Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joel La Pinta, of Kennedy Wilson, said 5,800 Ka`u acres, including the 400 acres where award-winning Ka`u Coffee grows, have potential buyers. Photo by Geneveve Fyvie 

“WE’VE GOT OUR CONTESTANTS IN PLACE,” said real estate broker Joel La Pinta regarding the Lehman Brothers sale of the 5,800 acres which includes the Moa`ula and Pear Tree lands where most of the Ka`u Coffee farmers are growing their famed coffee. When asked yesterday whether Lehman was still taking offers, La Pinta, who works for Kennedy Wilson, the company that is representing the seller, said that “we always take offers until closing,” but that the potential buyers have been identified. 
      At risk is the future of the Ka`u Coffee farmers who have built an industry over nearly two decades, since the sugar plantation shut down in 1996. Almost all of the coffee farmers’ leases have run out, and without new leases, buyers could decide to farm the lands themselves or to require the farmers to sell all or a portion of their coffee to them so they could become controlling brokers of the coffee. The land, which was set up for subdivision by the owners foreclosed on, could be subdivided by new owners and sold off as estates where the famous Ka`u Coffee grows. Most farmers, who already own other homes in Pahala and Na`alehu where they live with their families, say they could not afford to purchase such estates. Prices would likely be beyond the farmers, as subdividing would require expensive infrastructure necessary for housing but unnecessary for the Ka`u Coffee farms.
Ka`u land for sale by broker Kennedy Wilson is located above Pahala and Honu`apo
Park, at Waikapuna and in Na`alehu.
      A number of the coffee farmers have created their own brand names, selling coffee to restaurants, by mail order and to specialty coffee stores and markets. These entrepreneurs are not only farmers but involved in the value-added economics of owning their own mercantile businesses, elevating their income and keeping the money in the local economy. They say they want to be free to sell coffee to the markets they have developed for themselves.
      Mayor Billy Kenoi said recently he would do everything he could to keep the farmers on the land. Proposals have included encouraging any new owners to create an agricultural park on 400 of the acres where the coffee is farmed in order to take subdivision and real estate speculation out of the future of the Ka`u Coffee farmers’ lands. To create such an agricultural park, land where the coffee farms are located could possibly be purchased using Legacy Land funds and possibly funds from the “two percent” of property taxes that are used to preserve valuable lands for the county, in the same way that Honu`apo and Kawa were preserved here and a large parcel of agricultural land was set aside on O`ahu. Other proposals have included strict agricultural easements on the property to prevent it from being subdivided for coffee estates, similar to Napa Valley-style estates that cropped up in the wine-growing country in California.
      The work of the Ka`u Coffee farmers has been described as one of the most successful post-sugar plantation economies in Hawai`i, with land security being the major risk to the farmers.
      The land where most of the farmers have their coffee was foreclosed on by lender Lehman Brothers when developers failed to pay back a $45 million loan plus interest, which they borrowed against the land. Lehman put the 5,800 acres up for sale, including ranch lands above Na`alehu, coastal lands at Waikapuna and coffee farms and pastures above Pahala.
      Ka`u Coffee Growers Cooperative President Gloria Camba said she hopes whoever buys the land will allow the farmers to stay there.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Funding from Hawai`i County will help defray the cost of
Beauveria bassania in the battle against the coffee berry
borer. Photo from Global Citizen Year 
KA`U FARM BUREAU has received $25,000 in funding from the county of Hawai`i to fight the coffee berry borer, according to Ka`u Coffee Growers Cooperative President Gloria Camba. The money went from the county to the state Farm Bureau and to Ka`u Farm Bureau. The fund is being used to match money spent by qualified farmers – up to 50 percent of the cost of the spray – to fight the borer. Farmers are required to take a class on application of the spray before being funded. According to Camba, farmers must provide receipts showing they purchased the spray in order to be refunded 50 percent. She said she hopes that all the farmers will use best practices to help eliminate the coffee berry borer from Ka`u farms. Scientists from the state Department of Agriculture said during Ka`u Coffee College on Sunday that some Kona farmers have reduced coffee berry borer infestation to five percent with good practices, which include timely spraying and keeping farms clean, even when they are surrounded by other abandoned farms infested with the borer.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar

U.S. SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ LEADS U.S. REP. COLLEEN HANABUSA 49 percent to 34 percent in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a new poll conducted May 9-11 on behalf of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee that endorsed Schatz in February.
      The poll cited Shatz’s support of expanding Social Security and increasing the minimum wage as reasons given by those polled.
      “Sen. Schatz is proving that fighting for economic populism that builds the middle class is a winning strategy for Democrats,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. “These results are a forceful rebuke to those Democrats who supported cuts to Social Security, sending a clear message that Hawai`i wants a senator willing to go to Washington and fight against income inequality every day.”
      The two candidates compete in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

A Hawai`i public education campaign focuses on equity for domestic workers.
THE ABERCROMBIE ADMINISTRATION HAS LAUNCHED a multilingual public education campaign about a new law that establishes equity for Hawai`i’s domestic workers. Signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last year, Act 248, Session Laws of Hawai`i 2013, provides for minimum wage, overtime, discrimination, and harassment protections for domestic workers. Prior to Act 248, domestic workers were excluded from these basic protections of state wage, hour, and fair employment laws afforded to others.
      “Hawai`i is the second state to pass laws that protect domestic workers from discrimination at work and provide overtime and minimum wage protections that all workers deserve,” Abercrombie said. “The goal of the ‘Domestic Workers Have Rights’ public education campaign is to raise awareness because these new protections are meaningless if workers and their employers do not know about them.”
      Dr. Nancie Caraway, First Lady of the state and chair of the Domestic Workers Have Rights Working Group, said, “This education campaign is about peace and justice in the home. It’s about showing the humanity of a long devalued kind of work.”
      Workers protected include housekeepers, childcare workers, caretakers, maids and gardeners among others that work in the home of their employers. Mila Kaahanui, executive director of the Office of Community Services, said, “These workers are often hidden from view, and many may have limited English proficiency.”
      The Domestic Workers Have Rights campaign has created informational material in 10 different languages and English. The campaign will reach out into the community through OCS’s Immigrant Resource Centers on Kauai, O`ahu and Hawai`i. Educational material will also be available on the DLIR website and disseminated through community organizations.
      For more information, see labor.hawaii.gov/domestic-workers-rights.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

VOLCANO SCHOOL OF ARTS & SCIENCES presents Middle School Theatre Night tomorrow, with classes offering four one-act productions beginning at 6 p.m. at Kilauea Military Camp Theatre in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. 
      The fifth grade presents a Russian folk story, The Frog Princess, by Cathy Howard. This tale is a lesson in acceptance.
      The sixth-grade presentation is a western melodrama, Mine, All Mine or From Ghost Town to Kaboom Town, by Denise K. Burr. As with all melodramas, audience members will want to cheer the hero and boo the villain.
      The seventh grade is showcased in The Brothers Grimm: Out of Order. This comedy contains many favorite fairy tale characters, in a funny take on a community group putting on a show.
      The eighth grade presents Doc, Doc…Goose! by Patrick Rainville Dorn, a fun romp with many favorite nursery rhyme characters.

CATHY AND TYSON BLACK DEMONSTRATE coconut leaf weaving Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Volcano Art Center Gallery porch in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Free; park entrance fees apply. Call 967-8222 for more information.

KA`U FARMERS UNION UNITED meets Saturday at 5 p.m. at Ka`u Coffeehouse & Guesthouse next to the 76 gas station in Na`alehu. For more information, email Malian Lahey at malian@kauspecialtycoffee.com.


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