WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three months after buying the vast, 1,723-acre Galbraith Estate lands in central Oahu, the state is ready to turn the area into an agricultural hub by inviting Hawaii farmers to come work the land.
"Wahiawa was a thriving ag community," said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D - Wahiawa, Haleiwa, North Shore), one of the chief proposers of the Whitmore Village Agricultural Development Plan. "Whitmore Village employed thousands of jobs at the Dole facility and nothing really took its place. We have a lot of fallow ag land. Thousands of acres between Wahiawa and the north shore and we really haven't gotten a comprehensive plan."
The prices are yet to be worked out, but any farmers who invest in the land would get access to packing and processing facilities and a stable water source in nearby Lake Wilson.
Also, the thousands of workers who would be hired would live at Whitmore Village.
Neil Ho of the north shore's Ho Farms says the plan provides long-term land stability and works out logistically.
"Our head operation is in Kahuku and basically you just need a road closure and the guy has to drive up on the other side," Ho said. "At least on this side, there's multiple routes and it's closer to town for us."
The state did a similar thing two years ago with ag-land in Kunia. More than 180 acres of it, leased to small farmers, are now thriving.
Dela Cruz hopes the seeds planted here will lead to economic growth in Wahiawa town.
"This is a little different in the sense that what we are really talking about the revitalization of a community as well," Dela Cruz said. "So many people have to work in Waikiki or in town or on military bases, we hope with this you can still live work and play in the area."
Some longtime Wahiawa residents who remember the town in its agricultural prime are also looking forward to what the proposal can bring to the community.
"I think it is going to be a hub for different crops where the farmers can start their businesses here," said Jaime Ubongen who used to live in Wahiawa . "I think this will be a great venue for farmers."
Dela Cruz says the state would use the funds generated from the plan to acquire more land. Organizers hope to have the proposal up and running in about 18 months.