Skip navigation

Tag Archives: agriculture

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Welcome to Honoka'a: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

There are lots of intersting stores in Downtown Honoka'a, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

Built in the era of great plantations and left culturally and economically isolated after the collapse of the sugar industry, until recently Honoka’a and the Hamakua Coast were content to drowse along through the decades. A boom in real estate and a return of vital human energy to the area has made a literal renaissance of the town of Honoka’a.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hononka'a has an fascinating downtown shopping area, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A bustling hub, it boasts numerous wonderful restaurants, gift and boutique shops and the highest density of antique shops on the island. Honoka’a, located between Hilo and Waimea on Highway 19, is also the gateway both to the Kalopa State Recreation Area and Waipi’o Valley.  Be sure to stop to explore a little, have a meal or do some shopping in scenic Honoka’a on your way to or from Waipi’o Valley…it’s a fun, happening kind of place. Just remember, it’s a “happening kind of place” in the Hawai’ian sense—which means a little laid back, and always steeped with aloha.

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving out of Honoka’a, remnants of old sugar mills, fields and feral cane can still be seen. When Captain Cook came to the Islands in 1778, only wild sugar cane was growing. In 1834 the first successful sugar plantation company marked the beginning of Hawaii’s love affair with raising sugar. Sugar production provided the Hawaiian Islands with an economic foundation, allowing a cosmopolitan society to flourish.

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hamakua sugar cane gwoing wild just outside Honoka'a, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At the time of Statehood, one out of every twelve people employed in Hawaii was in the sugar industry, the agricultural workers were the highest paid in the world. However, unable to compete in the global sugar market, the Hawaiian sugar industry declined in the 1980s and the last plantation closed at Pahala in 1992.

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Downtown Honoka'a, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its flavor.

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Honoka'a's characterisitic Western-style false-front storefronts in the downtown shopping area, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Visitors will notice the distinctly “Western” tone in the architecture of many of the buildings in Honoka’a, the Western style of dress of many residents and the ubiquitous cowboy hats. Although ranching and rodeo may seem a bit of a mixed metaphor when thinking about Hawaii, the cattle business in Hawaii is older than anywhere in the other Western United States and is an integral part of the history, and the rebirth of Honoka’a.

Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Jackson's Chameleon explores downtown Honoka'a: Photo by Donnie MacaGowan

More about the sugar and ranching industries in Hawaii can be found here and here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

At the Mouth of Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Everett Maynard explores Honoka'a, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

There are also numerous, fun shops with a more touristy feel in Honoka'a as well, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Advertisements

Please read this important Alien Pest Alert from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture on the Little Fire Ant.
Important notes:

Little Fire Ants can cause blindness in pets.

Little Fire Ant infestations are a “disclosure issue” in property sales.

In the Galapagos Islands, when the Little Fire Ant populations are large, workers are prevented from harvesting coffee.

Quarantine all vegetative matter you bring onto your property and test for the Little Fire Ant, this includes potted plants, soil and mulch.
State of Hawaii Info on Little Red Fire Ants

Click on Image to Enlarge

Few Mainlanders Realize that Three Generations of Cowboys Lived, Worked and Died in Hawaii Before Ever White Men Brought Cattle to Wyoming and Montana: Photo by Carol Gilliland

Few Mainlanders Realize that Three Generations of Cowboys Lived, Worked and Died in Hawaii Before Ever White Men Brought Cattle to Wyoming and Montana: Photo by Carol Gilliland

By Donnie MacGowan

The cattle industry in Hawaii began on February 22, 1793, at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. British Navigator George Vancouver presented to Kamehameha I four cows, two ewes and a ram he had brought from Monterrey, Mexico. In January of 1794, Vancouver landed many more cattle at Kealakekua and formally requested a kapu against killing them.

Kamehameha ordered the first cattle pen in Hawai’i to be built at Lehu’ula. Still in use today, the paddock enclosed over 400 acres.  However, many of the cattle ran wild, and with the kapu against killing feral cattle in place, the wild herds became enormous and unmanageable.

Archibald Menzies, Vancouver’s ship surgeon, wrote in his diary in 1793: “When they [the cattle] stampeded, they ran up and down the country to the no small dread and terror of the natives who fled from them with the utmost speed in every direction.”

