Ag facility to benefit Kamehameha Schools’ tenant farmers

  • Courtesy photo Kamehameha Schools hosted a blessing last week to mark the completion of construction of the facility in East Hawaii.
  • Courtesy photo Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Island Senior Director Alapaki Nahale-a, left, and Land Asset Manager Leanne Okamoto test the water hoses in the washing station of the post-harvest facility.
  • Courtesy photo Kamehameha Schools East Hawaii Regional Director Kilohana Hirano inspects the appliances in the commercial kitchen of the post-harvest facility.

Kamehameha Schools completed construction Tuesday on a produce processing facility in East Hawaii for farmers to prepare crops for sale.

The 1,000-square-foot agricultural post-harvest processing facility is located outside of downtown Hilo and includes a commercial kitchen and washing station for tenant farmers of Kamehameha Schools to process their produce. The facility is thought to be the first of its kind in East Hawaii and provides a clean and modern space for tenant farmers to prepare crops for sale.

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“The post-harvest facility will benefit farmers by providing a conveniently located, purpose-built facility near their farm operations,” said Leanne Okamoto, Kamehameha Schools land asset manager. This will reduce transport costs and improve the efficiency of produce washing practices.”

Okamoto said the facility might operate on a system wherein farmers rent time to use it, but noted that a complete business model for the site has not been determined.

Farmers using the facility will be able to more easily meet federal food safety regulations, allowing for greater local production and sale of value-added products.

“Completion of the post-harvest wash station and commercial kitchen for KS farmers in the East Hawaii Region will enhance the marketability of KS farmers’ crops and products,” said East Hawaii Regional Director Kilohana Hirano in a statement.

“With the completion of this facility, we hold true to our values that ‘aina is a resource for learning, community well-being and Native Hawaiian identity, making KS’ East Hawaii lands inherently positioned for a transformative impact for our lahui.”

“The largest asset to farmers in Hawaii is being able to add value to their agricultural commodity by having a facility where they can take goods from their farm and have them ready for retail shelves upon leaving the facility,” Okamoto said. “This will not only bring more value to the individual farmers but also to the local community by offering the consumers local products in the grocery stores that are up to the standards of the imported competitive products.”

Okamoto said that before the facility’s construction, many farmers had limited access to potable water to wash their produce. Some farmers simply take their produce home to wash it, Okamoto said.

Crystal Kua, senior communications specialist for Kamehameha Schools, said the facility will hopefully be up and running before the end of this year.

The facility also will serve as a pilot that, if successful, could be replicated in other agricultural areas.

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The facility will use a controlled and monitored water source. The facility also includes a wash water retention basin. Soils captured in the retention basin can be used to replenish soils on the farm lots.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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