Former-county council member Daryl Kaneshiro agreed to talk some story on Thursday afternoon at his ranch in Omao. I asked him about his life and his land. The conversation went something like this.
Daryl Kaneshiro: We’ve been running cattle on this place for quite some time. I was here for 25 years now. We had cattle. I was leasing this property from the Moiers. The Moiers had cattle from here all the way down to Koloa, and this was all sugar land — cane sugar land. We had to clear. We had to fence it all out.
The Garden Island: How many acres?
DK: Starting with 300 acres roughly, and the land started from Lawai all the way out to Koloa.
He pointed to a book of photographs from the late-1990s, when he started clearing the property.
DK: That’s Arryl — my son.
TGI: This one here? Look at him, he’s a young kid!
DK: Yeah! He was helping me fence. He was still in high school.
TGI: And who’s that? Some uncle or something?
DK: That’s me. Giving him instructions what to do. That’s me. Before I went on the County Council and got all the gray hair like this.
In 2006, Kaneshiro bought the land from the Moier family.
DK: I worked the land so hard, she (a woman in the Moyer family) sold me this property. All the way to Koloa Town. This was gonna become an agriculture subdivision, and she didn’t want that.
TGI: Better to sell to you, where it can stay a good, strong land.
DK: That’s it — and keep the lands like this. We had to do the back side, down to Koloa. That’s part of the development I had to do. Cause, I mean, I had to pay a lot of money for this land. So that helped us to do that. From the first house back there, all the way to Koloa town — that’s the development I did. So I built that, and that helped pay some of the cost for the land.
Kaneshiro sold the southern half so he could afford to keep the remaining 150 acres his ranch covers today.
DK: I wanted to have a place where the kids could farm and ranch. And that’s what they do.
TGI: You’re an entrepreneur, huh?
DK: I don’t know. I just wanted to farm. You know, everybody say, farming, farming, farming, but they don’t realize how hard it is. Lotta work. And if you really want to farm it then you gotta buy the land too. You can’t just be working and leasing the land. So I had the opportunity to buy the land, so I was grateful for that.
TGI: Where did you grow up at?
TGI: I mean where?
DK: Right across the street. It’s raining now. You can’t see it.
It was pouring.
This was all sugar cane. Everything across from our family was sugar cane. As far as you can see. From here all the way back to Koloa Town. All across here, back there where AES did the solar.
TGI: How did you clear it?
DK: We had to come in and work the land — real slowly, like that.
TGI: Just you and your brothers and cousins and stuff?
DK: Mostly me. My brother lives in Montana. Me and Arryl, as you can see, and friends helped, pitched in, as we continued to build the place up.
The rain started to ease up a little. We sat for a while and looked at the photo album.
TGI: How old are you?
TGI: Really? So the hard work must not be bad for you.
DK: Keeps me healthy.
The rain had almost stopped. Only a few fat drops splattered loud on the roof.
TGI: You gonna be out here ranching when you’re a hundred years old?
DK: I’ll be six feet under ground. I cannot live like that.
We sat and talked nonsense for a while. The rain dumped again for ten minutes, then stopped just as quickly as it started. The pasture was shiny with raindrops. It was late afternoon. There was no wind.
TGI: You were born in what year?
TGI: Right up the road?
DK: Across the street. I’ll show you where my family was. We still have a hog farm there we purchased in early 1940s. Right across the river — Kaneshiro Hog Farm.
He pointed a thumb back over his shoulder.
DK: It’s been there since 1940-something. When you go to all the luaus, all the hotels, that’s where all the pork comes from. So my family, my dad, was actually a poultry farmer, and my grandpa was a hog farmer. So I grew up on a poultry farm. And this whole area was sugar. I could always see them harvesting in the evening.
TGI: What was it like on this island in 1960?
DK: Quiet. Nice.
He paused and listened. The rain almost stopped.
DK: Very quiet. Hardly any cars.
TGI: Then what?
DK: My dad went out of the poultry business when me and my older brother left. My brother went to Vietnam, and I went to college. We had nobody left to run the poultry farm so he gave that up, and he became a carpenter, in ‘68 or ‘69, somewhere around there.