Cows Graze the Upper Slopes of Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cows Graze the Upper Slopes of Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For over thirty years the kapu against killing wild cattle was in force and the rapidly growing wild herds destroyed farmland, ate crops, often stampeded through villages destroying homes and claiming numerous lives.  On June 21, 1804, the first horse and mare were landed on the Kona side of the Island of Hawaii, and the days of the free ranging cattle were coming to a close as the number of mounted men increased and they began to coral and tame the wild herds.

Kamehameha lifted the kapu on killing wild cattle in 1830; the rapid increase in whaling ship traffic about this time had caused a great rise in demand for fresh and salt beef. And soon the wild herds were being thinned to meet this demand.

Unused to herding the large, unruly beasts, initially the Hawaiians simply dug deep pits, similar to “tiger traps” and stampeded the cows past them, hoping to catch a few.  This was not only inefficient, it had unintended consequences, as well.  In 1834, Sir David Douglas, the Scots botanist for whom the Douglas Fir is named, died in one of these pits.  Whether killed by the fall, killed by the bull that later fell on top of him, or was murdered by the Englishman Edward Gurney (bull hunter and escaped convict) for his gold and then tossed into the pit was never determined.  A monument to Douglas has been erected at the site of his death, Kaluakauka, off Mana Road on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

At this point, the history of Hawaiian ranching introduces one of its more colorful characters, John Parker, founder of Parker Ranch, which is still today the largest cattle ranch in America wholly under private ownership. Parker’s story in Hawaii starts back a bit in 1809 when as a 19-year old  sailor, he jumped ship on the Island of Hawai’i.

Coming to the attention of King Kamehameha the Great, Parker was trusted with many organizational tasks which the King believed would help him bring the Kingdom of Hawai’i into modern times.  During the War of 1812, John Parker was allowed to go to China seeking adventure, fame and fortune, but returned to Hawai’i bearing many modern inventions to show the King, including the newest models of military muskets.

With his modern weaponry, Kamehameha gave John Parker the task of shooting many of the feral cattle rampaging the countryside.  Parker taught the natives how to render the meat into salt beef which was then sold to the passing whaling and merchant ships and soon became Hawai’i’s number one export.  For this, John Parker was given an initial grant of 2 acres land by the King.  When he married Princess Kipikane in 1816, Kamehameha the Great’ granddaughter, she was granted some 640 acres…this is how the Parker Ranch began.   Parker asked for lands surrounding the area the Hawaiians referred to as “Waimea”,  which means “sloppy” or “muddy” in Hawaiian.

John Parker Knew the Lush Grasslands Around Waimea Were Perfect for Ranching: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

John Parker Knew the Lush Grasslands Around Waimea Were Perfect for Ranching: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is some irony here, as the Hawaiians considered this land nearly worthless—at considerable altitude, cold and rainy, it was no good for producing traditional Hawai’ian food crops and uncomfortable for living in traditional Hawai’ian homes.  However, Parker saw it was perfect for raising cattle.  Much to the private mirth of the Hawaiians, he kept buying and adding land to his holdings until today; the ranch he started covers nearly 10% of the Island’s landmass, a whopping 150,000 acres.

At Parker’s suggestion, Kamehameha recruited California Vaquero Joachin Armas to help contain the wild cattle and train local cowboys.  As the years went by, more Spanish mission vaqueros from California came to work for the burgeoning cattle industry.  They brought their trained horses, Spanish saddles, spurs, sombreros and Spanish traditions of cattle ranching, passing them on to the Hawai’ians they trained.  They also trained the Hawaiian to work leather, jerk beef and cure hides.  Soon, hides and tallow were a major Hawaiian export.

The Hawai’ians called the vaqueros “paniolos”, their linguistic corruption of the Spanish word “Español”; which today remains the island word for “Cowboy”.

Early Hawaiian Cattle Brands: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Early Hawaiian Cattle Brands: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Cattle born on the Island of Hawaii were often shipped live to other islands and the mainland.  In the early days, cows were simply run down into the surf, swum out to longboats and secured to the boat by lashing their horns to the gunwales, then rowed out to the waiting ship.  In the late 1800s, piers and docks began to be built at various shipping spots around the island and the cows were unceremoniously hoisted by crane onto the deck of the waiting ships.

In recent years, due to fears of further ground-water contamination, laws against building new slaughterhouses were passed in Hawaii.  In order to prepare the beef for retail sale, many cattle today are shipped live to the mainland for slaughter and butchering via ocean-going barge; others are loaded aboard converted, air-conditioned, 747s and flown live to California.  Seriously.  I am not making this up.

