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Hawaii Approves Dairy, Cheesery on Big Island

10:13AM Mar 18, 2014

Hawaii land officials have approved a nearly 1,400 acre dairy farm and cheesery on the Big Island.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald said Monday the business will be run by a family whose history in the dairy industry goes back several generations, to the Netherlands and, more recently, California.

Mauna Kea Moo will include 200 milking cows and 100 dry cows. The Dutch Hawaiian Cheesery will include several flavors of hard cheeses named for different areas of the farm.

Kees Kea, one of the farm's owners, says his family planned to open the dairy several years ago but had to wait for a state lease.

"Finally," Kea said.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the leasing of former sugar cane land for the dairy. Kea says the process took five years.

Malana Kea said she met Kees Kea on her father's dairy farm in 1979. She learned to make cheese in Holland.

"I'm the seventh generation in the dairy business," Kees Kea said. "My great-grandfather started in the Netherlands in the early 1700s."

The 35-year lease will cost $20,500 annually for each of the first 10 years. Kea said the operating costs for the dairy farm will be about $2 million and $1 million for the cheesery.

Michael DuPonte, a livestock agent on the Big Island, said the Keas could have an advantage of few dairies to compete with.

"Right now, it's very lucrative because there are only two left in the state," DuPonte said. "There's an opportunity. It all depends on the price of milk."

Kees Kea said operations could begin in 2015.