So this weekend I finally got that magical “Dear Neighbor” letter from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) that says the wonderful time known as “cane burning season” is once again upon us.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the start of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company’s 142nd harvesting season,” HC&S General Manager Rick W. Volner, Jr. said in the Mar. 10 letter. “On March 11th, the Puunene Mill will return to life, harvesting and processing sugarcane, and you will again see familiar farm equipment in the fields and tournahaulers on plantation roads.”
Yes, “return to life”–though you’ve doubtless watch smoke come out of the mill non-stop since the close of the 141st harvesting season last year, only now does the real HC&S magic happen.
But never forget that it’s not easy burning, harvesting and processing nearly 200,000 tons of heart-clogging sugar every year. But somehow, Volner wrote, the company’s 800 employees soldier on.
“Farming is an inherently difficult business, and keeping 36,000 acres in active, productive agriculture is a challenge,” Volner wrote in the letter. “However, we remain steadfastly committed to continuing a viable farming operation in Maui’s central valley for our family of employees, and generations to come.”
Oh, and if for some weird reason some of that neighborly cane smoke happens to blow your way, you might want to download Maui Tomorrow’s CleanAirMaui app that allows you to document cane smoke and ash, as well as send reports to all the relevant government agencies that track such things. You can get more info at Cleanairforkeiki.org.
Photo of Pu’unene Sugar Mill: joanna orpia/Wikimedia Commons