Farm project growing in Central Oahu

Farm project growing in Central Oahu

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Austin Kanamu and his father are on the ground floor of a budding plan to revitalize farming in Whitmore Village.

"We started with the tilapia first, and now we've gone into watercress and blueberries," Austin Kanamu said.

The Bullit Hatcheries fish farm sits on two of the 1,500 acres the state has acquired for the Whitmore Project. It's pursuing a land exchange for another 6,000 acres that belong to Dole Food Company.

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz grew up in Wahiawa. He wants to grow agriculture as an economic driver in his district.

"We can provide more farmers more ag land, so they can do more packing and processing, which means that we'll have to hire more people," he said.

Under the Whitmore Project plan farmers will get long-term leases, making it easier to qualify for loans. There will be workforce housing for farm hands. How many farmers work the land depends on the size of the crop.

"Cacao, in order to scale that up so we can process it locally, would be 300 acres. Bread fruit would be somewhere between 600 and 700 acres," he said.

Bullit Hatcheries is in the process of becoming food safety certified. Certified farms can sell product to stores and the state, decreasing the need to import food.

'It will help the whole community, the whole state, actually," Kanamu said.

Packing and processing will happen on a 24-acre site that will become an ag tech park.

"Processing involves a lot of heavy machinery, so it's a lot of high-tech jobs," Kanamu said.

"We're hoping that we can convert this area for ag tourism so that visitors can go from one processing facility to the next," Dela Cruz said.

He hopes what's done in Whitmore will become a model for other industries throughout the state.

"It's really a rural economic development plan," he said.

The fish farm is one of the first to put the Whitmore Project into practice.

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