North Shore Ranch Expands to Replanting Native Trees, UTV Tours
Pacific Business News
By Katie Murar – Reporter, Pacific Business News
A new partnership is changing things up for Gunstock Ranch, a multi-faceted tourism business in Kahuku.
Greg Smith took over the family farm in 2006, about 30 years after his dad started the ranch. Since then, he has grown the cattle and horse ranch into an agritourism business that offers trail rides and UTV tours, and serves as an event space and horse boarding facility.
It also became the new site for a reforestation initiative through a partnership with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, which brings in customers and employees of hotels like the Alohilani Resort and The Kahala to plant trees on the property.
“We expanded our tours to incorporate the tree planting, which is really neat because it isn’t just pure recreation, it gives people a purpose,” Smith said. “It has also brought in more high-end customers, which is interesting.”
Smith’s wife, Kyndra, manages the operation and its 12 employees, while he maintains a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I have kind of always had conservation on my mind, which ties into this new reforestation initiative,” Smith said, who works on the ranch when he gets back from his day job around 4 p.m.
How has the ranch changed over the years?
My dad started it as a hobby in 1973, but it developed into a business raising cattle and horses. The property used to be a sugar cane plantation, and when it closed down and Campbell gave the land away, my dad started leasing the property and turned it into a pasture. For a while in the ’80s we offered commercial trail rides, but insurance costs got to be too crazy. We started them up again in 2005/2006, and we now offer those tours with the reforestation initiative. We also added UTV tours with the tree planting over the summer, which we hope will expand and grow. We have always raised cattle and horses, and we do horse boarding as well. We have 50 horses, and we board 50 horses. We have about 100 cows right now, and we do a small grass-fed beef program where we send out an email saying what is available, and people from the area, mostly locals, come buy it. We have had a lot of restaurants ask us for the beef, but we wouldn’t be able to do it with the amount of land and cattle we have. We also raise goats and sheep for the petting zoo, which is a popular attraction for birthdays and events here.
How has the reforestation initiative affected the business?
It caused us to add more tours, and streamline our business to be able to accommodate the trees, which will ultimately take up about 500 acres. It will be done in three phases, and we are still in the first phase which is about 80 acres. The Kahala Hotel was one of the first ones to do this, where they sell trees to customers and they can come out here and plant a tree and track it online. [Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Director] Jeff Dunster is always looking for more hotels and organizations to partner with, and he is always bringing new people out here to plant trees. We are looking forward to growing that partnership, and we are expanding the horseback rides and UTV rides, which are nice because not everyone can ride a horse, so it opens up our markets to those who want to tour the ranch and plant a tree.
How have revenues changed in the past 10 years?
We have definitely grown revenues, mainly from expanding our trail ride business. When we first started we had maybe 12 horses, and now we have 50. But just like any business, our cost of operations have also increased. Our land lease has gone up just about every year; the feed cost for horses is crazy in Hawaii because of shipping; and there are labor costs as well. So while we have increased revenues we have also increased our expenses, so it may be two steps forward one step back. Our main thing has been to stay out of debt, which made us more safe in some areas where we aren’t owing any money, but it also makes things take longer because we don’t have a lot of cash to make big investments. We have just operated with the equity we have.
What is the biggest part of your business?
Definitely the trail rides, they are our bread and butter. Our one-and-a-half-hour ride is our most popular, but we also have an hour ride, a lunch ride and a dinner sunset ride. We have partnered with Pounders Restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center for the food, which has been a huge hit.
Greg and Kyndra Smith, Owners
Address: 56-250 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, HI 96731