Upcountry Maui encompasses a broad area of forest, farmlands, and pastures that stretches across the western slopes of Haleakala from the cloud line down to about the 1,500-foot elevation. Running from the communities of Ulupalakua to Makawao, the rich soil and climate have always attracted farmers; here Hawaiians raised sweet potatoes. Later, the agricultural produce of the Chinese, who settled in Keokea and Kula as early as the 1840s, was a major source of food for the California gold rush of 1849, while their potatoes lured whalers to Lahaina. Ranching rose in importance in the late nineteenth century and remains a major presence in the area, with the twenty-thousand-acre Ulupalakua Ranch, the Kaonoulu Ranch in Kula, and the thirty-thousand-acre Haleakala Ranch headquartered in Makawao. Increased demand for housing, beginning in the 1970s and accelerating from the 1990s, has eroded some of upcountry Maui's open space, transforming parts of the district into bedroom communities.
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