Sustainable agriculture is somewhat of a buzz word. I see it in listing descriptions and hear it from prospective buyers looking at ag-zoned acreage on the Big Island. But what does it really mean?
Many of the “sustainable properties” that turn up in a search seem to mainly be using that term to indicate that they are off-grid for electricity. That’s probably a given to make efficient use of nonrenewable resources and create economic viability if your goal is to farm in Hawai’i where our electric costs are the highest in the nation.
While the real definition of sustainability looks to the impacts of today’s decisions on future generations and is not just a synonym for self-sufficiency from public utilities, the thought and discipline required to go “off-the-grid” is not a bad starting point for sustainable thinking.
Replacing the power grid with photovoltaic and/or wind power is the first step. But what about water, which is not only a fundamental resource for agriculture, but also a resource that is in limited supply and therefore potentially costly. In some districts on the Big Island, annual rainfall is sufficient that catchment systems may suffice for both residential and agricultural uses. Even properties served by County Water may be eligible for agricultural rates, but not unlimited quantities.
This blog post looks specifically at individual properties and small agricultural zoned subdivisions that have invested in wells to provide agricultural, and in some cases, potable water.
This 118-acre almost-oceanfront agricultural parcel has two wells, offered for $4,250,000 (MLS# 293399)
Hawi Nani: Five 20-Acre Ag-Zoned Lots Near Downtown Hawi
Most of the land around the towns of Hawi and Kapaau in North Kohala is zoned Ag-2oa, which means it can’t be subdivided into parcels of less than 20 acres. Ag zoning is consistent with the goals of the Community Development Plan to promote growing of food crops in the area. While many buyers might just be looking at acreage for privacy and perhaps a horse or two, the newly created Hawi Nani subdivision opted to build a private water system to make farming more economically viable.
Here’s how the math works:
- 1 inch of water over one acre (acre inch) is 27,154 gallons.
- Normal rainfall needed for crops ranges between a low of 50 inches/year for dryland crops, up to 150 inches/year. A good working number is 70 inches/year.
- With average annual rainfall in Hawi of just over 50 inches, this would mean supplementing rainfall with 20 inches of water per year for many crops.
- If an owner only irrigated 5 acres of the 20-acre parcel at this level, 20 inches X 27,154.3 gallons X 5 acres = 2,715,430 gallons per year or 226,286 gallons per month.
- Adding in household use, maybe a swimming pool or pond, a monthly consumption of 240,000 gallons would cost $1,164 at current County Department of Water Supply rates…or an estimated $386.60 for the Hawi Nani well system.
Hawi Nani: 20-acre lots with ocean views and private well water for agriculture (MLS# 294528)
The lots are priced from $595,000 (MLS# 288989) to $895,000 for a 33-acre parcel (MLS# 288992). And did I mention the the big ocean views and proximity to the restaurants, galleries, and boutiques of Hawi?
Ranch at Puakea – County and Private Well Water
Around the corner from Hawi on the drier, west-facing coast, after evaporation from sun and wind, the effective water from rainfall drops to around 20 inches per year. The developers of the 13-lot oceanfront community Ranch at Puakea decided to invest a reported $1+ million sum in a well to supplement County water…both of which are already brought to each of the lots.
Oceanfront community Ranch at Puakea has a private well to keep pastures green and swimming pools full
Prices for these 20-acre lots in a gated community range from $749,000 (MLS# 280584) to $835,000 (MLS# 284490) for ocean view, to $3,600,000 (MLS# 289479) for one of the three direct oceanfront parcels.
Off the Grid Botanical Garden on the Kohala Coast
Moving down the Kohala Coast, nearer to Kawaihae and the amenities of the resorts, is a very different property with water provided by wells. Situated on 45 acres, part of which has been developed as a non-profit arboretum, is a complex including an events center, gallery, gift shop, and walking paths for visitors to the gardens on the lower portion. Water for the extensive gardens is supplied by two private wells.
On the upper portion of the acreage is an extensive home compound consisting of a pod-style residence with a total of 7 bedrooms, ocean views, office, and an iconic swimming pool with water slide. Potable water is from the private Kohala Ranch water system which serves all the lower North Kohala communities.
Offered for $3,999,000 (MLS# 293768), this property could be taken as is with portions open to the public, used as a family compound, turned into a vacation rental, or re-envisioned as a corporate or holistic retreat center. The listing photos don’t do this property justice; if you are in the market for a unique property in this price point, it’s worth a look.
This sampling of properties is located in North Kohala on the Big Island. There are agricultural and residential properties served by wells throughout the islands.
A hui hou,
Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)