Ranch culture by its nature is fairly isolated.  As such, over the years this allowed the Paniolos to preserve many Hawaiian traditions, such as the art of Hula and the Hawaiian Language, both of which the missionaries actively tried to eradicate.

A direct benefit of this isolation and the cultural cross-pollination that is not immediately identified with the cattle industry was the advent of modern Hawaiian music.  When the Mexican vaqueros moved to Hawaii, they also brought their guitars and their love of music.  A deeply musical people themselves, the Hawaiians were intensely interested in these, the first stringed instruments they had ever seen up close.  Fearing the Hawaiians would steal their guitars, the Mexicans would de-tune them after use, making it much more difficult for the curious Hawaiians to unlock their musical secrets.  However the Hawaiians were more than clever musically and quickly learned to make their own tunings.  Instead of the standard European tunings which require various fingerings to make chords, the Hawaiians worked out their own open chord tunings that more suited the key and style of their indigenous music.  Called “slack key guitar” these unique tunings are one of the features that make the sound of Hawaiian music so distinct.  The signature Hawaiian musical instrument, the ukulele, was actually introduced by Portuguese settlers.  In Hawaiian, “ukulele” means “dancing flea”.

The modern connection to all of this is that without ranching and without the importation of Spanish vaqueros and their guitars, there would be no rock music.  Don’t believe me?  Hawaiian slack-key guitar virtuosos invented the steel string guitar.  Without steel string guitars, no electric guitars would ever have been possible.  No electric guitars, no rock music. So next time you’re rocking out with your MP3 player, take a moment and silently thank King Kamehameha the Great for his extreme foresightedness…

Hawaii ranches also produced some of the greatest cowboys of all time, the best remembered of whom is Ikua Purdy, winner of the 1908 World Roping Championship at Cheyenne Frontier’s Day.

In 1907 the owner and manager of Pu`uwa`awa`a Ranch, Eben “Rawhide Ben” Low, attended Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Knowing his cowboys far excelled their mainland contemporaries, in 1908 he sent Jack Low, Archie Ka`au`a and  Ikua Purdy (his brother, half brother and top hand) to compete in Cheyenne.

Statue of Hawaii's Most Famous Paniolo, Ikua Purdy, In Waimea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Statue of Hawaii's Most Famous Paniolo, Ikua Purdy, In Waimea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

As colorful in their hats with flower lei and vaquero-style chaps as they were masterful in the competition, they took Frontier Days by storm.  Ikua Purdy won the steer-roping contest in 56 seconds, Archie Ka`au`a came in second and even though he had an asthma attack during the competition, Jack Low placed sixth.  Eben Low always said Hawaiian cowboys were the world’s finest because they dealt primarily with wild and feral cows.  In 1999, Ikua Purdy became the first Hawaiian ever voted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Cattle ranchers were also important to Hawaii’s contribution to the war effort during the Second World War.  During the years 1943-1945 more than 50,000 marines of the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions, Navy sailors and Army soldiers used Camp Tarawa, located almost entirely on the Parker Ranch, for rest and recuperation from the historic assault on Tarawa, as well as training for the assaults on Iwo Jima, Leyte and Guam and the occupation of the Japanese home island of Kyushu.

Visiting paniolo country on the island of Hawaii means traveling to Waimea town, snuggled deeply between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano.  Sometimes startlingly sunny, sometimes shrouded in mist or rain, Waimea is also the scenic heart of the mountain country, which cries for exploration. From here one can take stunning Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, an incredibly beautiful drive through upland pasture, meadow and forest to the old-time Hawaii town and artist community at Hawi.

Simply touring between Kona and Hilo through Waimea also is a wonderful trip from dryland forest through the upland lava flows and rolling grasslands of the Kohala-Mauna Kea Saddle and down again through eucalyptus forests to tropical jungle-filled canyons and the feral sugar cane fields of the Hamakua Coast.

Waimea Celebrates its Ranching Roots With The Cowboy Boot Statue: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waimea Celebrates its Ranching Roots With The Cowboy Boot Statue: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waimea offers some of the finest shopping, restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island. There are two large shopping centers, a fine art museum and “Restaurant Row”, a street of eating establishments that rival any restaurants on the island. Although it seems a little rough and tumble and jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the uniform, Waimea is actually a very sophisticated town and an enjoyable place to visit.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general or visiting the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  Information on the author is available here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan (except where otherwise noted).

