- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Nearly 500 acres of land on Oahu’s North Shore will be preserved for farming under a deal backed by Honolulu, the state of Hawaii and the federal government.

The $6 million deal with Turtle Bay Resort was announced Monday. Under the agreement, the resort must set aside 468 acres of its land solely for farming and conservation purposes. Housing for farmworkers would be allowed.

“This agreement guarantees this massive parcel of prime property will always be utilized to grow crops and help feed the people of Koolauloa and the North Shore,” Drew Stotesbury, CEO of Turtle Bay Resort, said in a statement. “There will never be gentleman estates or residential developments built on these farmlands.”

To pay for the deal, the U.S. Army chipped in $3 million and both Hawaii and Honolulu contributed $1.5 million. The Trust for Public Land had arranged the purchase through government land conservation programs.

The land is used by 12 farmers who lease plots and grow crops that include bananas, papayas, basil, tomatoes, eggplant and taro.

Peng Saysiri, whose family farms mostly basil on about 15 acres, said preserving the land for agricultural purposes represents a victory for farmers.

“They made a pretty big commitment to the farmers and to the state of Hawaii to keep this land for farming, to produce food for the island. Like they say, ‘no farm no food,’” Saysiri said.

The newly designated farmland will be in addition to nearly 630 acres of the resort’s land that was preserved under another deal finalized in October 2015. The resort earned $45 million for scrapping plans to build hundreds of homes on the property.

Plans for the new deal include a farmer’s market and a bike path along Kamehameha Highway.

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