The Bungled Star Advertiser Opinion

Dear Editorial Board of the Honolulu Star Advertiser,

I have to say that when I read your op-ed on the issue of GMOs and pesticides, I was totally disheartened by your ill informed stance.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever been out to the large farm or even visited a small farm to ask some questions to learn about the issue, but it doesn’t seem like it to me.

One key point that stood out to me was the comment that the, “Anti-GMO have national standing.”  I’m simply floored by that statement.

Who exactly are the anti-GMO activists with national standing?  Let’s take a look.

Zen Honeycutt-mom, professional paid activist, with zero science background, and talks a lot of non-science or nonsense if you ask me.  

Watch her video in the link below and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with what she’s saying.  Note that this woman was recently here in Hawaii on the SHAKA Movement’s dime too.  She’s also moved on from protesting Monsanto and went on the the Dakota Pipeline protests right now.

 

Vani Hari-Ms. If-You-Can’t-Pronounce-It-Don’t-Eat-It and be afraid of chemicals entrepreneur who gets paid by food companies after she sends her Food Babe Army after them.

This woman is a computer scientist who takes advantage of people’s ignorance and uses it to her own advantage.  Fear is how she operates and she promotes the muddling of science and even attacks scientists who speaks out against her.  It’s a business venture for her and it’s apparently very profitable because she’s always traveling to luxurious locales.

 

Vandana Shiva-Another big time money maker and highly inflammatory character of the anti-GMO movement.

Every speech she gives, she takes in at least $40K and in Hawaii, on one of her tours, she made some $109,000 from Hawaii Seed! As with other anti-GMO activists, as soon as you question their facts, you’re banned.  There’s no discussion with these folks and if that’s the case, how is one to ever work with their demands?

 

There are so many other anti-GMO activists backed with lots of money and media power to get to their “national standing.”  From Jeffrey Smith, Gary Null, Stephanie Seneff, Andrew Kimbrell, to UH’s own Hector Valenzuela, it’s a very well coordinated movement that isn’t based on facts and thrives on fear and misinformation.  The Star Advertiser’s editorial board did the papaya farms no favors with what they wrote and nor did they bother to check into the facts around pesticides in our state.  Instead, they continue to give the public a slanted view that only farmers are users and aren’t responsible about it when they state that the State of Hawaii must ensure the public.  The fear mongering message they allude to in their editorial will continue the harassment of the farmers, as Farm Bureau President, Randy Cabral, stated this past weekend.

Let me remind the editorial board what the GMO farmer had to face earlier this year because they, as the main media source in our state, continues to give the facade of legitimacy to the anti-GMO activists.

imageimage

My dad, a lifetime farmer, and food grower in Hawaii had to face the consequence of fear mongering around GMOs and pesticides.  He got yelled at by a very fearful woman so beleaguered by the likes of the Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, and Hawaii Seed.  He has grown millions of pounds of papayas and worked tirelessly for over 5 decades had to face a woman who had been taken advantage of by fear profiteers.  Gone are the days where neighbors and come and talk to each other about what they are doing.  Instead, hot tempered emotion clouds people’s thinking and turns them into ugly, mean people.  That’s simply not sustainable in Hawaii, where everyone knows everyone.

So Star Advertiser’s editorial board, I’d really appreciate it if a bit more investigative reporting is done and going to the source of the issue would take place.  Tomorrow, I get to process some 7000 lbs of papaya that so  many people depend upon and that’s hard work enough.  Our family and workers deserve respect and our voices heard above those of well paid activists like Ashley Lukens, attention seeker Nomi Carmona, and the protest everything Walter Ritte’s.  They aren’t the ones in the fields or on the farms growing Hawaii.  We are the ones striving to preserve agriculture in our state and provide locally grown foods that everyone wants but aren’t stepping up to do.

I’d love to see the board really go through and crosscheck their stances and the groups with “national standing.”  We need more critical thinking and well informed stances, not ones based on fake news.  Fake news has too many unintended consequences and we will all pay the price whether we like it or not.

Aloha,

Joni aka The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

 

 

 

 

Eat with Appreciation

img_5374

Every Monday for the last several months, I do the weekly check in with my folks.  My check in is usually a call or a text asking how many bins were picked.  Consistently, it’s been averaging some 20 plus bins which equates to over 8000 lbs of papayas. Yes, that’s some 4 tons of papayas.

