A Portrait of a Hawaiian Sugar Plantation
Like a dream
So I came
But my tears
Are flowing now
In the cane fields.
- Old Plantation Song
The Hawaiian sugar industry began in 1835 at Koloa, Kaua'i, bringing unprecedented change to the islands and resulting in the multiethnic society that it is today. At its peak in the early 1900s, there were over 50 plantations statewide. This is an ongoing project, taken at the Gay & Robinson Plantation on the westside of Kaua'i, the last sugar plantation on the island and only one of two left in the state. Most employees live as well as work on the plantation, occupying old plantation houses in the original camps, and forming a unique, tight-knit community - the last remnant of old-style plantation life.
UPDATE: On September 9, 2008, Gay & Robinson Inc. announced that it was ending sugar production, which it began in 1889. The shut down will occur slowly as the company continues to harvest and grind its remaining crops. Layoffs, which have already begun, will start with planting, continue with irrigation and end with harvesting and milling employees. The current projected shut down date is October 2009 - after which HC&S on Maui will be the last sugar company left in the state. This project will continue until then.
UPDATE 2: On Friday, October 30, 2009, G&R ended sugar production, commemorating the event with a parade through the westside of Kauai that included the last two truckloads of cane. More info here: http://www.starbulletin.com/business/200
UPDATE 3: On December 16, 2016, HC&S on Maui loaded its last load of sugar on the Moku Pahu and shut down sugar operations. King Sugar in Hawaii is officially pau.