By Kioni Dudley
Ho’opili is a 12,000 house project by DR Horton that will fill the entire area makai of the freeway between Waipahu and Kapolei, the area now occupied by Aloun Farms and Jefts Farms. To get an idea of the size of Ho’opili, one could put all of Waikiki, Ala Moana shopping center, and downtown Honolulu into its 1555 acres.
These are “prime” agricultural soils, classified as A and B soils by the UH Land Study. How special are A and B lands? There is not one acre of A land on the entire Big Island. Molokai has a small amount of A land, but no B soils. There are no A or B soils at all on Lanai, Kaho’olawe, or Ni’ihau.
Much of Oahu’s A and B lands have already been covered over by Mililani, Waipio, Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, ‘Ewa, and Kapolei. We must save what is left.
I have been quoted as saying that this is the best farmland in the state. I stand corrected by Dr. Goro Uehara, Professor of Soil Science at the University of Hawaii who has studied soils in many different countries. He says this is the best farmland in the world.
Why? It’s not just the great A and B soils, O’ahu is also perfectly situated in the island chain. Big Island soil is still very young, while the soils of Kaua’i are so old they have lost much of their energy. Oahu lands are mature, robust, and fully ready to produce.
And they can grow crops 365 days a year. There are rich soils in many places of the world, but snow covers them through frozen winters, and they can produce just one crop in their short growing season. Our farms produce year-round.
But what makes the ‘Ewa farms so special on O’ahu? Since sugar times, this acreage has been called the Golden Triangle. It is a low lying area, with plenty of sun and gentle winds, and it has an abundance of clean, cheap water. While one might assume that higher lands that get more rain would be better for farming, what crops really need in order to grow is sunlight. Farmers far prefer to regulate the water through irrigation, giving crops just what they need.
Higher farms with frequent cloud cover and lots of rainfall also have major problems with insects that love the wet conditions. They must use insecticides, polluting the ground, and often have to trim their crops before sending them to market, cutting into their profits.
These lands also have excellent drainage which prevents root rot. Also unlike higher elevation lands, their soils have near-perfect 6.5 ph levels, requiring no expensive soil remediation for alkalinity or acidity.
The Golden Triangle is truly our breadbasket. It produces four crops a year, compared to three on the north shore and in the central highlands, and two in Waimanalo. And these lands are close to markets.
These are not small advantages. We’ve always heard that costs are too high to produce our food locally. These are the reasons local producers can produce fresh high quality fruits and vegetables at a competitive price.
The fact is, however, that as the houses of Ho’opili are built, the ‘Ewa farms will completely disappear. There’s no place to move to. There’s truly nowhere for them to go.
There are 1555 acres of farmland to move. All of Kunia is sold except 400 acres which have all of the highland problems mentioned above, and no guaranteed water.
The North Shore highlands are relatively empty, but that land is irrigated by water from Lake Wilson. After years of sewage from Wahiawa and Schofield Barracks being emptied into the lake, state and federal regulations will not allow edible crops that touch the ground to be grown on land irrigated with that water. Almost all of the crops grown in the Golden Triangle come under that prohibition.
All of the other arable land on the Oahu is already being farmed by others.
There is plenty of land on other islands, but transportation adds so much to the cost that farmers can’t compete.
The truth is that the farms in the Triangle will simply close, and we will forever lose one of our greatest treasures. Once the land is covered, it can never be reclaimed.
We only grow 15% of our fresh produce. That is irresponsible enough in itself. Can we really afford to lose our breadbasket? Is it fair to future generations?
What will happen to the workers? Two hundred farm jobs will be lost. Most of these workers have no other skills. How will they find other work?
Finally, what will happen to the soil? This prime farmland has high clay content that expands and contracts — fantastic for growing, but a major problem for builders because it causes foundations to crack. So they will be excavating the A and B level soil before building their houses and other buildings. In the past, because it’s “no good” for anything, they have often taken it to the dump.
So let’s get it straight: they are going to close down our highest producing farms, excavate the best soil in the world, take it to the dump, fill the holes with coral, and build houses, many of which will be bought by people who don’t live here, so that developer D.R. Horton a Delaware Company can take the profit elsewhere.
Well, we can’t eat houses.
Write the Land Use Commission at P.O. Box 2359, 96804, or at email@example.com. For more information, or to sign our petition, check out www.stophoopili.com.
Dr. Kioni Dudley, as president of the Friends of Makakilo, is an intervenor before the Land Use Commission for people affected by the project.
HPI note: Get involved.
According to an email received this afternoon (Monday, August 24) from Dr. Dudley to the Friends of Makakilo, the Land Use Commission hearing this Friday is pivotal, and at that time petitions by the people will be turned in.
Says Dr. Dudley, “This is really a historic case. If we win, we will have saved farmland that is crucial to the survival of future generations on this island. And we will all continue to have fresh vegetables and fruits in the market. We also will have shortened the commute time for 70,000 – 80,000 people each day. And we will have established the grounds that could be the key to curtailing sprawl and keeping our Hawaii the Paradise it should be.
“When this is over, you will wish you had done something to be a part of it. Please do it now. Copy the attached petition. Take it to work, to other family members, and next door. . . . Even two or three names would make a difference. Forty-eight out of fifty people will be eager to sign it. Please consider doing this now. And get it to a post office by the final Wednesday pick-up.“
For those who can’t take the petition to others, they can sign the petition on the organization’s website: www.stophoopili.com
How to contact the Land Use Commission. [Stop Ho’opili]
Land Use Commission website, including contact information. If you send in your testimony, the LUC would like you to include your address, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Massive development planned for Ewa Plain could have big impact [The Honolulu Advertiser]
Leeward Oahu Farmland to Be Lost to Major Development [HPI] (video)
D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes Company information by Hoovers.
D.R. Horton’s website on the Ho’opili project