Hawaii’s Ranch Lifestyle – Kealakekua Big Island
The evolution of ranching and agriculture on the Big Island’s Kona Coast is linked to the history of the kamaaina Greenwell family. The patriarch of family members currently operating Greenwell enterprises in Kona, Henry Nicholas Greenwell, was an Englishman with a mercantile background who arrived on the Big Island in 1850. In addition to opening a retail store, he began growing oranges and coffee, gradually expanding his landholdings in the area. He is credited with establishing Kona coffee as an internationally recognized gourmet brand. However, since coffee thrives only at a specific elevation, drier areas above the agricultural lands were used as pasture land for cattle, sheep, and horses. In 1879, Greenwell purchased a large tract of land along with 11,000 sheep from the physician Georges Phillipe Trousseau, and later additional Kona lands from the family of missionary John Davis Paris.
After Greenwell’s death, three of his sons managed the ranch which was eventually divided into three sections: Palani Ranch, a working cattle ranch known by the land division name, Honokohau; the 11,000 acre W. H. Green-well Home Ranch purchased by environmentalist John Pace in 1986 and renamed Hokukano Ranch; and 11,490 acre Kealakekua Ranch, managed by Sherwood Greenwell from 1951 to 1989. The 11,490 acre property was sold to Sekin International of Japan in 1990, which proposed to build a golf course and 500 residential estates. However, adverse economic conditions made the development infeasible and subsequently, in 2004, it was purchased by the Pace family which placed 9,017 acres in conservation.
Recently, 9,627.20 acres of the historic Greenwell Ranch, together with an adjoining 1,854.48 acres, has been placed on the market by Realtor Emeritus Ken Kjer, Principal Broker of Kona Home & Land Realty LLC for $17,000,000.
Now known as the Kealakekua Heritage Ranch, the acreage contains large cattle grazing areas in addition to koa, sandalwood and ohia forests. Operated as a ranch with approximately 1,000 head of beef cattle and extensive timber inventory, its Conservation easement facilitates continued cattle ranching and sustainable timber harvesting. This easement is the first to be completed by the State of Hawaii under the National Forest Legacy Program. Purchase of the property will include a State of Hawaii approved forest management plan.
“The property includes historic Pauahi, the original H. N. Greenwell dairy farm location on the ranch, with many of its original buildings,” Kjer said. “It also includes a recently constructed multi-purpose building, a tree nursery, and workers’ quarters. The 1,000 head of beef cattle, 300 head of horses, 70 head of buffalo, and extensive acreage dedicated to koa are cared for by the current owners. This is an opportunity to own a truly magnificent piece of Kealakekua history,” Kjer said.