Farming at Sunset Ranch

Those of you familiar with our mission at Sunset Ranch know that we've been working on an Environmental Learning Center ("ELC") now for quite some time.  We wish we could move faster, but permitting takes time and of course we want to make certain we do this right.  All that said, we do have some good news to share:  our use permits for our proposed farming efforts at Sunset Ranch have been approved.  We are now in the process of finalizing the design and build out of the facility.  Once our building permits are received, we will be well on our way.  The current design of the ELC includes:  (i) a welcome center, (ii) a Native Hawaiian Nursery (a separate section of the ELC, and discussed in a previous blog), and (iii) an aquaponics facility.  So as it relates to Farming at Sunset Ranch, aquaponics is where our primary focus will be.  A highly productive method of farming for any resident in Hawaii

The primary objectives for the aquaponics facility at Sunset Ranch are threefold: 

(i) Education 

We want to educate the local community and Hawaii's visitors on what aquaponics is, why it is a viable farming method, how it really works, and how best to use it to supplement existing food intake.  We will also go so far as to say that we hope, for some, aquaponics will become a primary food source.  As we've stated in the past, we believe Hawaii has a five to six day food supply in the event of any natural disaster or economic crisis.  The fact of the matter is, we need to be better prepared.  We simply rely too much on those ships arriving into Honolulu harbor each and every day.  This dialogue has been on-going for quite some time now.  We understand that.  But the truth is, for the most part, we continue to just talk about it and go on living as we always have.  Times are a changing.  We need to take more proactive steps towards addressing this problem, and making sure we're prepared to take care of ourselves in the event of a crisis.  It's about paving the road to self-sustainability.  At Sunset Ranch, we simply want to be a part of that road. 

(ii) Product 

While our primary focus is on education; we also plan to develop an aquaponics system that can be purchased and easily transported and assembled in an urban setting.  This is critical to our mission at Sunset Ranch.  The pictures you see on this blog are of a large facility.  Believe it or not, however, there are small backyard systems, and even balcony systems, that can provide you with a significant amount of food.  We want to create a system that you can fit in your car, you can assemble at home, and get busy making food.  In our opinion, knowledge is quickly lost if not put to regular use.  We want you to actively put to work what you learn at Sunset Ranch.  On a daily basis.  Better yet, we want it to be part of your daily routine.  Yes!  Brush your teeth, and then go check on the tilapia before you run off to work!  When it comes to taking care of ourselves and the community in which we live, there is nothing more important than getting actively engaged and beginning to contribute in ways that help make a difference.  Again, we're hopeful that our product offering will enable visitors to take what they learn at Sunset Ranch and put it into active use.

(iii) Excitement 

As many are aware, there are a lot of farmers doing aquaponics throughout Hawaii.  And many are VERY good at it.  In fact, many of them are responsible for introducing us to, and getting us excited about, this great farming method.  A farming method that has been around for quite some time.  At Sunset Ranch, we want to create real excitement around aquaponics.  We understand.  People can only get so excited about growing fish and vegetables, right?  Wrong.  We want to make it cool!  We want to make it the next hot trend not only for the farming community, but for every resident in Hawaii.  A bit ambitious, yes.  But possible.  Our hope is that our facility experience, combined with our product offering, will make this vision a reality.  Again, the ultimate goal is to help start creating that path towards self-sustainability for the residents of Hawaii.

So what do you know about aquaponics?  At Sunset Ranch, we truly believe it is the way to a sustainable future in Hawaii.  As we continue to work towards finalizing our Environmental Learning Center, please contact us to discuss any and all ideas and thoughts you may have to make this facility like no other.  We appreciate any and all feedback.   Mahalo nui loa for your continued support!

Horsemanship Merit Badge

Sunset Ranch has teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America's Aloha Council to offer Scouts the opportunity to obtain their Horsemanship Merit Badge.  Programs are offered to individuals and troops throughout the year  and during summer camps.

Shortly following their arrival at Sunset Ranch, Scouts go out to the lower pasture, catch their equine partners for the day and begin theexciting, hands-on learning process.  Each day Scouts practice the skills covered in the Horsemanship Merit Badge Handbook, including: grooming, saddling, riding, and over-all care.  Other topics covered in this exclusive program include equine health, anatomy, nutrition, breeds, and tack.

Daily rides focus on obtaining the mounted skills required for the Horsemanship Merit Badge.  Mounted skills learned include:  walking, trotting, turning, stopping, and backing.  One unique aspect to our program at Sunset Ranch is that Scouts are encouraged to try both English and Western style riding.

