Owners try to reassure Waianae residents over basil farm development

Owners try to reassure Waianae residents over basil farm development
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some farmers moving into Waianae are trying to reassure their future neighbors they won't pollute the air with toxic chemicals.

John and Sharon Zhan bought 9.4 acres above Kawili Street in Lualualei earlier this year. They're planning on growing basil on the property.

On Tuesday, they gave Hawaii News Now and members of the Waianae Neighborhood Board an exclusive tour to address community concerns, including the spraying of pesticide so close to homes.

"It's in such close proximity to lots and there are some concerns about the grading and grubbing and also the potential pesticide use," said Marc Paaluhi, chairman of the Waianae Neighborhood Board.

The Zhan's brought us to their 9-acred lot in Kapolei, where they've been growing the herb for the past two years.

They said the chemicals used there are safe and legal, but Kellen Smith with Hawaii Farmers Union wants to be sure.

"I think local farming is very important and I think the type of farming is crucial too, if we're spraying a lot of pesticides it's dangerous," he said.

Smith is trying to work with the owners in considering other alternatives.

"They seem open to trying different methods and trying more organic farming practices," said Smith.

The Zhans don't speak English very well, but they explained that a black tarp which currently lines their Waianae lot, will eventually be replaced by tall trees to help block dust and chemical spray for spreading to homes.

"It was real informational for us to go out and see what they're actually doing," said Paaluhi.

The Zhans said the basil farm development must move forward, but they want to do it right and that includes full transparency between them and the community.

"They know there are parameters and regulations, so keeping that in mind as they start their business is important," said Smith.

The owners hope to have the farm fully operational before the end of 2017.

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