Trucked in from Pu‘unēnē Mill, mountains of raw sugar occupy Kahului Trucking & Storage’s warehouses at the Port of Kahului — at least for now. As bulldozers plow through the raw sugar, it falls through openings in the floor onto waiting conveyor belts that carry it to a ship’s hold for transport to California, where the raw sugar and molasses are further refined for distribution. The closing of HC&S will soon make a molehill out of that mountain.
The Land Will Not Be Abandoned
HC&S will continue to farm. But under what name, and growing what?
For decades the company has experimented with crops other than sugar. Right now it’s conducting wide-scale trials of soybean, corn, sorghum, and sunflower. No other crop can withstand the winds of Maui’s central plain quite the way sugarcane did. Nevertheless,
“We want to get this land redeployed,” Benjamin said in a September interview on Hawai‘i Public Radio. “We’re looking to the community for solutions.” He says the company has received hundreds of proposals, “some of which we’re pursuing.”
Meanwhile, HC&S manager Rick Volner is determined to protect the farm’s fertility by means of cover crops and conservation strategies. “In most of the fields, immature cane is being mulched into the ground to create a protective layer,” he says. “In harvested fields, grasses and vines are allowed to come up, and these will be mowed to manage them.” He intends to test new agricultural techniques “to improve soil health and minimize artificial inputs.” The land will not blow off to Kīhei in a dust storm, nor will it run into the sea to choke the reefs.