How to Get an Agricultural Land Lease in Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaiian farmland must compete with expanding city developments.
Hawaiian farmland must compete with expanding city developments. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Hawaiian agriculture is vital to the sustainability of its food needs. Hawaii only has about a seven-day food supply in its stores at any given time, according to the Hawaii Independent. This huge shortfall in food production is made up by importing 85 to 90 percent of the state's food needs. Many Hawaiian farmers do not own the land they farm. They farm on agricultural land leases for fixed periods of time. There are key requirements to pass before obtaining these sought-after leases on the island of Oahu.

Search for available leases. Use state agencies such as the Hawaii Department of Agriculture or the Department of Land and Natural Resources to find available leases. Private landowners may also provide agricultural land leases. Work with real estate agents who specialize in multizoned properties to find suitable leases. Additionally, check with publications like the "Honolulu Advertiser" for more lease opportunities.

Pass minimum qualifications. Potential lessees must be bona fide seasoned farmers or educated new farmers. Land is scarce in Hawaii, and the state places requirements on its lessees to ensure high-quality production from its leases. Seasoned farmers must have or recently had a productive farm with the majority of their income derived from its production. New farmers must have a two- or four-year degree in aquaculture or agriculture. New farmers may be subject to additional requirements set by the applicable state agency administrator. Moreover, potential lessees must be citizens or have permanent resident alien status with at least three to five years of residency. Potential lessees must not be in arrears from taxes in Hawaii or its counties.

Pass review process. The administrator or committee will review your application and compare it with other applicants. The administrator looks for minimum qualifications, agricultural experience, financial capability and preference status. Administrators may give preference to displaced, veteran or new farmers based on the agency’s specific agenda.

Obtain the required insurance. Once you have passed the review process and have been awarded the lease, you will be required to hold specific insurances. You will need comprehensive liability insurance with coverage amounts as determined by the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. You will also need a performance bond in an amount equating to double the yearly lease amount.

Tips & Warnings

  • Build a relationship with the state administrators. They will have invaluable insight about existing and upcoming leases.
  • Use innovative and sustainable farming techniques to separate you from your competition.
  • Don't forget about the money. Have your funding in place. The best leases typically go to the most well-funded farmers.

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