In 2007, Maui Land & Pineapple Company stunned the local community by closing its Kahului cannery after seventy-five years of operation. Two-and-a-half years later, when Maui Land & Pine shut down its fresh-fruit operations as well, we mourned the apparent demise of the island’s century-old pineapple industry.
Only a generation ago, pineapple was Hawai‘i’s second largest export crop, providing more than 80 percent of the world’s supply. For people around the globe, the golden fruit came to symbolize the Islands themselves — until foreign competition from countries with far lower production costs began dumping fruit on the market in the 1990s, and dethroned “King Pine.”
But in 2010, a small group of former Maui Land & Pine executives and managers, along with Ulupalakua Ranch owner C. Pardee Erdman, chose to defy the odds and formed the Hali‘imaile Pineapple Company. They leased more than 1,500 acres of Maui Land & Pine’s fields in upcountry Hali‘imaile, purchased equipment from the company, and retained sixty-five employees who would have otherwise lost their livelihood.
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