Kaneshiro went to a community college in California, then later attended University of Hawaii in Honolulu. At around age 24, he returned to Kauai and got back to work on the family hog farm. But he picked up odd jobs along the way.
DK: That was in the ’70s. That was when I was working for The Garden Island Newspaper. I worked for the ad side.
TGI: How did you go from that to this?
DK: Well, I was still a farmer.
TGI: Why would you get a job selling advertisements for the newspaper?
DK: Full time job. I needed a full time job. So I was working that and I was working animals.
TGI: Was it hard?
DK: It’s still hard. But I enjoy it.
TGI: And back then the newspaper had that big, big printing press in the back.
DK: Yes. The old big printer in the back, right in the back like this. I used to always go in the back there, cause I was always late at getting my ads in. Cause we had to make our own ads too.
I had to sell it and lay it out, those days. Now they have someone to lay the ads. I had to go out to the different businesses, sell, and make the ads. They always had to hold, wait for me, for the press. I say, wait, wait, we do one more. Then they slap it on the sheet, then they take ‘em.
He made the sound of the printing press, churning out copy — “chk-chk-chk-chk-chk.”
DK: So anyway. That was the early days.
TGI: Then what happened?
DK: At the same time, when I was working for The Garden Island newspaper, I opened a store called Expressions, clothing store. That’s part of what I did. You know the stores around here was Kauai stores. They didn’t have any fancy jeans shop or anything like that.
TGI: But your dad was not a business man. Was your grandfather?
I wanted to know how he knew to do something like that.
DK: No. Edith was. The office manager at The Garden Island newspaper. Edith Tanimoto. So she had a big influence on me about buckling down, doing business. She said, gotta do more. So that’s what I did. She helped us open a clothing store.
And from there we just kept going. Sold the clothing store, then I went into NaPali Cruise Line.
TGI: Did you make a good profit, selling the clothing store?
DK: I did ok. I still worked at The Garden Island newspaper.
TGI: Still? You owned a business and still worked at the paper?
DK: Yes. And the ranch. So up until 1992, we built this company called NaPali Cruise Line. We were the first to run cruises out from Port Allen with big boat. We had 125-foot boat, and go all the way across. Then in 1992, after the hurricane, we got wiped out because there was no business on this side, right.
So, we lost a few dollars with that company. And then after that, since we were out of business, I worked for Kauai Petroleum Company.
TGI: What kind of job?
DK: They called me an executive assistant, or some kind of assistant. I don’t know.
TGI: Was your skill with numbers or with people?
DK: People. I wholesaled Kekaha Sugar Company, Olokele Sugar Company.
He mentioned other accounts under his breath, but I couldn’t quite make them out. It had started to rain very hard.
TGI: Did they already have those contracts or did you make those sales?
DK: I did. I made all those sales with them.
DK: Well they hired me, and they said, if we put you on this, and you sell a million gallons or so you get a bonus.
TGI: How’d you do it? What was the approach?
DK: Well I knew those guys, right? I knew those guys so I just went out and sit with them, and talk to them, and get into conversations, and started selling fuel.
TGI: Then you got that bonus. They must have been impressed.
DK: Well, yeah, what the hell. Then I ran for county council in 1998.
TGI: Why did you do that? By that time you were becoming financially quite successful.
DK: Yes, but by that time i felt that the farmers and people like us like the ranchers were not having a good representative to explain how hard it is to ranch and farm. And with more and more laws passed on farming and water, makes it very difficult for a farmer to ranch and survive.
TGI: In what way?
DK: They say you gotta come in for this building permit to do this small little thing. When you need a stable, they tell you that you gotta watch your water. The state side start coming down on you. Then you start getting EPA coming down on you.
And we are the best stewards of the land. Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of all the land. And history gonna show you all the way from the plantation days.
Cause you need the water. You need the water for the cattle. You need the water for the animals. We take care of the land. We need the grass. The animals depend on it.
And that’s how I wanted the island to be. Where we can still be able to farm, be able to produce our own food.
And that’s why I bought this whole property, thinking that I can at least prove to these people that leave me a farmer alone, and I can do it — I can do it. You know, let me farm. That’s my job.