For Maui it’s been a week of lasts. The last of Maui’s sugar cane harvested. The last time the smoke stacks burn. The last sugar cane shipment departing Kahului Harbor. For many this has been an emotional week.
Sugar cane farming used to be the main industry in Hawaii. On Maui, HC&S started in 1870 when two missionary sons from the Alexander and Baldwin families started their very own sugar cane farm. The farm grew, grew and merged with various other farms, until finally having grown to 36,000 acres in size. Many immigrants were brought to the Hawaiian islands to work in the sugar cane fields: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos etc. These families have been here for generations, and sugar cane is a huge part of their family heritage. While modern farming is a lot less labor intensive than it once was, there are still over 700 Maui employees who have or are losing their jobs due to the factory shut down.
Why the shut-down? There are of course many factors that play into it. Did you know that Maui’s sugar mill is the last remaining on all the Hawaiian islands? Between depressed commodity prices, increasing competition and environmental concerns about sugar cane burning etc, it’s been a tough business.
What is next?
So what’s next? Check out this video! HC&S have said they are looking to go into diversified agriculture. More recently they have said they are currently growing some test crops, seeing what may do well here on Maui.
For now, the Maui’s sugar cane fields have been harvested. Most have not been worked up (this helps keep the dust down), but the irrigation is shut off. Slowly the cane is re-growing. We are all curious to see what will happen next!