Running after my nearly two year old keeps me plenty busy and working on the farm is my exercise.  If it’s unloading bins or stacking cases, it’s hard work.  From the time I get there at 8 to nearly 4 pm, it’s busy work getting the job done.

Last week, my brother and his main farm help were sick with the flu, leaving us short two people.  Without people power, a farm can’t get its work done. What would normally take us 7 hours to do easily turns into 9 hours or more.  It’s long and arduous getting food grown and to the market.  Consumers get the easy job of pushing a cart and selecting their food.

So on this Thanksgiving week, stop and think about how your food got to your table.  Learn about how you got that turkey and delicious honey ham on your plate.  Think about that wonderful salads and desserts too.  People helped to feed you and they do it everyday.

We are lucky to not have to farm day in and day out.  If you’re not farming someone else is and please send your appreciation their way this Thanksgiving.  The farming families would be happy to hear it from our customers.

 

 

Ordinary Treasures

Ordinary Treasures

My day job is not an easy one.  Taking care of people is not an easy or simple task.  There’s times when you have to put a lot of muscle in or help people to the bathroom.  Anyone who is a caregiver knows that caregiving is an under appreciated work.  It may be tough but I really love what I do.

As an occupational therapist, the daily tasks that we do each day like bathing and dressing become affected by an injury.  Most people never give a second thought about our functional abilities until we lose function.  As a person with health, we forget how lucky we are.

I see people at their lowest state many times.  More people are living well into their late 80’s and 90’s fairly independently.  A sudden fall or illness can completely change their life and trying to get to the toilet is extremely difficult.  It’s also frustrating to go from needing no help to being completely dependent for your basic care.

Many of my patients come to me very depressed.  I hear a lot of crying and sadness in their voices. I remember being told a long time ago that health professionals should not get emotionally involved with their patient because it will cloud your thinking when dealing with them.  I can’t stand there and not feel compassion for the person.  I’ll take the time to listen to what they desire and need.  Sometimes I have to a little extra thing for them that isn’t necessarily part of the job but will make them feel better.  Giving a warm cup of coffee with the exact the amount of sugar and can bring comfort to a person who isn’t feeling well.

I also share a hug with my patients when I see that they need one.  We sometimes shed a little bit of tears together at times. Many of my former patients will come back and visit me too and thank me for being  there for them at their lowest point.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that what I did for them helped restore their function.  I love running into them in the community too.

As I work with the many patients, they each become a thread in my tapestry of memories.  I learn their life stories and it has enriched my life a hundredfold.  I’ve heard amazing stories of bravery and great loss too from seemingly ordinary people.

There are so many amazing seniors alive today who have so many stories to teach the younger generations of we stop and listen.  I’m blessed to have a job that has given me a very rich life.  In a world where we are thrown millions of messages each day, there are some that we need to hold onto forever.  It’s the ordinary people around us who enrich our lives with their stories.

Being able to make people’s lives better with one’s own actions is truly a gift each and everyone of us has.  We can choose to be generous to others or focus on ourselves. I give that gift to each person I take care of because it’s about life, a good quality of life.  My life is so full of good memories shared by others who each taught me something new. Taking care of our fellow human is what we were all meant to do in life in some form.  If we all took time to look at the wealth of the people power around us a bit closer, we’d probably be better off doing that.

Life Changers

The other day, I was given an opportunity to speak via Skype at the Voice of Farmers event held concurrently during the Monsanto Tribunal at The Hague. Having been a first hand witness as to what biotechnology has done for our family is a story that needs to be heard by the world.  Farming families who have adopted technology are the best sources for the potentials of this feared technology called GMO.

As I was preparing myself for this event, I was struck by the realization of how my life was changed by the papaya ringspot virus.  In just a matter of two years, a beautiful and productive field was going through a very slow death.  If this disease didn’t hit my dad’s farm at the time, I may be have different career path determined.  My dad wouldn’t have told me to forget about farming and I might have stuck with agricultural sciences.  My life has taken a completely different path because of one plant disease.

img_3080

Just 2 years before the ringspot virus decimated this field.

img_4097

What looks like a healthy tree is infected with PRSV and produces fruit that is not saleable and has decreased taste and texture.

This story may seem very insignificant in a country where very few farm, however when disaster hits countries where over 70% depend on a crop’s success, this can have huge consequences.  Families are affected by what happens on the farm.  Children may have nothing to eat and parents can’t send them to school.  Chronic malnutrition can set in with children being unable to reach their fullest potential.  With no income, there is no money to buy food also.

