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From Policeman To Cattle Rancher

Scotty Lewis, Providing Double Duty Service To Our Community

Cattle ranching on Hawai’i Island had a humble start in 1793 when Captain Vancouver gifted one bull and six cows to King Kamehameha I. Sadly, the bull died, but all was not lost as one year later Captain Vancouver returned, bringing with him four bulls and eight cows – all longhorn cattle known as bullocks. The small herd flourished on the 400 acres of rich, green grasslands established by the king and surrounded by a protective rock wall. To further ensure the herd’s proliferation, a 10-year kapu (forbidden) was placed on killing the cattle. 

It worked and in the mid-1820s, there were more than 25,000 head of cattle roaming the island’s gently rolling hillsides. The kapu was lifted, ranches formed and Spanish Vaqueros – renowned for their exceptional horseback riding, roping and herding skills – were recruited to teach Hawaiians to manage cattle. Today paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) are the heart and soul of island cattle ranching which has evolved as an important economic driver, cultural and even fashion influencer (think checkered palaka shirts, cowboy boots and Hawaiian-style lauhala-woven cowboy hats). They also share the invaluable lessons learned from a lifetime living on the ʻāina (land).

Together with the paniolo, the men and women raising cattle and producing high-quality grass-fed beef here play an important role in protecting Hawai’i’s natural resources as stewards of the ʻāina and in ensuring traditions are preserved and passed on to future generations.

Self-described “Kona boy” Scotty Lewis, Hawai’i Island rancher/Police Lieutenant, traces his family’s cattle ranching history back to his great-grandfather (Johnny Kawamoto), who served as the foreman at Parker Ranch in the 1950s. The love of working the land, breeding and raising cattle ran strong through the generations that followed, including his sons, Masa and Yoshi Kawamoto who also served as foremen for Parker Ranch in the 70s and 80s.

While ranching was in his blood, Scotty followed his brother Eddie, Jr. – now a 24-year veteran of the Hawai’i Police Department – in pursuing a career in law enforcement following a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2000.

“I’m proud to be a police officer in Kailua-Kona, but it’s not unusual for police to have other lives as well when not on duty,” Scotty says. 

Not surprisingly, that “other life” for Scotty is ranching. In 2002, he had the opportunity to work part-time on a 400-acre cattle ranch in North Kohala where he learned how to run his own cattle business. In 2005, he established the Lewis Cattle Co. with a modest herd of just six heifers. Today, some 18 years later, the company has grown to a herd of over 500 head on 1000 acres of prime leased property (both private and state land), where predominantly Black Angus and Stabilizer cattle are humanely bred and raised. With a Global Animal Practice (GAP) certification, Lewis Cattle Co. is just one of five Hawai’i Island ranches providing flavorful, tender, high-quality grass-fed beef to Whole Foods stores on O’ahu and Maui. According to Scotty, his company sells 100% of its meat products to the retailer. 

Whether in a police uniform or working the ranch, Scotty knows the importance teamwork plays on the job. He was surrounded by it on the ranches he grew up on and around, and again as an outstanding player on Konawaena High School and University of Hawai’i Mānoa football teams. 

“There’s no way I could do this without all the advice and assistance from both, my family and friends. My father is hands-on at the ranch every day, repairing water lines and fences, cutting up fallen trees and tending to the herd – there’s always plenty to do, and he’s on it!” Scotty says.

At age 73, his father has the energy and fitness of a 23-year-old, according to his doctor. Scotty is quick to add, “I say it’s because I make him go to work each day!”

He is also quick to thank his friend Jesse Hoopai who is the ranch manager at Makani Ua Ranch for his mentoring and guidance. “Jesse comes from a long line of hard-working paniolos. His grandfather, father, uncle, cousins, and brother – they are all paniolos.”

This year, Scotty and Jesse joined forces to present the First Annual Makani Ua/Lewis Cattle Co. Invitational Bull Sale in July – a live auction featuring 30 bulls from some top sires in their respective breeds. All bulls were BSE (Bull Soundness Exam) and genomic tested. 

“People sell bulls all the time, but not all of these animals are genomically tested. We’ve worked really hard the last couple of years breeding for the right genetics that we feel will help our local ranchers. Selling these powerful bulls at auction is a challenge,” Scotty says. “It takes lots of hard work – and it hasn’t happened here for years. We plan to keep it going in 2024 with the end goal of educating ranchers on the importance of genetics and EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences) as well as natural resource stewardship to continue raising the bar on quality,” Scotty says.

Find out more on Instagram @lewiscattleco_14.

"Ask me what I love, I love raising cattle."

"It’s not unusual for police to have other lives as well when not on duty."