Mahi Pono Officials Reach Out to Community
WAILUKU — When livestock manager Jacob Tavares meets with Mahi Pono principal Ceil Howe III, he can dive into the nitty gritty details of cattle operations — and Howe understands.
“I can sit down with him and talk about cattle types, forage types, irrigation systems,” said Tavares, who handles the livestock for Kulolio Ranch, which Mahi Pono acquired in December. “When your principal partners have that level of vocabulary, for us as farmers and ranchers, that makes the situation a lot more comfortable.”
As the ranch moves under new ownership, Tavares is excited to have the financial backing of a company like Mahi Pono, and the expertise of someone like Howe, a fourth-generation farmer and one of the leading faces of the new company that purchased 41,000 acres of old sugar fields from Alexander & Baldwin last month.
Community members who have gotten to meet the new owners feel a mix of optimism that Mahi Pono could create solid partnerships and help farming flourish, as well as the underlying worry that it could repeat the past mistakes of large-scale agriculture in Hawaii.
“I think all of us want ag to return as the third leg of the economy for food security and also for something that makes Maui no ka oi,” said Lucienne de Naie, conservation chair of the Sierra Club Maui group. “In order to do that . . . I think they need to make the soil right. They need to make it right with the Hawaiian people, and they need to have places where small farmers can actually participate in this new economy.”
Howe also recognized that in order for agriculture to move forward on Maui, both Mahi Pono and local farmers have to thrive.
“Our job is to come here and make our farm successful, but in doing so we have to make all the other farmers successful,” Howe said...