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Aloun Farms Owners to Be Sentenced

Kioni Dudley

Why it matters to everyone in Hawaii
by Kioni Dudley

Kioni Dudley is a retired professor who spearheads the battle against D.R. Horton-Schuler Hawaii in its bid to urbanize 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land in Ewa to build 12,000 homes. The company calls the community Hoopili. Once those prime ag lands, considered the best in the world, are prepared for the homes to be built on them, they will be lost to Hawaii as farmland permanently.

On June 7, Alec and Mike Sou, owners of Aloun Farms, will be sentenced by Judge Susan Oki Mollway. This should be a matter of grave concern to all of us. Contrary to what one might think, I don't know Alec and Mike Sou well. They have a clause in their lease that prevents them from doing anything to keep the farmland from being developed. And, in order to not jeopardize their lease, I have kept my distance. So I am not writing you based on personal friendship or loyalty. Many of us were stunned by the coincidence, however, when the Sous' indictment took place on the same day as our great success with Ho'opili at the Land Use Commission. It made us wonder, really wonder, how that happened? As time has gone on, many of the charges have been dropped, and a plea bargain has been agreed to. Two of the options Judge Mollway has are to sentence them to probation or to sentence them to community work. She could also send them to jail, which would gravely destabilize the whole Ho'opili situation, causing us major problems should Horton return to the LUC. Horton could argue that the farms were in turmoil and not producing, so why keep them in farmland?

Above and beyond that, however, the incarceration of Alec and Mike Sou would threaten the security of the people of this state. That seems an exaggerated claim, but it is true. They have essential knowledge no one else possesses about requirements for successful growing of a great number of crops upon which we rely today, and will rely on in the future. It is important to realize that we were sugar and pineapple growers for many decades. Diversified farming is new in Hawaii. In sugar times, the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association studied and perfected where and how to most successfully grow various strains of sugar. Thirty years ago, when Alec and Mike Sou began growing new, diversified crops, they had to find their own way, stumbling along, learning by experience which crop succeeded where. Different crops do grow well under different conditions. The Sous have far more rain, and far less sunshine, on their farms in Koa Ridge and Helemanu and even Waiawa than they encounter on their ‘Ewa farms. Some crops take the rain well, with little mildew or rot, some require warmth and sunshine. On Oahu, the hp (alkalinity) levels get higher at every hundred feet of higher elevation, requiring liming of acreage to various degrees for various crops. Crops are finicky about their hp. There is no HSPA to study all of these variations. Alec and Mike have painstakingly accumulated the knowledge and have it in their heads. They grow roughly thirty different vegetables and melons which our markets and our people depend on. They also provide a reliable source of specialty crops needed daily by chefs in our finest restaurants. Their knowledge, gained over the years, is essential to the continuing production of market crops on Oahu. Additionally, they have developed the markets and the lines to markets. All of the structure they have built over decades, the structure we need in order to assure the smooth running of our food chain, would come to a grinding halt if they were incarcerated. They are the largest producers in the state for many of our staple crops. Should they be jailed and the farm operations be sold, the new farmer would have to go through similar decades of learning curve.

A second fear is who it would be that would buy the farm operation. The Ho'opili lands are much sought after because they can produce four crops a year compared to the three in higher lands. Large corporations growing genetically modified seed crops have bought up huge areas of Oahu and other islands. They have no interest in diversified agriculture, and one would expect the locally grown vegetables and melons we have come to enjoy and prize would be replaced by seed crops that are shipped elsewhere, serving no one in our islands. Many locally grown vegetables and melons would disappear from market shelves and restaurants, along with our ability to provide our own food.

It is true, then, that the incarceration of Alec and Mike Sou would threaten our food security and could endanger our future sustainability on Oahu. The Sous serve a truly essential role in the continued well-being of our state. And theirs is indeed already a role of service to us all.

What you can do: Write a letter of concern to Judge Mollway. Ask her to keep them on the farm. Send your letter to the lawyers for Alec & Mike Sou. They will take the letters to the judge on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. You can send it by e-mail.

Address the Letter to:

Honorable Susan Oki Mollway,
Chief Judge United States District Court - District of Hawaii

Send it to

Law Office of Howard K. K. Luke
Davies Pacific Center
841 Bishop St., Suite 2022
Honolulu, HI 96813

Law office of Eric Seitz
820 Mililani St., Suite 714
Honolulu, HI 96813

Cc. email a copy to Alec at