When I read an article by the Environmental Working Group attempting to debunk the need to feed the world, it angers me that well fed people can have the gall to share it on the internet.  People in the West have never suffered from starvation or malnutrition but are the first ones to deny others of food.  Food is what will improve human performance and capacity to do better things in the world.  The well fed are denying children and families this ability when they block technology.  It’s simply cruel to stand in the way without another option.

Biotechnology can be a life changer for all farming families worldwide if we stop and really see the consequences of not allowing access to it.  It’s utterly disheartening to me to realize that the people of Hawaii was used to send the world the wrong message about GMOs, when we know that papaya farms were saved by it.  The fact that the anti-GMO/organic proponents are focusing only on Monsanto shows that their bottom line isn’t about sole quality of organic food, but relies on fear and misinformation to maintain profitability.  If organic, non-GMO foods were so much better, why not fund studies to show its merits and sell it based on facts?

As I’m having more interactions with environmentalists, the sad truth comes shining through.  Marjorie Ziegler, a long time conservationist, made a comment to me on a fishing article today about how it was only okay for pono fishermen to fish the oceans. According to her, if one was a commercial fisherman, that wasn’t pono.

If you look closer at what is being said, those launching the attacks against farmers and fishermen, the very ones who feed people, are the self decided judges of this concept of righteousness.  They’ve proudly taken on the role of being the decider or who is allowed to fish and farm because they have decided for themselves that’s their role.  Since when has an environmentalist been put at the top of the chain to make unilateral decisions about what happens? It’s as if they think they are God in many ways.  This way of thinking shows why communities are divided when they are not capable or working with many parties being affected by policies they back.

It’s very important to save the environment but not to the point where an environmentalists makes decisions about who lives and who dies.  There is something very wrong when a person thinks that is their role in life.  Shouldn’t we adopt the attitude of how we can improve the lives of people so that they can live the best life they can? Why is it okay for someone who loves to protect nature to discount the lives of those fully intertwined in the environment? There’s a very narcissistic quality about the need to save earth and save themselves first before all others.  That’s a selfish way of thinking that one would not want the tables turned on them.

I have to chuckle when a few years back, the community group funded by Pierre Omidyar, Kanu Hawaii, would tout how it was about creating a compassionate Hawaii.  Recently, I picked up a Hawaii Center for Food Safety brochure stating Kanu was a supporter.  Being anti-GMO and aligning with CFS will not make for a compassionate Hawaii as we have seen and nor is it creating a peaceful world with the stances they support with going organic.  The organic industry is leading the charge to block the very tools that would make the world a better, less hungry place.  If one is so focused on what you’re eating, that mindset will never allow you to have an ability to be considerate of others who aren’t as privileged. Much of the environmental movement is funded by the wealthy and upper elite using the common man to fight corporations, which is really a hypocrisy.

Changing a life means not only changing yours, but realizing how you can impact others around the world who aren’t as lucky.  It’s our responsibility as people who have food in our stomachs and a roof over our heads to give back to others and stop taking away human potential.  You wouldn’t want someone denying you to becoming your best, so stop doing it to others.

Lessons from the Farm

img_5098

My kids are on fall break so this is one of the few times they get to go down to Grandma and Papa’s house.  Some of the time it’s playing and the other time is spent working on the farm.  To my older daughter, it’s not the best way to spend her time but she realizes that she can make a little bit of money so it’s not so bad.  For my younger daughter, her first words are, “Do I have to?”

When you’re 6 years old, it’s way more fun to be playing outside or on the IPad.  To spend hours on your feet and putting stickers on thousands of papayas, it’s not fun.  Heck, I remember as a kid how much I disliked the farm work day in and day out.

As my dad was overhearing me talk to my daughter about staying on task and helping out on the farm, he started to laugh and said, “Those words sound familiar, huh?” I thought to myself that what she is saying is exactly what me and my siblings used to whine about.  As much as I didn’t like working as a kid, it sure taught me a whole lot of lessons on how each of us are parts of the working machine and when one part isn’t working, the whole machine can’t function well.  It’s the same for a farm.

To make the work more fun for my daughter, I decided to make a little competition with her on who could sticker the fastest on their half of the case.  If it was a tie, then we’d have to play jon-ken-po (rock-paper-scissors Japanese style) and we’d get a winner.  This worked like a charm with her and she managed to stay on task for the entire 6 hours we all spent preparing some 5000 lbs of papaya.  She realized that she was an important part of the farm too that day.

