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Pondering community agriculture plots

LIHU‘E — The county is considering the idea of sub-parceling land on the Westside that has farming potential to residents.

In August 2019, the county bought 417 acres of land in Waimea from the Kikiaola Land Company for $5.3 million. About 120 acres of this land has high agriculture value, Managing Director Michael Dahilig said at a Kaua‘i County Council meeting Wednesday.

Most of the activity done in the last year to 417 acres the county bought has been to maintain or bring the property up to workable conditions, band now, work is being done to let this land be used by residents.

Office of Economic Development Agriculture Specialist Martin Amaro is looking into different ways to parcel out 10-20 acre lots that could be used for taro or other crops.

“What has become very apparent over the past few months is our supply chains do have weaknesses when it comes to food cultivation and food being brought in by barge,” Dahilig said. “We need to be able to support areas of the island to yield results in food security.”

And part of that is making farming an equal opportunity.

“We want to look at these types of options, as well as, provide some potential for individuals that need land that can’t necessarily afford the leases to come in and take 10-20 acres,” Dahilig said.

An application process is to be determined while the county focuses on getting the land up to snuff. The land, historically wetlands used for sugar cultivation, has drainage canals that must be repaired. Much of the land was overgrown, Dahilig said.

“We’re trying to get the land in a suitable condition to actually be at a level where a potential farmer does not need to spend a lot of money putting in heavy infrastructure, or spend a lot of time trying to clear it,” he said.

The county receives about $170,000 in revenue from two current lessees of the land, with approximately $20,000 in property tax.

Hartung Brothers signed a lease agreement through 2025 for about 160 acres, farming alfalfa, produce and livestock feed. And on another piece of the property, Maui Asphalt is working on producing aggregate and resurfacing supplies for the county’s resurfacing program.

Residents have complained about the smell of asphalt, which councilmember Felicia Cowden has smelled herself. Part of this is due to the cutting down of trees, which acted as a natural barrier.

Dahilig suggested residents reach out to the Planning Department that can investigate the issue.

Other plans the county has included expanding the Waimea Community Park and parking lot, so goers won’t be forced to park along the highway.

The original plans for the property were awaiting the feedback and proposals of the West Kaua‘i Community Plan. This plan was approved by the county’s Planning Commission in May and will begin having public hearings as well as a presentation to the council later this summer for a first read.

An addendum to this master plan for this 417 acres from the county will come after the council reviews this initial plan.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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