Almost daily I’m baffled at the food, farming and agriculture battles going on in Hawaii. Often I am left shaking my head in disbelief at the issues and questions. How did we get here? Well, that is where it gets disturbing. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but there is certainly a concerted and organized movement at play in Hawaii. The activists who fight our farmers in Hawaii are well fed from Mainland Millionaires; see this article in Forbes for details. They have managed to create a storm in Hawaii, one that is tearing at the fabric of our communities Island by Island. They are loud, often rude and aggressive; the thing they lack is tact, aloha, respect and facts. Often they mix emotion, with fear and fallacies to create a cocktail that is more digestible to the uninformed.
We can’t blame consumers for being confused, mis-information is easy to find online and very little of it created by farmers or agriculture. Farmers and agriculture in general are a relatively tight knit community, we don’t traditionally blast our business on Civil Beat. Farmers feel attacked, forced to defend their life’s work. Many feel judged, even threatened or shamed into changing farming practices or crops. We as a community do not have to allow food fights or force farmers to fight. We can choose as a community to discuss our plates, our food choices and farming practices without the fights. The consumer has the right to choose and yet so do farmers; one person’s choice does not trump another.
I’ve been honored to work with Hawaii’s Farmers and agriculture community for more than 15 years. I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know our farmers; from the 3rd and 4th-generation farmers in Lalamilo to the Hawaii papaya producers, its an honor to call them my friends. In all my travels across this State, representing agriculture, doing farm tours and visiting farmers, I’ve never met the ones depicted by the activists. The farmers I’ve met care deeply about their land, their animals and the agriculture products they proudly produce. They are not evil; they do not harm our land; they are our land stewards, after all their livelihood depends on the soil and land.
It’s odd and frustrating to hear people speak about agriculture when they rarely have intimate knowledge of its workings. They state our government doesn’t regulate farmers; nothing could be further from the truth. On any given day, farmers are regulated by 30 different government agencies. The single most common comment I hear from farmers is if the government would just get out of the way and let them farm as regulated and stop adding additional burdens on them.
For the record all farmers use crop protection methods, its part of their farm plans and IPM (integrated pest management) organic and conventional. Frankly I have no clue where they get half the nonsense they speak of, sometimes I just scratch my head and ignore it, not knowing where to start. Maybe its agriculture’s fault for not being transparent enough, maybe we haven’t shared our stories. There is plenty of blame to go-around, activists have distorted the truth. Daily I see myths that bear no reality in the farms I visit. My hope is that we can begin to dialogue, dull the noise and heal our communities, finding positive solutions to move us forward. I have faith that we can find the right path for agriculture and the community after all our sustainability depends on it.
5 Ways You can Help Quite the Noise and Support Hawaii’s Farmers
- Support All Local Farmers; 95% of all US Farmers are Family Farms.
- Vote for Food Equality and Stand United with Farmers who feed Hawaii.
- Support a National Framework for Food Labeling and Safe, Affordable Food.
- No Farmers = No Food, Flowers or Fiber, Do not help add burdens to our farmers who work hard daily to help feed and sustain Hawaii.
- Join in the conversations about food by Fact checking, don’t share misinformation and ask farmers or the right authority, not armchair activists.