Brush Fire Damages 75% of Wai‘anae Ag Park
All of the 17 farm lots in the state’s Waiʻanae Agricultural Park suffered damage from this past weekend’s brush fire on the Leeward Coast of Oʻahu – four of the nine working farms are total losses.
The other eight lots are either vacant with leases pending or currently not in production. A preliminary survey conducted yesterday estimates the brush fire severely damaged about 75% of the 150-acre ag park.
Crops destroyed include tomatoes, herbs, kale, palms, plumeria and orchids. In addition, several farm structures (including a dwelling, trailers, sheds and shade houses) and farm vehicles, tools and equipment were also lost. Irrigation systems throughout the ag park were also severely damaged.
“All of the farmers in that agricultural park are dealing with significant damage,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, a long-time Waiʻanae egg farmer and acting chairperson of the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture. “Although the devastation is total on some farms, the spirit of farmers to replant and recover is as strong as ever and the department will focus on helping get everyone back into full production as soon as possible.”
“These farmers play an important role in our goal of doubling food production in Hawaiʻi by 2020. I pledge to assist affected farmers who have suffered significant losses, and help them get back on their feet,” said Gov. David Ige.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture Agricultural Resource Management Division, which manages the ag park, is currently working with the affected farmers in conducting damage assessments and providing other assistance.
HDOA’s Agricultural Loan Division is able to provide loan modifications to its existing borrowers affected by the brush fires. Low-interest loans are available to assist other farm operations that were affected by the fire.
HDOA is also hopeful that some economic relief may come from general liability insurance policies which the farmers are required to carry as a condition of the state leases.
The Waiʻanae Ag Park is one of the state’s 10 ag parks, and one of four on Oʻahu. The farm lots are located from about the 85-300 block of Piliuka Place and up through Kawiwi Way.
Agricultural parks are areas set aside specifically for agricultural activities to encourage continuation or initiation of farm operations. HDOA makes these lands available to farmers at reasonable cost with long-term leases.