24 Acres of Waiʻanae Farmland Protected

Photo: Watermelon harvest at Kahumana Farms
Showing off a bountiful watermelon harvest at Kahumana Farms in Waiʻanae. - Photo: Kahumana Farms

Nonprofits Hawaiʻi Land Trust (HILT) and Kahumana Food Hub & Organic Farms (Kahumana Farms) announced in February the protection and expansion of prime Waiʻanae farmland through an agricultural conservation easement, ensuring that 24 acres of land will be permanently farmed to grow healthy food for local families.

HILT secured funds to purchase an agricultural conservation easement over 24 acres of land co-owned by Kahumana Farms and a private individual. Kahumana Farms then used the agricultural conservation easement funds to purchase the interest of the private individual, allowing Kahumana Farms to own and expand its farming operations over the entire 24 acres.

“This agricultural conservation easement means so much during a time when we want more locally grown food, yet land values are skyrocketing and farms are shutting down,” said Shae Kamakaʻala, HILT’s director of ʻĀina Protection. “It is beautiful to see how agricultural conservation easements can have such a dramatic impact on the protection of Hawaiʻi’s farmlands.”

Kahumana Farms uses regenerative agricultural practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and increase the health of the surrounding ecosystem. Under the easement, a small portion of the newly acquired land is dedicated for farmworker housing, critical to ensuring the sustainability of farming as a profession in Hawaiʻi.

“This partnership removes the threat of development and expands agricultural operations,” said Christian Zuckerman, Kahumana’s farm manager and director of Social Ventures. “We expect to increase production to 150,000 pounds of food annually to the local market, including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, value-added products, healthy school lunches, and our farm hub, which primarily serves new and socially disadvantaged farmers.”

This agricultural conservation easement is the first completed under HILT’s partnership with the USDA-NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) that began in November 2020. It opens the door to millions of dollars in federal matching funds to protect agricultural lands throughout Hawaiʻi.

This partnership, the first of its kind in Hawaiʻi, provides opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and the possibility of expansion for fishpond stewards to preserve their lands in perpetuity for the production of local foods, with wide-ranging impacts including food sustainability, community resilience, and ecological health.

Funds for the $1.27 million easement came from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and The Freeman Foundation with additional support from The James & Abigail Campbell Family Foundation, the Serendipity II Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, and Hawaiʻi Land Trust donors.