By Donald B. MacGowan and Frank Burgess

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii

Scattered across the Hawaii Island landscape are remnants of old sugar mills, fields and even some feral cane can still be seen. But when Captain Cook came to the Islands in 1778, only wild sugar cane grew.

Feral Sugar Cane Field, Hamakua, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Feral Sugar Cane Field, Hamakua, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

 

The climate in Hawaii offered a perfect environment for raising sugar cane; cooling ocean currents keep the average temperatures around 80 degrees, with frequent rains, abundant groundwater and year round sunshine. 


In 1834 the first successful sugar plantation company marked the beginning of Hawaii’s love affair with sugar. Sugar provided Hawaii an economic foundation allowing a cosmopolitan society to flourish which spurred U.S. Annexation and eventual statehood in 1959.


In its heyday during the early 1960s, one out of every twelve people employed in Hawaii was in the sugar industry whose workers were the highest paid in the world. Hawaii produced a million tons of cane sugar a year from about 221,000 acres of land on four islands.  Hand milling of cane was replaced by mechanical milling in the late 1800s.These mills easily handled a number of processes including washing, crushing, grinding, and centrifuging. Raw, milled sugar was then shipped to the California & Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corporation in Crockett, California.  Unable to compete in the global sugar market the Hawaiian sugar industry declined in the 1980s and the last plantation closed at Pahala in 1992.


Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its flavor.  


Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company

Such was the seductive lure of easy riches to be gained by growing sugar in Hawai’i at the beginning of the 20th Century, that investment capital for a large sugar plantation, sugar mill and railroad in Kona could be raised not once, but three times.  

Remnants of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill Near Holualoa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
Remnants of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill Near Holualoa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kona Sugar Company plantation was established in 1899 and every available scrap of land was stripped of whatever crops had grown there previously and planted in cane.  Although the sugar grew well enough about 500 feet elevation, a notable lack of fresh water in Kona’s semi-arid landscape made Wai’aha Stream the only logical choice for the mill site.  Unfortunately, the stream flow is vastly insufficient for year-round cane milling and the mill, built in 1901, went broke in 1903.  

 

Kona Sugar was bought by investors; renamed Kona Development Company, the plantation again went broke in 1916 and was in turn bought by investors in Tokyo. This group managed to eek out a profit until the industry imploded in 1926.  Originally planned to run 30 miles, the railroad was only built to total length of 11 miles in the 27 years of sugar plantation operation.  Work camps, communal baths, stables, workshops and all the requisite infrastructure of a giant agricultural plantation lay abandoned in the Mauka Kona countryside.

During World War II, the U.S. Army used the mill site as a training camp to acclimate troops to warfare on their way to the tropical Pacific Theater.  Fearing the tall smokestack of the mill would act as an artillery landmark for any invading forces, the Army pulled it down and Kona lost one of its first post-contact, industrial landmarks.

The Overgrown Walls of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
The Overgrown Walls of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Traces of the rail bed can still be seen from the top of Nani Kailua and Aloha Kona residential neighborhoods.  Located along Hualalai Road, near the intersection with Hienaloli Road, are impressive stone breastworks and trestles for the railroad. Built by hand but still strong today, the rail bed can be explored and hiked from here.  Further up Hienaloli Road from the intersection with Hualalai Road, the old mill site remnants are still visible.

Abandoned Stone Trestle of the West Hawaii Railroad, Near Holualoa, Highway: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
Abandoned Stone Trestle of the West Hawaii Railroad, Near Holualoa, Highway: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan and Frank Burgess

Central to our social life, here in Kailua Kona, is the coffee house. Not the ubiquitously generic Starbuck’s (although we do have two of those) but unique, lively and decades-old, boutique coffee houses dotted across the countryside. Most coffee farms and roasting houses have their own, individual coffee shops, and there are dozens of other coffee shop/bakeries across the island which all have their specialties and quirks, each more individual and fascinating than the last.

Morning is started by coffee and chat after workout in downtown Kailua; ‘pau hana’ (after work) is celebrated by watching the sunset over Kailua Bay at the coffee shop, and evenings, many times, are spent with friends at yet another coffeehouse, recounting the day, “talking story” and unwinding. Although surrounded by the farms and roasteries that produce the world’s finest coffee, few of us “Konans” take time to reflect on the rich, multicultural history of our favorite brew.

