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Hawaii senators fly to Maui to visit one of the state’s largest farm companies

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:13 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:25 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of Hawaii senators flew to the Valley Isle and visited one of the state’s biggest farming companies on Wednesday to get more insight on how to boost locally-produced food.

Since opening in 2018, Mahi Pono transformed 41,000 acres of vacant former sugar cane land in Central Maui into a hub of diversified agriculture.

Farmers grow everything from citrus and potatoes to kalo and coffee.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, Ways and Means Committee chair, sees the local farming company as an economic driver.

“They’re looking to hire over 700 people once it’s fully developed. That doesn’t even include the ripple effect of value-added producers and retailers,” Dela Cruz said. “So, there’s a compounding effect when you have this much agriculture and this much production.”

Shan Tsutsui, the company’s chief operating officer, said so far, they have planted more than 800,000 trees and are making significant progress in providing locally produced food, not just for Maui, but for the whole state.

“It is our hope that we will make a significant impact when all is said and done in terms the amount of food that we can keep here in Hawaii, the amount of food we can grow in Hawaii, and the number of jobs that we can create here in Hawaii,” Tsutsui said.

Dela Cruz hopes Mahi Pono’s model catches on statewide as part of an agriculture revival.

“Some of the things we are looking at as well are making sure we have a skilled workforce,” said Dela Cruz. “Community colleges and the Department of Education have also joined us. So, as the superintendent creates more academies throughout the schools, we can create agriculture academies.”

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino said he is proud Mahi Pono is putting Maui on the map in terms of self-sufficiency and food sustainability.

“We can really make the change and we can make this a central hub for sustainability across the country right here in Maui County,” Victorino said.

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