The Horsemanship Merit Badge at Sunset Ranch is arguably one of the more exciting, challenging, and rewarding merit badges that your Scout will obtain.  Here are some comments from recent Scout participants:

"I’m so grateful for your time and attention with the boys; Nic is just thrilled and asked if he could skip Boy Scout camp and just pitch his tent on your lawn by the barn!  He is very interested in community service at Sunset Ranch and taking riding lessons in the near future! "

"We ran past our time because we were having so much fun and learning a ton!"

"Sunset Ranch is right next to Camp Pupukea and the view there is beautiful. We all really enjoyed being at the ranch and working with the horses."

"(At Sunset Ranch), we (not only achieved) our Horsemanship Merit Badges, but had so much fun and learned a great deal of valuable information."

Please contact us at (808)638-8333 for more information regarding our Horsemanship Merit Badge offering, or any other riding programs at Sunset Ranch.  Mahalo nui loa!

Sunset Ranch Menus

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Sunset Ranch is pleased to announce that we're now working with a well known local Chef to provide exceptional food at a very reasonable cost.  While clients are welcome to bring in the caterer of their choice for Events at Sunset Ranch; we offer these menus in the spirit of helping clients maximize the value of their event budgets.  From fundraising events to corporate and non-profit retreats, and Hawaiian luaus, weddings, birthday parties and other local gatherings, these menus are available for any occassion.

We have menus priced at $18 per head, $20 per head, $30 per head and $50 per head.  Below please find the details of our Signature Menu: Hawaiian Luau at $18 per head.  You can find the details of our other menus here.  We're confident that these menus will provide the best value on the island for our clients.  Please e-mail us at or call us at (808)638-8333 for more information.  Mahalo nui loa!

Sunset Ranch Horse Parties

Sunset Ranch is very excited to announce that we're now officially hosting:  Sunset Ranch Horse Parties!  Guests are provided exclusive access to this private, thirty acre estate for an experience like no other in Hawaii.  Enjoy breathtaking ocean and island views while you spend special time with family, friends and members of our Sunset Ranch horse family!  As with all of our efforts at Sunset Ranch, we're offering these Horse Parties in the spirit of land conservation and self-sustainability in Hawaii.  Sunset Ranch Horse Parties are available to all Hawaii residents and visitors and include the following:

1.  Exclusive Access to Sunset Meadow:  Sunset Meadow is a five acre grassy area at Sunset Ranch that has spectacular ocean and island views of the entire North Shore of Oahu.  We provide you with exclusive access to this special venue for up to 50 guests.  You can find pictures of Sunset Meadow here;

2. Guided Horseback Rides:  Sunset Ranch will stage horseback rides adjacent Sunset Meadow for guided tours around the property.  We'll provide up to two horses for your family and friends to interact with, feed and ride at their leisure.  Meet our Sunset Ranch horse family here;

3. Food, Snacks and Refreshments:  While guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages; Sunset Ranch offers a full lunch menu for your special Horse Party.  Everything from light snacks and water to a full Hawaiian luau menu.  Let us know what you'd like and we'll be sure to provide it;

4. Tables, Chairs and Restrooms:  Prior to your arrival at Sunset Ranch, our staff will set up tables and chairs for your Horse Party.  Set-up is near our signature eucalyptus tree in Sunset Meadow where guests can enjoy beautiful views and gentle breezes in the shade.  We also provide an air conditioned restroom trailer for your guests.

5. Games:  Sunset Ranch staff will also set-up various outdoor games in Sunset Meadow for your guests to enjoy.  Games include:  (i) horse shoes, (ii) croquet, (iii) bocce ball and more!

6. Land Conservation:  As we do with all of our events at Sunset Ranch, our staff will provide guests with some background on how this special property was perpetually protected, and the importance of private conservation easements to the future of land conservation in Hawaii.  Please check out our About tab and the link within to learn more about these important programs now. 

Sunset Ranch is offering Horse Parties any day of the week, and at various times.  Please call us for more detailed information and pricing at (808)638-8333.  You can also e-mail us inquiries here.  Finally, 'Like' us on Facebook for a chance to win a FREE Sunset Ranch Horse Party and Sunset Ranch memorabilia!  Mahalo for your interest and support!

Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund

The City and County of Honolulu established its own land conservation fund in 2007 subsequent voter approval of a charter amendment in 2006 (Revised Charter of Honolulu (ROH), Section 9-204(a)).  Specifically, Charter Question 3 was voted on and approved by Honolulu residents in November 2006.  The City Council  then created the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund ("CWNLF") (Ordinance 07-18) and the Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission ("CWNLFC") (Reso. 07-355 CD1) in 2007.  Similar to the State's Legacy Land Conservation Fund ("LLCF"), Honolulu's now established CWNLF has two notable elements that enable the thoughtful and systematic funding of land conservation projects:

(i) An Expert Commission

A nine member commission, the CWNLFC was established in 2007 and comprises natural, cultural and agricultural resource experts.  The commissioners are volunteers appointed by the Honolulu City Council.  The CWNLFC reviews projects submitted for funding and advises the City Council on annual project selections.  The projects are then subject to the City's annual budget process, and submitted for final approval and funding by the City Council and the Mayor.

(ii)  o.5% of Property Taxes

Honolulu voter approval of Charter Question 3 established a dedicated funding source for land conservation projects.  Specifically, the charter amendment (Revised Charter of Honolulu (ROH), Section 9-204(a)) requires that 0.5% of all property taxes be set aside for land conservation projects in the City and County of Honolulu.   Further, the charter amendment explicitly states that funds be used to "acquire real estate or any interest therein for land conservation within the City and County of Honolulu for the following purposes: (i) protection of watershed lands to preserve water quality and water supply, (ii) preservation of forests, beaches, coastal areas and agricultural lands, (iii) public outdoor recreation and education, including access to beaches and mountains, (iv) preservation of historic or culturally important land areas and sites, (v) protection of significant habitats or ecosystems, including buffer zones, (vi) conservation of land in order to reduce erosion, floods, landslides, and runoff, and (vii) acquisition of public access to public land and open space".

Sunset Ranch was blessed to have been recommended and approved for funding by the CWNLF in 2009.  As stated in the LLCF blog, the project was also fortunate to recieve state and federal funding.  Federal funding came from the Natural Resource Conservation Service ("NRCS"), a division of the United States Department of Agricultural ("USDA"), and the State of Hawaii funding came from the Legacy Land Conservation Fund ("LLCF").  The USDA contributed 50% to the project; the LLCF, 25%; and the CWNLF, 25%.  The importance of financial leverage to land conservation projects cannot be overstated.  In the case of Sunset Ranch, the CWNLF committed 25% of what otherwise would've been required without the financial leverage provided by the federal and state programs.

This section was included as part of the LLCF blog, but it is worth repeating:  Private conservation easements reduce land conservation project costs to state and local agencies even further.  How?  With a private conservation easement, the agency is no longer buying a fee simple interest in the fair market value of the land.  Instead, the agency is purchasing a conservation easement that legally enforces the landowner to never subdivide.  Said differenlty, the development rights of the property are stripped away in exchange for payment.  Generally speaking, the value of a conservation easement (development rights) is typically between 40% to 50% of the value of a fee simple interest in the developable land.  The obvious result here is that the agency is able to accomplish the objective of land conservation at a fraction of the price.   Further, the responsiblilties of ongoing maintenance, management and liability remain with the land owner, and the property remains a revenue source to the county as the landowner is still required to pay property taxes.

Factoring the benefits of financial leverage together with the structure of a private conservation easement, the CWNLF committed approximately 10% of what it otherwise would've had to commit to protect Sunset Ranch.  This calculation does not consider the ongoing costs required to manage and maintain the property.  This is why it is so important for Hawaii residents to be aware of these programs.  Especially during these times when our state and county governments have limited financial resources.

Sunset Ranch remains focused on its mission of helping advance land conservation in Hawaii through: (i) events, (ii) farming, (iii) a nursery, and (iv) horsemanship.  Among other things, we believe these efforts will allow us to establish Sunset Ranch as a platform to effectively educate  landowners, the local community and visitors on the importance of federal, state and county land conservation programs.  Please contact us with any questions regarding the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund.  You can also learn more about the application and award selection process for the CWNLF here.

CWNLF Project Awards:

The Honolulu City Council has approved funding for the following land conservation projects through the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund:  (i) Kukaniloko, (ii) Sunset Ranch, (iii) Honouliuli Preserve, (iv) Kunia Agricultural Research Station, and (v) the Fong Plantation.  It is our understanding that, to date, Sunset Ranch remains the first and only project to have received funding from the CWNLF.

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