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Hawaii Island: Real Beef, Real Cowboys, Real Ranches, Real Estate

Real Beef by Real Cowboys” is how this blog post started…the name of the Hawaii Cattleman Associationʻs upcoming scholarship fundraiser here in Waimea (Kamuela) in North Hawaii. But I couldnʻt help myself adding “Real Ranches” since my blog posts about equestrian properties and even a 2011 post about working cattle ranches for sale continue to be some of my most popular posts about Real Estate.

Old Waimea on Horseback 2019

Real Cowboys from Real Ranches participating in the Old Waimea on Horseback historical pageant at Waikii Ranch in 2019.

Supporting Self-sufficiency and Profitable Ranching on the Big Island

Ranching in Hawaiʻi goes back almost to the beginning of European contact. Cattle were introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1793, a gift from Captain George Vancouver to King Kamehameha I. As late as 35 years ago, an estimated 90% of the beef consumed in Hawaiʻi was raised here.  However, as with other agricultural industries in the islands, economics favored shipping calves to the Mainland for finishing. Although here in North and South Kohala, we have two or three of the top 25 cow-calf operations in the United States, the number of beef cows raised throughout Hawaiʻi could only satisfy approximately a quarter of local demand for beef. And in fact, probably less than 10% of all beef consumed in restaurants and homes in Hawaiʻi originates here.

Food self-sufficiency, including farm products as well as ranching, is the subject of a number of state and county initiatives…so as Director of Conservation and Legacy Lands I find myself often talking about the importance of agricultural easements as a conservation mechanism that shifts the economics to allow ranches and farms to continue to operate.

Cattle on Kohala 67 acres

Smaller ranches provide grass-fed cattle for local consumption, like these grazing on a 67-acre parcel (MLS 616280)

Besides the economic and social value of food produced by our cattle, sheep, and goat ranchers, grazing is an important way of stewarding large undeveloped acreages across the islands. Hawaiʻi Island ranchers and yes, real cowboys, have long seen first hand the value that grazing produces in holistic land management. Without protecting the grasslands and the water, a ranch will not operate sustainably. Here is a link to a video featuring Hawaiʻi beef producers as environmental stewards.

Working Cattle Ranches for Sale

Given the importance of ranching as a way of stewarding the land, most larger undeveloped acreages on the Big Island are leased for grazing, and there are currently some spectacular properties of 1,000 – 2,000 acres listed. Some buyers, however, are actually looking for a working cattle ranch operation and not just the land to develop one. The historic Kahuku Ranch at the southern tip of the island is 655 acres of working cattle ranch with multiple homes and structures.

Aerial of Kahuku Ranch Kaʻu Hawaii Island

Kahuku Ranch in Kaʻu District on Hawaiʻi Island – 655 acres, ranch homes, and cattle working infrastructure. (MLS 298752)

Or hereʻs a thought…how about retiring the development rights via a conservation easement and keeping Oahuʻs iconic Dillingham Ranch as a ranching and equestrian property in perpetuity?

If your budget is a little less than the $52 million asking price of Dillingham Ranch, I can introduce you to smaller scale ranch or horse properties across the islands.

And if you just want to support the future of ranching in Hawaiʻi by attending a fun event raising funds for agricultural scholarships, join me Saturday, March 7 at the Real Beef by Real Cowboys dinner at the Paniolo Preservation Societyʻs headquarters in Waimea.  Thatʻs from 5-7 pm, and then we can wander over to the Kahilu Theater to hear a performance of slack key guitar, the music of the Hawaiian cowboys. Iʻm calling that the “beef to beefcake” evening…see you there!

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