Philosophy of the Edmund C. Olson Trust II: Conservation ~ Agriculture ~ Energy ~ Community.
Dedicated to the thriving of Hawai’i into the future, Edmund C. Olson Trust II is a private landowner invested in sustainable agriculture, managed natural-resource conservation and cultural legacy preservation, community development and education, and renewable energy.
1. Conservation: Valuing ecosystem services
The conservation of Hawai’i’s natural resources is critical. Native ecosystems provide wondrous beauty, cultural heritage and meaning. They hold a unique biodiversity not found anywhere else in the world and are needed for clean air, healthy soils, crop pollination, and clean water. Without water, agriculture withers and communities disappear. Valuing the services that native ecosystems provide for the benefit of Hawai’i’s communities, the Edmund C. Olson Trust has placed thousands of acres on O’ahu and in Ka’ū under conservation and agriculture easements through land-protective partnerships.
Honouliuli area, West O‘ahu, property:
The Olson Trust stewards 2,687 acres of conservation and agricultural land in the ahupua’a of Honouliuli on West O’ ahu, envisioning the careful reforestation of native plants, water and soil conservation, and preservation of historical and archeological sites. This exceptional O’ahu site is in the Wai’anae Mountains, adjacent to resource-significant lands protected by the State (see next items). The land includes the 2154 acres of Palehua Ranch LLC, with 1275 acres under a conservation easement with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and 879 agricultural acres hosting functioning telecommunication sites, including leases for eight cell towers, and TV and radio stations. The Olson Trust has donated half an acre of Palehua Ranch to build a nursery for native plants.
Wai’anae Mountains, West O’ahu, partnership:
In 2010, in a joint venture with Gill ‘Ewa Lands LLC, the Olson Trust entered a public-private partnership to protect about 3,300 acres that were part of 6000-some acres of land holdings spanning in the Wai’anae Mountains previously acquired from the former James Campbell Estate. Now fully State-protected under the Trust for Public Land, this lowland forest is a prime source of fresh water and home to dozens of endangered species.
Conservation easements, O’ahu/Ka’ū:
In January 2011, the Trust entered a voluntary land preservation agreement with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy for two permanent easements.
- Honouliuli, O’ahu: On the eastern slope of the Wai’anae Mountains, the agreement ensures that 1,275 Honouliuli acres continue in perpetuity as working ranch and farm land, while safeguarding the property’s numerous cultural sites and healthy wildlife habitats.
- Honu’apo, Ka’ū: A 907-acre area will continue into the future with traditional land use of farming and ranching while protecting significant wildlife areas and cultural sites. The agricultural areas are currently leased.
- Ka’ū: 225 acres of oceanfront land at Honu’apo, purchased by the County.
- Ka’ū: $50,000 (2006) to the Trust for Public Land to protect the historic fishponds at Honu’apo.
- Ka’ū: 550 acres at Kāwā Bay, purchased by the County and to be used as a public park.
- Ka’ū/South Kona: $500,000 (2011) to The Nature Conservancy to protect forests.
- North Kohala: $25,000 to Maika’i Kamakani ‘O Kohala to protect Kauhola Point in North Kohala.
2. Agriculture: Building a sustainable future
Before westerns came to the islands, the Hawaiian people provided for themselves solely with the natural resources surrounding them. Localized agriculture and carefully maintained fishponds fed large communities. Agriculture was also the lifeline for the immigrant communities that came to the islands for the sugar plantations of the late 1800s and 1900s. With the end of sugar, agriculture in Hawai’i seemed to lose significance. Today we know once more that growing local agriculture is good for the economy, the environment, the beauty of the landscape, the building of community, and food security. Local agriculture is what Hawai’i is and has always been about. The Edmund C. Olson Trust II seeks to build a sustainable future for Hawai’i by growing ag.
A case story:
Walk through Pāhala early in the morning. Old but thriving cinnamon trees line its former sugar cane roads and softly scent the air. Roosters crow. Up Wood Valley Road, the aroma of of fresh roasted coffee rises to meet the song of native birds. People smile. Only a few years ago, however, this same area lay forlorn and depressed. Sugar production ended here in 1996, leaving residents unemployed. Some found work at the resorts along the Kona-Kohala coast, a four-hour daily commute. Farming would have been difficult even if folks wanted it, since the former sugar irrigation ducts bringing water from upland forests had fallen in disrepair. The Edmund C. Olson Trust owns and manages 9,898 acres in Ka’ū to revive viable agriculture in the district. Its efforts have included the careful restoration of old irrigation systems, which derive water from high-elevation pristine forest streams, and clean energy alternatives. An immediate and successful outcome has been the opening of Ka’ū Coffee Mill, which currently employs about 25 people. Sixty acres of coffee orchards owned by the Trust and many more acres in leased ag lands sprawl around the Mill, tidy and well-maintained. Employees and leasing farmers taking pride in their work. The grass is mowed, hibiscus plants and native foliage line the narrow roadways between diversified crops, from cucumbers and leafy greens to taro and tea. In the wider surroundings, about 80 local coffee growers have begun to expand and thrive, with many using the services provided by the Mill. A nearby Farmers Market thrives.
