- Associated Press - Saturday, February 2, 2019

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - The company that bought a vast expanse of Maui land from Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation plans to kick off its new operations by offering lots to local farmers to grow their crops.

Mahi Pono principal Ceil Howe III told The Maui News it will offer 1-, 5- and 10-acre community farm blocks to local farmers. Farmers would also have access to Mahi Pono’s equipment, management, budgeting and marketing services.

Mahi Pono is a joint venture of California-based Pomona Farming and the Canadian Public Sector Pension Investment Board.

It bought 41,000 acres from Alexander & Baldwin in December after the longtime sugar grower decided in 2016 to get out of the agriculture business and focus on real estate development.

Mahi Pono was looking at placing the lots near the old Puunene Mill, a central and visible location that has access to water and is sheltered from the wind, Howe said.

The farm also would provide plots for research and offer an internship program for local high school and college students. It also would have an advisory board of local community members, who would set the rules and parameters.

Shan Tsutsui, Mahi Pono senior vice president of operations and Hawaii’s former lieutenant governor, said the company is still working out how much it will lease the land for.

Mahi Pono inherited several non-sugar agriculture ventures of Alexander & Baldwin, including Kulolio Ranch, a 5,500-acre grass-fed cattle operation.

Tsutsui and Howe said Thursday that Mahi Pono’s future plans also include planting leafy green vegetable crops over the next six to eight months. It eventually expects to grow citrus, macadamia nuts and avocados for the local market. It aims to set up a farmer’s market and expand cattle operations and biofuel crop trials.

Mahi Pono has said it plans to produce high-quality, nongenetically modified food for local consumption with export potential. It has no plans to convert any of the land to nonagricultural uses.

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