able to distribute it.

The fruit stand will help with distribution, but Hay said he is aware he can’t sell fruit from 6,000 trees in one stand. It’s all part of a bigger plan to say Kauai needs more agriculture to be able to sustain itself, he said.

And no, there will be no sandwiches or burgers at the stand, Hay said.

“This facility is to sell, market and promote fruits and vegetables,” he said.

Chair Wayne Katayama said just by looking at the structure, it is difficult for commissioners to make a decision. There were too many questions, and he and others wanted an agricultural master plan.

“The commission needs to sort of get the big picture, so we can focus on the application,” Katayama said.

Blake said he doesn’t object to a fruit stand — but he would like to see an ag plan that Katayama was requesting.

A master plan, however, is something Hay doesn’t have. He may propose a building in the back to process the produce, and there are other things that he may want to add along the way, he said.

“There is a certain element of experimentation,” Hay said.

Right now, there are 400 trees on the ground, and many more coming, he said, though not everything will be focused toward the fruit stand.

And did anybody mention labor-intensive?

“We are also planting organic, and it’s a challenge,” Denise Hay said.

Planning Director Michael Dahilig asked the Bill and Denise Hay to come back with itemizations to help the commission reach a decision at the next meeting.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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