Forming a non-profit farmers cooperative on the Big Island, Hawaii

by Lyn Esterly
Forming Communities
Big Island, Hawaii, United States

Summary: On the big island of Hawaii, we are forming a non-profit farmers cooperative to offer the opportunity to buy a small farm as part of a land trust dedicated to local food production. Minimum cost of participation: $150,000.00, includes land and a small home. Contact: L Esterly (808) 493-3905


We are forming a non-profit farmers cooperative to offer the possibility of buying a small farm as part of a larger land parcel. This makes land more affordable and offers opportunities for voluntary cooperation and collaboration with neighbors.

We would agree:

  • to try to live sustainability to treat other residents respectfully
  • to maintain at least half of our land in agricultural production
  • to Limit home size to 400 square feet per acre of land, and the number of residents to two per acre.
  • to resolve disputes among residents through mediation or majority vote of residents
  • to make legally binding decisions through majority vote of members / co-owners.

We would allow:

  • farms to be inherited, sold, or gifted as membership in the co-owners cooperative
  • the construction of homes for owners, agricultural workers, or for rental income
  • homes to be built adjacent to one another and connected to a certified kitchen by covered walkway in order to conform to county codes.
  • educational activities with the agreement of a majority of members.
  • the construction of barns, garages, tool sheds, etc. that conform with county codes

We would recommend:

  • aloha, kindness and respect, voluntary cooperation, and a monthly gathering of residents to foster understanding and friendship.
  • rain water collection from all roofs and gravity fed irrigation.
  • mixed-crop farming and traditional polyculture using nitrogen fixing shrubs and trees for mulch, orchards with coconuts, breadfruit, avocados, mac nut, mango, or other fruits and nuts; annual vegetable gardens; poultry yards and other animals.
  • Korean farming techniques to encourage a healthy soil biome; and other permacultural approaches to land management.
  • solar energy for electricity, including refrigeration; solar ovens for baking and solar hot water heaters for showers; wood-burning stoves; bicycles and shared rides, methane generators for sewage and fuel; and windmills are good for some locations.
  • environmentally friendly architecture with careful choice or materials, site selection, and landscaping: certified kitchens for processing agricultural products for commercial sale.
  • bamboo cultivation for windbreaks, fences, tools sheds, irrigation, food and eventually even homes.
  • crops to be grown for personal consumption, sale in farmer’s markets, commercial food distribution networks, or community food programs.

When our group locates a land parcel to buy, we would:

  • form a non-profit farmer’s cooperative to make all legal arrangements for the purchase, and divide up the land so that each farm’s acreage is proportional to the financial contribution of the member co-owner.
  • arrange a land trust for the property so that no part can ever be re-zoned as commercial or residential, but must remain available for agricultural use.
  • provide and maintain road access, peripheral fencing, and access to county water and the electric grid for all farms to have individual accounts.
  • collect and pay land taxes
  • make any further legally-binding decisions by majority vote, with each member of the cooperative to have one vote per acre of land.
  • create a council of residents to make other decisions by majority vote
  • the rights of co-ownership may be rescinded by unanimous vote of the other members for reason for gross violation of the agreements, in which case the cooperative will find a new member and fairly compensate the former member.
We will not allow:
  • threatening or violent behavior
  • use of toxic chemicals without notification and agreement of other members.
  • commercial activities on the land outside of the home
  • any illegal activity which could endanger the cooperative
We believe that respect and cooperation show the way to a sustainable future.
Minimum price $150,000.00. This would include land, home construction, and cooperative expenses. Unfortunately we cannot offer any financial assistance.
Contact: L Esterly (808) 493-3905