Discussing sustainable living and farming on Maui, and how it correlates to real estate, is one of my greatest passions.
Having lived on Maui since 1978 and always having my hands in the dirt, I have learned many hard lessons about what grows, what doesn’t, and why. I purchased 5 acres with pineapple growing on it in 1978 with a small cottage; there were no trees, except a few guavas trees growing in the gulch.
My property at 470 Ulumalu Rd. in Haiku on Maui’s north shore circa 1978
I assumed that because Maui is a tropical paradise that the soil must also be paradise. I live in Haiku and I can assure you that Haiku is some of the worst soil out there—growing plants on the surface of the moon would be easier.
With high rainfall, between 50 to 150 inches per year depending on your elevation, the soil tends to be very acidic, with PH between 4.2 to 5.5. The acidity locks up most nutrients, especially phosphate, causing very slow, if any, growth with most plants.
This creates a huge problem for aspiring farmers in many areas previously planted as commercial pineapple farms (much of the land on Maui) as not only are the PH levels difficult, but also because the soil has been depleted of nutrients and organic matter.
I started my farming with an incredible gift from a local hippie farmer friend of mine. He gave me a book titled Hawaii Organic Growing Guide by Shunyam Nirav, previously published by Oasis Maui who used to be the “Grower’s Store” on Maui for all diversified farming needs.
By following the key lessons in the book, I found that
you could alter the soil chemistry through a very sustainable process of adding dolomite lime, rock phosphate, seed weed, manure, certain cover crops, and other supplements that would allow life to return to the clay-ish acidic soil of Haiku.
On my farm in Maliko Bay on Maui’s North Shore, I have a large fish pond where I raise tilapia and catfish. On this 3 acres of land, that has the most fertile soil I have ever seen on Maui, I farm: wet and dryland kalo or taro, ulu or breadfruit, lilikoi or passion-fruit, avocados, star fruit, a large variety of palms—including my son’s favorite—the royal palm (photo above), and about an acre of the largest ti-leaves you have ever seen.
We have maintained our own little gardens here growing corn, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, and 15-foot mutant-sized sunflower plants. Over the years, I have purchased several properties with the intention of making sure that my three children, Jeremy, Brianna, and Chloe, would all have places to raise their families if they wanted to.
Being a real estate broker on Maui since 1979 has afforded me many opportunities to purchase some truly priceless properties, the gem of which is my farm at Maliko Bay (photo above). Read my previous article on closing the loop on a Hawaii sustainable farm-the fish food tree.
Not only is this a gorgeous place to relax and escape everything by digging in the dirt, it is easy to get the dirt off by taking a dip in my fish pond. Read about the Maui Fishing Tournament Hawaii Lifestyle.
The county of Maui has tax considerations that make truly sustainable agriculture a huge incentive for property owners. If you want to build a house on agriculturally zoned land, the county requires a farm plan to be filed to get a permit. Read about Maui Property Taxes here.
If you actually implement the farm plan, you get a huge tax break on the areas that you farm, including animal husbandry. Since animal husbandry goes extremely well with the sustainable agriculture model, even if you are vegan, raising chickens and goats can greatly increase the viability of the soil from their manure droppings. To ensure property maintenance, goats love cane grass and chickens love to eat bugs, especially roaches and centipedes.
Two Great Haiku Sustainable Farm Properties I Have Listed
The first great Haiku farm properties I have listed is 1011 Upper Ulumalu Rd. MLS#351676. This is a gorgeous property with a large variety of tropical palms, flowers, and fruit trees. This property also has a very large 3,000 sq.ft. barn that is more than large enough to store all your farm equipment and then some. We’d like to share the video blog on this property. Just Listed: Immaculate Haiku Home on 4 Pristine Acres.
The second property is 160 Nahele Rd. MLS#351605 . There are literally thousands of palms trees on the property to either pitch a hammock in between or to use an income source to pay Seabury Hall tuition like I did for my three children. A few steps down from the pool I really like the vistas from the view deck that sits below a mango tree overlooking the gulch towards the ocean. Read all about this property here. 5 Acre Oceanview Haiku Bed and Breakfast.
My property in Haiku present day—quite a transformation, no?
Presently, I still live on 5 acres of old pineapple field, but the place looks like the Garden of Eden. I have made more mistakes with agriculture over the years than I have done things correctly, but I have really learned the hard way, through 3 tractors, 5 pick-up trucks, lots of broken pipe, huge mounds of manure, and miles of fencing, how to do some things right.
The only farm I actually make any money on is my Maliko Farm, but it certainly is a very healthy lifestyle and keeps me in shape. I am a pretty strong 60 year-old still with a shovel in my hand and I love every minute of it, especially when I catch a tilapia from the pond, pick cherry tomatoes, chard, kale, and green beans for dinner and finish it off with a banana cream pie, all of which was grown on your farm.
Please contact me if you want to know about what to buy, where to buy it on Maui, and how to get a productive small scale farm up and running.
If you have any questions/requests regarding this post, or would like to enlist my 33 years of expertise and experience for your purchasing or selling needs here on Maui, you may contact me directly, or feel free to create your own HawaiiLife.com account, where you can view all properties on the MLS and save your favorites. Just click here and you will see the tab at the very top of the page called Sign Up, which you can then click on and follow the steps—it is easy and rewarding.
Tracy Stice, Realtor (Broker)
Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers (Wailea)—Maui Broker in Charge
Direct Cell: 808.281.5411
ABR CRB CRS GRI GREEN
President Hawaii Association of REALTORS 2010