Emphasizing agriculture on Kauai’s newest real estate development

Luxury homes, sustainable practices and a 14-acre rodeo park seem somewhat incongruous on paper. Under the Kauai sun, however, these things come together in Kealanani, an innovative agricultural and residential community.

“Kealanani’s purpose is to preserve Kauai’s rural heritage where homeowners can enjoy natural goodness from their own land in a beautiful and vast agrarian and equestrian community,” says Paul Kyno, Kealanani’s co-developer.

The project is the brainchild of Kyno, a veteran Sotheby’s International Realty Inc. Realtor, and Andrew Friend, Kealanani’s lead project manager. According to Kyno, Friend is “a developer by day and a farmer by afternoon” with a dedication to real estate and intent on keeping the traditions of farming and agricultural cultivation alive. Inspired by his childhood farming experiences on the mainland, Friend brought that notion, as well as
the potential for Hawaii to develop its first tea plantation, to Kauai in 2004 as the inspiration behind his plans for Kealanani.

“We wanted to bring Hawaii into the niche tea business,” Kyno says. “But it’s hard to find the right property with the right rainfall, etc.”

The right property presented itself in a 2,021-acre area on the northeastern shore of the Garden Isle, encompassing the area’s verdant mountains, picturesque valleys and waterfalls. The Kealanani expanse is bordered by Kealia River (also known as Kapaa Stream), which flows into Kealia Beach, one of nature’s nearby amenities. Kealanani’s stretch pays homage to the “ahupuaa” style of land segregation – ancient Hawaiians divided their land to follow the run of a river from mountain slope to ocean shore, as it provided the necessary provision of water for all that was needed to sustain agriculture and living.

“It was the perfect property – the altitude was perfect and the rainfall was perfect,” says Kyno, who was a part of the development corporation that listed the former sugar plantation property in the early ’90s. “It sits on top of one of the largest aquifers in Hawaii. Piping and pressuring that water will be free for homeowners’ agricultural endeavors.”

An agricultural plan is mandatory for potential residents of Kealanani. Apart from the privilege of building luxury homes ranging from three to 100 acres (priced from $500,000 to $3 million), owners must dedicate a portion of their lot to growing crops or raising horses. While residents can choose what fruits or vegetables to grow – Kyno cites one resident’s organic ginger as example – they will be required to plant at least four cacao trees and integrate tea cultivation and processing as part of their property. Kealanani also includes a taro farm on 100 acres of farmland.

Kyno explains that Kealanani residents can be as involved in these agricultural operations as they choose to be. Consultants can work out a plan based a resident’s desired involvement in his or her agricultural plan, and local farmers are on tap to execute whatever much or little the resident chooses for them to do. Local farmers can even lease farming land from Kealanani residents to grow their own crops, as well.

“You can get your hands as dirty as you want,” Kyno says. “It’s a win-win-win situation. Local farmers can earn money and have land, the landowner gets tax benefits; and the land has more produce and is more sustainable.”

Kealanani’s benefits also extend into amenities like 12 miles of hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails, a future 25-stall farmer’s market, and the aforementioned rodeo arena.

Twenty-two sites have been sold out of Kealanani’s 47 home lots offered during this first phase of sales. While homebuilding is officially slated to begin in 2009, Kyno says the feedback he’s received from Kealanani’s current and prospective buyers – and from the community – continues to be positive.

“The response has been great,” Kyno says. “Everybody’s been supportive.”

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