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No More Sugar on Kaua’i

On our first trip to Kaua’i, we photographed the rusting sugar mill near Koloa¬† and watched the bulldozers turn the island’s red earth into flattened out plots. When we returned last winter, there were loads of new condos and vacation homes standing on land that had once been agricultural. Now, according to this KGMB report, Kaua’i’s last sugar plantation is pulling up stakes, laying off most of their staff and making plans to lease their 7500 acres of land to… well, it’s unclear.

Koloa has a little open air museum — the old buildings that make up the town bear plaques that tell of their history while Kaua’i was becoming established as a sugar producer. There are a few exhibits that show what life was like for the plantation workers, some tools and clothing are on display. There’s a concise history of sugar in Hawaii on this post about The Sugar Monument — a bronze sculpture depicting the diverse plantation workers. If you still want to learn more, there’s a good movie about the Japanese sugar plantation workers called Picture Bride. It was filmed on Oahu, though I imagine the lives of the workers were much the same on Kaua’i.

When I was a kid, there were still C&H sugar ads on TV, the jingle sung to the tune of Pearly Shells. I found a montage of their romantic ads of the sugar cane “lifestyle” on YouTube, of course. The Kauai plantation is run — or rather, has been run by — by Gay and Robinson, a company that’s been growing sugar on the island since 1889. There’s talk of the land going to biofuel crops, but having seen the speed with which farmlands are transformed into real estate, it’s hard not to wonder what percentage of the cane fields will be condos the next time I find myself on Kaua’i.

Here are the C&H ads, you’ll probably have had enough by the time you get through the third one.

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