Op-Ed: Mahi Pono Bringing Sustainable Ag to Maui
submitted by Shan Tsutsui
Mahi Pono Senior Vice President of Operations
December marked one-year since Mahi Pono was established to return active agriculture production to Central Maui. During our first 12 months, we have cleared thousands of acres of former sugarcane land and planted new crops – potatoes, citrus trees, papayas and onions. And in 2020, we are scheduled to plant coffee, citrus varieties, papaya and ulu, totaling approximately 700,000 trees.
We marked the start of the new year by donating nearly 30,000 pounds of potatoes from our first test harvest to the Hawaiʻi Foodbank that’s being shared with local families in need. The potatoes have grown and adapted well to Maui’s soil and climate, and we anticipate that the crop will yield an estimated 50,000 pounds per week which will significantly reduce the need for imported potatoes from the mainland. Residents will soon start seeing locally grown potatoes in retail stores and restaurants on Maui and eventually, across the state.
Our long-term goal is to bring sustainable agriculture to Maui with strong, integrated farming practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound and good for our community. But this will take time. Together with our farm team, we have learned a lot in our first year of operation and continue to learn more each and every day.
We are constantly looking at ways to improve our practices that will help to increase healthy, locally produced food for our community, while also being respectful to our natural resources and environment.
One of the new and exciting additions to our operations is a composting system that will help to reduce waste, increase soil carbon production and enhance nutrients back into the soil. The compost will be generated at Maui Cattle Company’s new processing facility, which opened earlier this year, and will be incorporated into orchard and grazing land development, as well as to our community farm lots.
Since having crops in the ground, we have received many questions on our growing practices. While we are working on progressive agricultural practices throughout the farm, many of our current and future crops will be grown conventionally.
Modern agricultural technology coupled with best practices, helps us to implement farming techniques and strategies that are best in classes and will provide us with long-term, tangible operational benefits.
We have moved completely away from using glyphosate otherwise known as roundup, which we know is important to our community and our environment. Our goal is to produce high-yield, successful food crops that will ultimately help Hawaiʻi achieve food security. And we do all of this while fully complying with label standards and local laws regarding chemical use that helps to control weeds, prevent fungus and manage diseases and pests.
Together with our farm team, we all live and work on Maui – this is our home. We are proud of the work we are doing to return agriculture to the island and we will never produce anything that is unsafe for our consumption, our families and the community.
As an island state, food security is a critical issue for all us and at Mahi Pono. We are committed to helping produce more locally-grown food to reduce our dependence on imports. Mahalo Maui for allowing us this opportunity, we are committed to making this a success for everyone.
*****Views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author’s alone and do not reflect or represent the opinions, policies or positions of Maui Now.*****