Vandals cut down most of Mililani farm's papaya trees
• Photo gallery: Papaya vandalism
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
A Mililani farmer said vandals entered his farm Monday and destroyed nearly his entire crop of papaya in what he described as a senseless act of vandalism.
Jerry Punzal said the damage at his 35-acre farm on Lanikuhana Avenue likely occurred Monday afternoon. Punzal said nearly all of the farm's 400 papaya trees were chopped in half.
Punzal initially believed the vandalism happened either late Monday or early yesterday. But he said a neighbor reported seeing three boys leaving his farm at about 2:30 Monday afternoon.
"I'm going to forward that to the police," Punzal said. "She has a pretty good description of them."
In addition to the papaya trees, he said the vandals damaged his irrigation system. He did not have an estimate of the cost, but said it likely will be in the "thousands of dollars."
Punzal said he had no idea why anyone would want to destroy his crop. He said theft wasn't a factor because no fruit or equipment were missing.
"This is strictly vandalism, some idiot coming in here," Punzal said. "The profit margin in farming is really, really small. Us farmers here are really trying to keep sustainable and growing local. For some idiot to come in and do something like this, really makes it hard to continue to provide local fresh produce. It's a shame that we have people like that."
He said he will check with his insurance company to see if the damaged crop is covered. Punzal added that it takes a year for a tree to begin bearing fruit, and it will continue providing fruit for three years, so it will take some time for the farm to be up and running again.
Agricultural theft and vandalism cost Hawai'i farmers millions of dollars each year.
In the latest report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service issued in 2005, Hawai'i farmers estimated theft and vandalism at $11.4 million, or 9 percent of the net farm income of $122 million in 2004. Farms on O'ahu suffered the highest rate of theft and vandalism at 27 percent of all farms, followed by Kaua'i at 18 percent, according to the report.
Punzal said he has had problems with people vandalizing and stealing equipment from his farm, but said this is the first time the trees were targeted.
"This is definitely the worst case," he said. "They definitely spent some time in there."