A mainland friend recently sent me a link intriguingly titled “Terraforming Maui–The Hawaiian Sugar Industry’s Technological Revolution”. It’s well worth a read, and brought to mind a whole host of issues surrounding our current project to effectively terraform our small site for the benefit and comfort of a new guest: cacao.

At first glance, it might sound like an extraordinary use of the term, but since the arrival of human beings some 1,200-1,700 years ago, the ecosystem of the Hawaiian islands has been so radically altered and manipulated that I don’t actually think it’s much of a stretch.

When we began farming on Opaeula ridge, the site had been fallow from sugar farming for 15 years, and had been colonized by two invasive exotics: Haole Koa (Leucaena leucocephala) and Guinea Grass (Urochloa maxima). Although this pair represent two of our most persistent and omnipresent pest species, the area had settled into a routine of sorts, achieving a new balance after a century of intensive monocrop farming.

So, along we come, with a new use in mind for the site and another major disruption. The first things we did were to clear, rip and disc the entire orchard site, throwing our little 14-acre ecosystem into chaos. Although we’ve still got a ways to go, the orchard is taking shape in a new configuration that will hopefully last many decades. We try to be extensive rather than intensive farmers, but it’s always wise to be aware of our impacts, and this perspective is certainly an interesting one…

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