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Ewa Farmland: Best in the World?

Aloun Farms, on prime Ewa farmland/photo by enaduris/Click to see enlargement

D.R. Horton-Schuler, mainland developer, wants to build over prime Oahu farmland, destroying it forever

Kioni Dudley, Ph.D. (his degree is in philosophy), staunch defender of the 1,555 acres of prime farmland on which developer D.R. Horton-Schuler wants to build a massive development project called Hoopili, says those farmlands are the best in the world.

Horton-Schuler owns the land, located on the Ewa plain near Kapolei, but must get it rezoned from agriculture to urban, residential or some other designation to be able to build there. The development will destroy the land for farming forever. The company has run into stiff opposition to the rezoning, but is not giving up. It has worked for years to get the land rezoned.

Fact check on the claim that the Ewa farmland is the best in the world

But is that land really the best in the world, as Dudley says? Besides him, says who?

Says Goro Uehara, University of Hawaii soil specialist, according to Dr. Dudley.

Honolulu Civil Beat investigated.

Honolulu Civil Beat's fact check, published yesterday, notes that Dr. Uehara is now retired, but the publication checked with Russell Yost, a researcher and soil specialist at the University of Hawaii. Yost states that the Ewa ag land where Hoopili is projected to be built is special indeed, although he stops short of saying it's the best in the world.

Yost says of the Ewa farmland, “It’s very, very high-quality land for producing many kinds of things. There’s no question about that. It’s really, really excellent land.” (quoted in Honolulu Civil Beat)

The Ewa farmland is rated mostly A (the best), with the remainder B (next best). There's not that much land, even in Hawaii, that is rated that high.

This writer did get the opportunity to ask Dr. Goro Uehara about the quality of the Hoopili land before he retired. The interview took place in September 2009. The Hawaii nisei's specialty was soil-plant-water relations and the physics and chemistry of tropical soils. He was the principal investigator for diversified crops on former sugarcane land. The Ewa farmland is on former Oahu Sugar Company land.

Dr. Uehara said that Hawaii has a year-round mild climate, which means a long growing season and multiple crops per year. There's no other land like that, he continued. This is why the [GMO] mainland corn seed growers pay high prices for farmland in Hawaii. It's superior to farmland even in famous corn-growing states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois. Nothing on the mainland matches the quality of the Ewa farmland, he said.

Public strongly backs keeping Ewa farmland for farming

Around August and September of 2009 I solicited members of the public to sign a petition against rezoning the Ewa farmland. I found that almost everyone wanted to keep the land for agricultural use and readily agreed that rezoning it for buildings and houses was a bad idea. Getting signatures on the petition was pretty easy.

Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms

One notable exception was Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms, who politely objected to the petition I was passing around. On a stage in front of an audience of over 100 people who were there to support fresh, wholesome food, he said that he didn't think the effort to keep Hoopili from being built years after the plans to urbanize were announced was right.

But hardly any of Hawaii's public was aware of those plans. The choice was and is between disappointing a mainland developer looking to make a handsome profit by building over valuable Hawaii farmland and keeping that farmland as the irreplaceable trust that it is. Horton-Schuler bought the land knowing that it was zoned for agriculture. They should also have been well aware of its high farming value.

A couple of weeks ago I was shocked to hear a radio ad, repeated frequently over a period of time, for D.R. Horton-Schuler's Hoopili project. It was narrated by none other than this same Dean Okimoto, the Nalo Farms owner. The ad urges support for the Hoopili development. Okimoto, introducing himself as the owner of Nalo Farms, says that the loss of the Ewa farmland will have a negligible impact on the amount of Hawaii's crops, that it's less than one percent of the farmland in the islands and that the residential areas in the Hoopili project will have some areas set aside for gardens. There's no mention of just how high the quality is of the farmland that will be lost permanently to the project.

Dean neglected to tell me or the audience at the time of his objections back two years ago of any connection that he had to D.R. Horton-Schuler. His online resume doesn't mention it either.

Hawaii maps show little prime farmland left

Read the Honolulu Civil Beat article on the quality of the Ewa farmland, then look at the maps that show how little prime farmland Hawaii has. The Ewa land, with its access to abundant clean water, year-round sunshine and good drainage, is among the best of the best. The best in the nation, and quite possibly the best in the world.

Civil Beat fact checks "best farmland in the world" claim [Honolulu Civil Beat]


Ho’opili – The Real Facts about That Ag Land [HPI] Aug 24, 2009

Land Use Commission keeps Ho‘opili development plans alive [The Hawaii Independent] Jun 30, 2011

There’s something about Hoopili [Honolulu Weekly] Sep 2, 2009

Ho'opili input welcome [The Honolulu Advertiser] Mar 31, 2008

Want to save the Ewa farmland? Your help is sorely needed. Get started by sending Kioni Dudley an email volunteering to assist.