Agriculture dominated local scene – The Maui News


Statehood & Business: Hawaii Statehood 50 Years
By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer

POSTED: August 23, 2009

In 1959, plantation agriculture was big business in Hawaii. The plantations were branching out into tourism, but sugar and pineapple – and coffee in Kona – dominated.

In August, with the days of the territory numbered, a typical issue of The Maui News advertised a total of half a dozen help wanted ads. The plantations didn’t advertise for help; they had their own labor recruitment system.

It dwarfed the nonplantation labor system. In August 1959, pineapple plantations hired 1,100 Maui youngsters on school vacations, most of them to work in noisy, hot canneries.

The jobs were much sought after. Damien Farias, owner of Maui Toyota, recalls waiting for three days on a labor bench for a chance to work at a cannery on Oahu when he was in school.

Statehood was expected to give a boost to agriculture. The summary of Hawaii agricultural history published by the state Department of Agriculture says that "with statehood, federal funds became available for the development and growth of Hawaii’s agricultural industries with funding for programs such as farm credit, natural resources and statistical services."

It did not, of course, work out that way.