The Last Harvest

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The Last Harvest

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. sounded the death knell of sugar on Maui and in Hawaii on Jan. 6, 2016, when it announced the end of operations at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. after the 2016 harvest. The announcement was abrupt and caught many off guard, but was not totally ...

Rolando Bolosan sends up sparks as he replaces a steel wall inside the mill.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

HC&S offseason

PUUNENE — In the part of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. mill where the process begins to break down sugar cane stalks, millwrights are working on a piece of equipment that will run around the clock once the harvesting starts. Called the knife, it has no blades but a ...

A&B President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Benjamin addresses HC&S workers during a blessing ceremony at Puunene Mill.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A last blessing

PUUNENE — After photos were snapped and the crowd of shaka-waving workers cleared out, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. employees Brady Borg and Donnie Tablang stayed behind, absorbed in a discussion over the leafy green stalks of cane that had been cut for Tuesday’s season-opening ...

A Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. grab operator loads a Tournahauler with harvested sugar cane. The massive vehicles are able to transport loads of 60 tons.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Tournahaulers

Sixty tons of sugar cane stalks smolder in the dinosaur’s massive belly as it lumbers into the intersection and briefly spans all four lanes of highway before disappearing into the island night, tail end wobbling as it goes. Found only on Maui and soon to be extinct, the 14-foot-tall, ...

Veteran Tournahauler driver Alvin Ponce powers out of a Central Maui sugar cane field.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

At the wheel of a Tournahauler

My most vivid memory from the first day I drove a Tournahauler has nothing to do with rumbling down a cane haul road. It was watching a cattle egret swallow a rat nearly as big as itself. “Naw, it’ll never get that down,” said the driver sitting next to me in the towering cab. “Too ...

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. crew member Mario Pisalvo lifts a 50-pound bag of Maui Brand sugar for Michael Fernandez at Puunene Mill.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui Brand

PUUNENE — Large amber-colored sugar crystals pour into containers like glistening jewels carefully handled by Maui Brand workers at the Puunene Mill. The label, owned by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., is well-known for its distinct appearance and natural taste, adding a ...

Fermin Domingo uses a propane torch to light small fires along the perimeter of a Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. cane field.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Feeling the burn

PUUNENE — Fermin Domingo points his gas blowtorch out the window of his dusty red truck and ignites the dried sugar cane. He then methodically drives 20 feet to light another stack of cane, then another and then another. Domingo and two other “fire boys” from Hawaiian Commercial ...

Millwright specialist Koa Martin stands next to a high-grade sugar basket inside Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.’s Puunene Mill.  The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Many learned a trade

When Koa Martin first started working for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. in the late 1990s, he and his co-workers had their hands full toiling over machines in both the Puunene and Paia sugar mills. “I think I worked straight seven days a week, 12 hours a day, around the clock for ...

A Kahului Trucking & Storage truck is weighed as it delivers raw sugar to the scale house.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Losing a shipping scale

As sugar operations wind down this year, an elevated scale to weigh sugar and molasses will be closed, and that will prompt some Maui businesses to look elsewhere to weigh their containers before shipping them on barges. The scale at Kahului Trucking & Storage near the Kahului Harbor ...

Sticky massecuite slowly cools on its way to a centrifuge to separate molasses from waste at the Puunene Mill  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

One final push

In a great big basin of thick, goopy molasses, a set of wheels slowly rotates, sinking into the pool of shiny liquid and emerging with a viscous, dark brown coating that slides off and flaps in the wind before dripping back into the basin. In the Puunene Mill at Hawaiian Commercial & ...

KT&S truck driver John Boyd fills his rig with sugar at Puunene Mill.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Shipping sugar

KAHULUI — The sun-baked, wind-blown sugar cane that Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. burns, harvests and mills arrives here, where soft raw sugar crystals form more than several-story-high mountains of golden sweetness. Kahului Trucking & Storage Co. hauls about 150,000 tons ...

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. driver Fermin Domingo guides Maui’s last load of harvested sugar cane to the Puunene Mill’s unloading station Dec. 12 as employees, retirees, media and others capture the historic moment with their cameras.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

‘End of an era’

PUUNENE — Sugar workers, retirees and company officials expressed sadness as well as pride as they witnessed “an end of an era” Monday with the delivery of the last load of sugar cane from the fields to the Puunene Mill. Fermin Domingo, a 40-year veteran of Hawaiian Commercial & ...

Stevedores Leighton Emura (left) and Keoki Brown cast off the Moku Pahu’s mooring lines while readying the sugar ship to depart Kahului Harbor with its last load of unprocessed sugar bound for California.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Going, going, gone

KAHULUI — Now, sugar really is gone. On Friday, the same day that Puunene Mill smokestacks stopped puffing, the last shipment of Maui-made sugar was carried out of Kahului Harbor. Bound for a refinery in California, the 685-foot-long Moku Pahu held 32,000 tons of sugar and 2,000 tons of ...

The Last Harvest

Sunday, January 22, 2017 publication. Purchase additional copies of The Last Harvest for $2.00 each at the Maui News Circulation Department Hours of Operation: Mon - Fri 8:00am–3:00pm 100 Mahalani ...