Agricultural companies in partnership with the Trust.
Hāmākua Macadamia Nut Company ~ Ka’ū Coffee Mill ~ OK Farms ~ Island Nuts Trucking ~ Hilo Bay Tours (agri-tourism) – Wainaku Ventures LLC
3. Energy: Exploring alternative resources
Communities need energy to prosper. But rarely do they have sufficient resources to develop energy models that lead into a thriving future. The Edmund C. Olson Trust seeks to invest in exploring and developing clean energy for Hawai’i through several venues.
Ka’ū water system:
I Deep into the pristine, native forest reserve above Ka’ū Coffee Mill’s lands, parts of a water supply system have lain dry for decades, unused, their origins tracing back to early sugar plantation days. In recent years, the crew of Ka’ū Coffee Mill renovated several USGS ash bed tunnels in this area. Carved through solid rock and layers of volcanic ash, these tunnels meander underground for lengths of 2,000 feet and more. Descending from elevations as high as 3,500 feet and including a 13-million gallon black-sand and native-stone reservoir, Keaīwa, this system is now being restored to provide water to the farm lands and farmers of Ka’ū, serve the Mill, and double as a hydroelectric resource. A 12-inch pipeline has replaced old leaking flumes, while materials have been recycled and reused whenever possible for history to connect with the future and agriculture to continue throughout. Once the system is fully operational, Ka’ū Coffee Mill may be the first coffee mill in the Nation to be fully green-powered. Any extra energy to be generated through the hydroelectric plant will be sold to the island’s utility grid.
The Trust is currently researching appropriate opportunities in wind and solar energy.
4. Community: Reaching out for education
Community is at the core of culture, the thriving of economy, the well-being of individuals and society, and overall sustainability. Community carries an ancestral legacy and informs future generations. Acting in the balance, the Edmund C. Olson Trust builds community through education, accountability, the common language of sharing in sports, music, and the arts, and the restoration of culturally/historically significant sites. Initiatives to date include:
Pāhala Gateway project:
An 85-acre area purchased by the Trust and located at the Pāhala-Highway 11 intersection serves as a welcome to visitors complete with signage and maintained landscaping. This open-air “entrance” makes Pāhala a more attractive place for visitors, which in turn improves the economy and the well-being of Pāhala residents.
Continuing and business education:
Funds are set aside within each subsidiary for employees to go to school as needed. The Trust requires in return: Good grades. A team spirit. Taking care of and pride in the lands or the duties assigned as responsibilities. The Edmund C. Olson Trust II and its affiliate the Edmund C. Olson Family Foundation also support community scholarship programs and fundraisers serving to increase awareness among students of the critical role of entrepreneurship in growing a thriving future for America, when combined with team work and right stewardship. All in all, the Trust has assisted over 160 students (employees or their children) to attend school and college to date.
Charitable and cultural contributions, sponsorships
- Ka’ū Hospital: funds for the purchase of a hard-needed wheelchair accessible van.
- Ka’ū Coffee Festival.
- Historic Palace Theater, Hilo.
- Hawai’i Island International Volleyball Classic, June 16-21, 2013.
- Hawai’i Adaptive Paddling Association (HAPA), a non-profit organization that involves physically, mentally and emotionally challenged individuals in the sport of Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling.
- The Trust donates about $500,000 annually to a variety of other charitable organizations.
The Edmund C. Olson Trust II has had the privilege to acquire several heritage properties. They include the archives of the former Onomea Plantation in Pāpa’ikou and the office building itself, agricultural, cultural, and conservation, heritage lands, the former C. Brewer Wainaku Executive Center, and several historical homes. It’s the Trust’s responsibility to restore and utilize these resources for the benefit of Hawai’i.
“Working for Olson Trust is like going to college. Work is an open university, and you get paid for it!. How does it work? We pass on knowledge to each other. We learn about being professionals and a business people. I learn twice as much on my job with the Trust as in school.”
Jeff Silva, Big Island Tool and Equipment (BITE).