On Nov. 6, 2013, Seeds of Hope had its premiere on Lana‘i Island at the Lana‘i High and Elementary School cafeteria. The event was attended by 21 people and generously co-sponsored by Lana‘i’s Makamaka Film Society. HRDC Board Chair Alan Murakami presented the film and participated in a discussion with attendees afterwards, facilitated by Simon Seisho Tajiri.
One of the most talked-about issues was the lack of young farmers to carry on Lana‘i’s plantation legacy and rural lifestyle, given the large agricultural acreage left behind by the pineapple industry, which left in 1992. An example of this that was brought up during the discussion is The Challenge at Manele Golf Course, part of the Four Seasons resort development at Manele Bay. When the development was originally approved by the Land Use Commission, three conditions were established, including a 100-acre agricultural park. Although the Department of Agriculture assumed the burden of providing water for this agricultural park, a lack of public demand and demonstrated need for the park’s use resulted in the postponing of this important irrigation infrastructure.
Some audience members ventured far enough to say that the lack of public interest in making use of the agricultural park and other farming possibilities may be due to the lack of a more deeply-ingrained agricultural legacy beyond that of the more industrial and centrally managed plantation system.
Currently there are only a small number of commercial farmers on the island with a significant footprint: Alberta DeJetley, a native of Moloka‘i who currently owns Bennie’s Farm and the Lana‘i Today newspaper; and David Embrey, who runs an aquaponics operation and also grows vegetable crops. Embrey, who attended the film screening, explained how he has had to recondition the soil because of its altered Ph balance due to leftover chemicals– a consequence of the plantation era that currently impacts the island’s diversified agricultural future.
Another attendee, Genji Miyamoto, is currently in his 80s and regarded as an individual with farming background and a potential bridge between Lana‘i’s plantation history and a diversified agricultural future. However with a lack of people getting more involved with farming, and without an institutionalized training infrastructure that is actively seeking to promote this lifestyle to the younger generation, there exists the concern that farming will have difficulty finding a future on the island.
Another key topic of discussion was the island’s water resources, which have been caught in a tug-of-war with development projects in recent years. Since the community group Lanaians for Sensible Growth contested the Land Use Commission’s approval of the Manele golf course development in the early 90s, there has been lingering litigation ever since over the development’s use of potable water to irrigate its grass (golf courses are notorious for their high water use to keep the grass green). In 2010 the LUC reversed a 1996 decision that had barred then-owner David Murdock from using the water for the golf course. However, a pending appeal of that reversal remains unresolved and billionaire Larry Ellison has bought the island. Ellison appears to enjoy a more positive opinion among the general public, and has publicly committed to desalinating brackish well water to create new alternative sources of water for the island’s resort consumption, including irrigating the golf course.