Where You Live: Waimea

Published On: Jan 30 2014 05:09:00 PM HST

Nestled comfortably between the electric green hills of Kohala and the breathtaking summit of Mauna Kea sits Waimea.  It's a country town with ranching at its core.

Click here to watch Yunji de Nies' story.

"A lot of people would say Waimea is Parker Ranch.  Without Parker Ranch, there would be no Waimea," said Nahua Guilloz from Parker Ranch.

Parker Ranch started small.  A two-acre purchase by John Palmer Parker -- a young man from Massachusetts in the early 1800s.

"He was a smart guy.  He married the granddaughter of the king," said Guilloz.  "Because she was ali'i, he got 600 acres and then another 1,000 acres because of her ali'i status.  And then from that, they were actually able to grow the ranch."

Ranching meant cattle.

"They were a present to the Hawaiian people and cattle been roaming these lands forever," said Parker Ranch Cowboy Jesse Ho'opai.

Ho'opai and Scott Spence's fathers and grandfathers were paniolos.  Now, they, too, carry on that tradition.

"You feel like you have a purpose," said Spence.  "Here, you actually really do look forward to going to work."

"You know, something to keep going.  Keep perpetuating this cowboy lifestyle.  This uniqueness in Hawaii," said Ho'opai.

To call Parker Ranch enormous is a bit of an understatement.  It's the fourth largest landholder in the state.  Only the federal government, the state itself and Kamehameha Schools own more.

At more than 130,000 acres, it's one of the largest privately-owned ranches in the world.

"When you're standing here at Pu'u Opelo from one end of the horizon of Mauna Kea to the other end of the horizon, that is Parker Ranch," said Guilloz.

Twenty years ago, Parker Ranch helped to bring in one of the most modern aspects of this community -- the Keck Observatory.  Parker gave Keck the land.

"We are the most scientifically productive telescopes on the earth.  Period," said Debbie Goodwin of the Keck Observatory.

Still, it's the legacy of farming in Waimea that runs deep.

"If you study the history of this place, this is the breadbasket of the state, and at one time a lot of agriculture that went on in the state, the products came from this place," said Roen Hufford of Honopua Farm.

Homesteaders remain an active part of this community.

"I think they're a voice for maintaining this place, and the character of this place," said Hufford.  "Maintaining open space, maintaining a family lifestyle that thrives on being able to take resources form the ground or from the forest or from the ocean and that's what makes our life interesting here."

Always of interest to the people of Waimea -- rancher, scientist or farmer -- is the majesty of Mauna Kea -- the world's largest mountain from base to summit.

"When we have a bout of bad weather and the rain is high, we'll walk around and we'll say, 'That's snow on the mountain.  Rain.  That's the rain that's gonna make snow on the mountain.'  And when the clouds finally part and we see the snow up there, everybody is really happy," said Hufford.

"We have so much for a small population, be it culture, education, science.  I think there's a lot going on in this town, and yet it's still a small town," said Goodwin.  "We call it small town, Big Island!"

That small town feel radiates at the weekly homesteader's farmer's market.

It began with five Hawaiian homestead families, including Hufford's, 20 years ago.  Today, you can find her here smiling every Saturday morning.

"My satisfaction is immediate.  People come and they buy my stuff right away and they go away and they're happy and they tell me how great it tastes, or how lovely it is," said Hufford.  "So, I hope that young people will stay in this community and do this kind of work, because I think it's important, you know.  I like feeding the community."


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