Michael Saalfeld, a German industrialist and biofuel pioneer, has purchased the North Kohala acreage Parker Ranch quietly sold in August, according to government records.
One of Saalfeld’s many companies, Kukuipahu Makai, paid $49.3 million for 35 parcels comprising 3,509 acres, according to Hawaii County tax records.
The state’s business registry lists Saalfeld and his wife, Jeannette, as the company’s only members.
Located on both sides of Akoni Pule Highway, the contiguous parcels extend from Mahukona Beach Park north nearly to Puakea Bay Ranch. They range in size from less than an acre to a 1,681-acre parcel.
Tremendous secrecy has surrounded both the sale and Saalfeld, who owns other large tracts of land and Big Island companies.
Rather than offering its property on the open market, Parker Ranch in August 2009 sent a “confidential information memorandum” to a small group of prospective buyers. Each recipient “will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement,” according to the document from then-CEO William “Bill” Maris. He was let go last month after less than a year in that position.
In August, Parker Ranch issued a one-page letter to employees, retirees and ohana confirming the sale of roughly 3 percent of its 128,000-acre holdings.
How many of us haven’t at some time entertained the idea (except those who have already done so!) of running off to Kauai, buying a few acres, and “living off the land”. A potent fantasy indeed, and for the past several years, one realized only by those with considerably deep pockets – vacant agricultural land on Kauai has recently ranged from $100,000 to well over $300,000 per acre (depending on location, views, caliber of neighborhood, etc…); land with a house already on it, obviously, even more.
The recent economic travails, however, are certainly doing their part to bring farming on Kauai back from the realm of fantasy into something verging on do-able for a lot more of us. And as well, these travails are providing motivation – more and more of us just want to chuck everything and revert to a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.
Acreage on the Big Island has always been more affordable – for one thing, there’s a whole lot more of it; for another, it comes with active lava zones, limited infrastructure, long travel distances, etc… Kauai is like a precious green jewel-box in comparison – much smaller, more accessible, more groomed. The soil is older, the distances smaller, the beaches closer. And it has been much, much more expensive.