Molokai Ranch: New Leadership, Fresh Perspectives
New leadership at Molokai Ranch hopes to get a fresh start with the community as they bring sustainability to the forefront and develop and share their ideas for the island.
Former Castle & Cooke director of engineering and development Clay Rumbaoa took over as Molokai Ranch executive director from Peter Nicholas in November 2011. Now, Nancy Schmicker has taken the position of new Ranch Project Manager, and together, Schmicker said they hope to turn over a new leaf for Molokai Ranch and the community.
“Doing what’s right in the community is a huge part of our approach,” she said, after a visit to the island two weeks ago.
Schmicker said the company’s plans focus on areas like ranching and animal husbandry, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy. They also hope to see Maunaloa Town revitalized through “friendly leases” with community members who want to start their own businesses in the buildings, including the theatre.
“We want to be open and work with the community,” said Schmicker, adding they want to hear people’s ideas.
She said they also hope to restore the Lodge, and eventually, Kaluakoi Hotel area.
In the more immediate future, Schmicker said she and Rumbaoa have “been exploring options to get back into ranching.” One of those ideas is pig farming. Schmicker said they’ve been learning about an odor-free method of raising pigs, already in operation on Oahu and Hawaii Island, which she said keeps pigs happy, healthy, and free of their trademark aroma. Schmicker said the Ranch plans to hold a workshop on odorless pig farming on Molokai in mid-June as a way to start the discussion with the community.
An Eye on Energy
Another area of interest for the Ranch is renewable energy, Schmicker said. But rather than focus on energy that may potentially be generated on Molokai to be sent off-island, Schmicker said Molokai Ranch plans to explore renewable energy options for Molokai’s grid.
“When we talk about renewable energy, we mean renewable energy that’s generated here and stays on the island,” she said, adding that solar is one option they’re exploring.
As the state moves forward with plans to build an undersea cable to transport energy to Oahu from a proposed large-scale wind farm on Molokai Ranch land, Schmicker said the Ranch’s hands are tied at this point.
“There was a lot of pressure from the state to comply with their goals,” Schmicker said. She added that the agreement giving the legal option for developer Pattern Energy to lease Ranch land if they are awarded the state contract “was already signed before [Rumbaoa] and I got here – we can’t legally back out of that.”
She added that at this stage, any opposition to the proposed wind farm on Molokai should be directed to HECO and the state, but stressed that the project is “not a done deal,” with other proposals on other islands being considered by HECO.
For Schmicker, thinking about sustainability comes as second nature. Originally from New York State, she found her passion for the topic in college and went on to get a job with the sustainability team at International Paper, one of the world’s largest paper companies. She said there, she worked with paper mills and operations worldwide to improve their environmental footprint.
She moved to Hawaii last October, and began working at Molokai Ranch, based on Oahu, last month.
Schmicker said Rumbaoa has met with many groups and individuals on Molokai so far, including I Aloha Molokai, the Aha Kiole and the West Molokai Association. She said while he prefers to get to know people personally rather than in large group settings, Molokai residents or groups can let them know if they want to set up additional meetings.
To contact the Ranch, call Schmicker at 808-534-9509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. “I’m more than happy to talk with anyone, even if it’s just to talk story,” she said.