Kuahiwi Ranch

Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Documentary

Hundreds of years ago, Hawaii’s natural resources from the land to the sea sustained a population of over one million ancient Hawaiians. An ancient system known as the ahu’pua’a provided resources for all by giving daily contribution tasks to everyone who lived in the communities. Centuries later, Hawaii’s natural resources no longer provide enough to sustain the vastly growing population of the islands; in fact, the islands only produce 10-15% of the foods consumed by the local population. Most consumable foods and goods are imported from the mainland United States as well as from international countries. As a result, most modern people do not spend any time physically cultivating their own food and may not even know where the food they eat even comes from.

Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii
Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii

In October 2013, two teachers and five students from Kapolei High School on Oahu spent five days on the Big Island of Hawaii to visit 13 local businesses promoting local farming and ranching. The goal was to produce a 20-minute multimedia documentary that explores how local farmers are helping Hawaii become an agriculturally sustainable state where more locally grown food is produced. During the five days on the Big Island, students and teachers enjoyed not only seeing where food was coming from but also experiencing it in local restaurants. We sampled pancakes and locally made coconut syrup, goat cheese salad, grass-fed all beef burgers, freshly caught island fish, Kona coffee, and fresh fruit salads.

Throughout the experience, it was that there are many challenges and roadblocks to agricultural sustainability in Hawaii, but there are also lots of people who rise to the challenge each day. Here are some of those people.

12 Sustainable Agricultural Programs in Hawaii

Sustainability Profile: Kuahiwi Ranch

Kuahiwi Ranch began in 1993 by the Galimba family just after the sugar cane industry on the Big Island shut down. The ranch is located on 10,000 acres in the southern-most tip of the island and is currently managed by founder Al Galimba and his daughter Michelle. There are 400 Kuahiwi cattle grazing the pasturelands and no antibiotics or artificial hormones are used to speed up their growth. The cattle are fed an all-natural plant-based supplementary feed consisting of wheat grain, wheat germ, barley, corn, and cottonseed. However, using this feed comes at a high cost to cattle ranchers in Hawaii as it takes resources to ship the feed over from the mainland. Indeed, even reducing transportation plays a big part in impacting sustainability in Hawaii.

Michelle Galimba encourages all food producers to form good relationships with the greater community. “We all need to help each other become more sustainable in our living.”


*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

By the Numbers

  • 1993 Year the ranch was founded. 
  • 400 Free-ranging cattle on the ranch.
  • 10,000 Acres the ranch is comprised of. 
  • 100% Free of hormones and antibiotics.
  • 4 First original cows introduced to Hawaii.