Hawaii currently imports over 85% of the food consumed in the islands and we are seeing widespread public support for dramatically increasing the amount of locally grown food. The State and all Counties have resolutions or policies in place which promote increasing our sustainability and self-reliance. However, there are many hurdles to achieving this increase including our exceeding high land costs, inadequate agricultural and potable water in many places, high cost of fuel and agricultural chemicals and the high costs of shipping agricultural supplies and products.
If farms are to continue growing local food, they must be kept affordable for farmers. In the local real estate market today, arable farmland is priced far above the financial resources of most current or aspiring farmers. Prime farmland in Maui County currently sells for $75,000 to $250,000 an acre for smaller properties. Land costs are a growing problem nationwide and all too often farms are being sold to non-farmers for prices that are out of reach for farmers. This is a problem not only for current and aspiring farmers who are unable to purchase farms, but for local communities that have an interest in preserving access to locally produced food.
Consequently, many farmers are farming on leased lands which typically come with short leases (2-10 years). In addition, local statutes often prohibit construction of farm dwellings on leased farmlands. In such situations the farmers have very little impetus to put their own funding into extensive infrastructure (irrigation, permissible farm structures, expensive equipment, etc.) that may need to be abandoned to the landowner at the termination of the lease. Surveys of farming communities have shown the virtually unanimous conviction that farmers need to be able to live on the land to adequately protect their crops, equipment and infrastructure from theft, vandalism and invasive species (especially feral ungulates like deer, goats and pigs).