The Hawaiian Homes Hall in Waimea filled quickly as about 250 members of the Hawaiian Homesteader’s Association gathered for their meeting last Tuesday evening, April 29. The big news was of Governor Neil Abercrombie’s arrival to present the $3.5 million USDA grant for the Waimea Agriculture Complex, and to congratulate those who pushed for funding.
“It’s so kind of you to welcome me,” Abercrombie said to the audience. “If there’s one thing I can do, it’s to respond to the initiative of Native Hawaiians. The spirit of aloha is alive in the Hawaiians, and they share this aloha with all who have come to these shores.”
The Waimea Ag Complex grant request was submitted to the USDA by Waimea Nui CDC, an organization headed by Mike and Trish Hodson. Owners of WOW Farms on Hawaiian Homestead land, the Hodsons have not only become successful at setting up their farm with greenhouses, they have taught other homesteaders to do the same.
“A lot of stuff was promised to the homesteaders back in 1952,” Mike Hodson said. “Now, as part of the third generation (of homesteaders), it’s great to be a part of what is about to happen. Self sufficiency is the goal of our homestead. We’re getting ready to rock and roll.”
The grant will go a long way to begin the infrastructure needed to create the 400-plot Waimea Agriculture Complex. Open to families and individuals in the Waimea Community, not just Hawaiian homesteaders, Waimea Nui CDC hopes to see many people come together to grow their own food and not be so dependent on food shipped to the islands.
The Waimea Agriculture Complex, located on 30 acres of land behind Kanu o Ka Aina Charter School, will have varying sizes of growing plots; from 5,000 sq ft lots with two green houses on them to 1,000 sq ft lots of straight land. The cost to rent a plot is not yet known, but the Hodsons said it would be affordable. Eventually, facilities to support the Ag Complex will be added; a commercial kitchen, a post-harvest processing plant, an anaerobic digester, and agriculture education offices.
One goal of the Waimea Agriculture Complex is to develop and support local farmers with low cost energy, which is where various other partners come in. Edward Hackett, president of EH Group, said they work on development projects to create renewable energy.
“It’s exciting to watch this project develop for community sustainability, and still be in the background,” said Hackett.
Scott Enright of the Department of Agriculture was present and said the new ag complex will be a “wonderful model for agriculture in Waimea.” Jobie Masagatani, chairwoman of Hawaiian Homes Commission, told the audience that the award was the first time USDA funding has been granted to a Hawaiian Homestead project in the state.
“This is an exciting time for this particular community,” Masagatani said. “Waimea has a reputation for being passionate about what they believe in, and the Hodsons have worked hard on this.”
Bruce Lindsey, who attended the meeting, said that although Senator Malama Solomon and Senator Clayton Hee were not present, that they were influential in helping with the project.
“They aren’t here tonight, but we want to say a big mahalo to them and to all that helped and who put us as one of our priorities,” Lindsey said.