Coffee, a relative of the gardenia family, is one of the most important crops grown on the Big Island. Although other Hawaiian Islands also produce coffee only Kona Coffee is of sufficient quality to be sold on the world market during gluts in coffee production. In Kona Mauka (upland Kona) you will find many coffee farms and roasting plants that give tours, such as the Captain Cook Coffee Company, in Kainaliu.

Hawaii is the sole US producer of commercially grown coffee and Kona coffee remains truly rare. Today’s Kona coffee industry is composed of an interlaced group of independent small farmers, coffee roasters and merchants. Of the perhaps 600 coffee farms in Kona, most are between 2 and 3 acres in size. Kona Coffee is raised on over 2000 total acres in an area 20 miles long and 2 miles wide long the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, between 500 to 3,000 feet elevation; annual coffee production is generally over two million pounds.

World famous Kona coffee owes its richness and flavor to the fertile, volcanic soil, mild climate and abundant rain water in the mountains of the west side of the Big Island. The area’s coffee industry began in earnest during the 1830s and soon the lives, and culture, of Kona residents began to revolve around it.

The history of Kona coffee is one of boom and bust, good times and bad, but always characterized by a strong work ethic, independence, self-sufficiency, family unity, and cooperation. A multicultural industry from the beginning, it has involved contributions from the island’s Native Hawaiians, Haoles, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans.

In 1813, Don Francisco de Paula Y Marin, a Spaniard and one of Kamehameha’s trusted advisors, planted coffee on the island of Oahu. The British warship HMS Blonde brought more coffee trees to the Hawaiian Islands in 1825. Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought the first coffee to the Big Island when he brought cuttings of coffee trees to the town of Captain Cook in Kona in 1828.

The industry grew and large plantations were established during the first half of the nineteenth century. Both companies provided However, even though world coffee prices started to climb in the 1850s, labor shortages, pest and disease infestations and drought thwarted efforts to expand the Hawaiian coffee industry. Coffee plantations were replaced by sugar cane plantations as coffee pries fell and sugar prices rose and by 1860, coffee plantations almost disappeared from Hawaii.

Boom times arrived again in Kona in the 1890s as American and European started another era of the large coffee plantation enterprises; this lasted until 1899, when the world coffee market crashed and brought the Kona coffee industry to near extinction.

Economic realities forced large scale coffee plantations to be sold off, cut up and replaced by small family ventures run by new immigrants; by1910, Japanese farmers comprised 80% of Kona’s coffee farmers. This marked the beginning of the transition from large coffee plantations to small family farms, a transformation revolutionized the Kona coffee industry and saved it.

Through The Great Depression, two world wars and into modern times, coffee prices rose and fell causing the Kona coffee industry to grow and shrink accordingly. However, the farming style from the turn of the 20th century onward was always characterized by smaller, rather than larger, coffee farms. Captain Cook Coffee Company and American Factors (AMFAC) were the only legal buyers of the coffee crop in those days; they provided goods to the farmers through company stores which were paid for with the coffee harvest. Many times, small farmers had no other way of raising scare cash than to sell their coffee on the black market. Until the mid 1950’s when they withdrew from the coffee industry, Captain Cook and AMFAC hired armed men to patrol the roads of Kona in an effort to suppress this vicarious coffee commerce.

Today, Kona coffee is grown on around 600 independent coffee farms, mostly are between 2 and 3 acres. Total coffee acreage exceeds 2000 along the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes; annual coffee production is generally over two million pounds.

Apropos of the caffeine content of our Kona coffee, I once attended a lecture on Hawaii reef fish by a visiting marine biologist who had studied tropical reef fish all over the world. He compared our fish populations and behaviors with those he had studied elsewhere and he commented on a singular curiosity about Big Island reef fish. “Your Big Island fish are the most active I’ve ever seen” he said. “On average, they are twice or three times more active than even the fish on your neighboring islands…I don’t know what accounts for it.” The audience pondered this quandary in silence and, contemplating my empty “to go” cup of coffee, I realized I had to use the restroom.

In a flash I realized I knew exactly why our Big Island reef fish are so active…but I thought I’d just keep that explanation to myself.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the historic and cultural sites on the Big Island, including the Kona Coffee country, in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and http://www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For more information on the author, go here. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Donald_MacGowan.