As I’m teaching my children what it’s like to be part of a farm family, I’ve realized that everyone who works on a farm learns some lessons that very people ever get in life.  Here’s some of the lessons I’ve learned on the farm:

  1. You can’t always do what you want on a farm and you have to develop skill to do certain tasks.
  2. If you stop and commiserate about how awful your work is, you hold up the entire operation.
  3. You’ve got to be productive with your time because there’s always something more to do even if you’re tired as heck.
  4. You’re not always going to stay clean and sweat free working on a farm.
  5. There’s always bugs and other pests around that you can either freak out about or get over it.
  6. People are dependent on the work you do and want the best.

A farm relies on the community to survive and thrive.  From our customers down to our workers, everyone plays a vital part in it’s success.  If we don’t grow good food, our customers won’t support us so we’ve got to maintain a quality product and have it for them regularly.  If we don’t have the manpower, we can’t get any of the work done to get our fruit out or cared for either.  A farm is really about people power and having the community be it’s foundation.

What’s the biggest problem with continuing in the path we are taking in Hawaii?  With no support of our current farms and farmers, we lose the next generation of farmers and that is the worst consequence we will face.  No new generation wanting to take on family farms means a smaller percentage of people willing to grow food and grow Hawaii.  Farming families need the support of the community because their failure means a loss to everyone.

Our keiki are spending so much time focused on getting good rest scores and doing well academically, but aren’t learning some real life lessons.  The younger generation is afraid of hard work and lack perseverance.  When things look too daunting, they can’t pull through.  Who will stay farming if the concept of hard work isn’t a value that’s taught? A farm requires dedication, perseverance, a lot of toughness, a love for learning, and tenacity to get through tough times.

The only way we can grow Hawaii is to grow our people and grow leaders grounded in facts to have a clear idea of what we want for the future.  It’s about time that we go back to our communities and start cultivating relationships again because our future depends on it.  We have to get kids on the farm and keep the ones who are on there learning those important lessons if we are to grow Hawaii.

 

When Home is Out of Reach

image

This past weekend, I took my three kids to the dentist.  My older two daughters went in for their cleaning and I waited with my 22 month old son out in the waiting room.

Being a typical boy, my son was wandering around the room playing and talking about the fish tank.  A father sat on the side watching my son play.  He appeared a bit sad as he saw Connor busily exploring.

“I have a son too and I love watching the videos I have of him at this age,” he said.  “My wife cries every time she watches it because we miss him.  I just watch the videos alone then cry to myself.”

I was a little unsure about what to say and asked him where his son was.  He proceeded to tell me that his son went to school in the mainland and decided to stay because he found a good job up in Oregon.  He said that it a hard for his son to come back given how expensive Hawaii was.  His son couldn’t find the job he wanted and didn’t want to work at a hotel at the front desk.

I could see some tears of sadness in the man’s eyes as he watched Connor run around.  He was really sad to not have his son home with family.  He went on about how he doubts there is a future for his son in Hawaii with the way jobs are here.  There’s no real incentive to return home.

As I listened to his story, I too did not want to move home.  When I finished graduate school and was applying for jobs, no one wanted to hire new grads.  I needed to have a year’s worth of experience just to apply.  I decided to stay in the mainland instead and had planned to stay there for good.

Thanks to my husband’s dream of farming and against my wishes, I did move back.  I’m fortunate to have a lot of family who helped us get started too.  I wouldn’t have been able to make it here financially without family given the high cost of living here.

There are so many Hawaii folks that I have met over the years who long to come back home but simply can’t.  It takes sacrificing career ambitions much of the time to return.  Hawaii’s job market is pretty limited depending on what one’s skill set may be.  It doesn’t help that starting your own business is very tough.  This isn’t a new phenomenon though.  Coming home is simply out of reach for so many.

Given what is happening to Hawaii, it appears that our local folks are leaving for better opportunities.  I’m hoping that I won’t have to feel the pain of missing my child who wants to come home but can’t.  Are we investing in bringing back our keiki who know and love Hawaii? Are they willing to take sacrifices to live back home? Something has to change or more local folks will leave and a small piece of local ways leaves with them.

 

 

“Make Loud Noise”

 

Last night as I was going through my newsfeed, several friends posted a video of the attacks still happening in Alleppo.  On the video was a very young child who was covered in dirt and blood who was a victim of the attack.  It also showed other young children who were maimed by the attacks there.  I cried after watching it and am still so sad by it.  It hit even closer to home since that baby looked so much like my son.

I can’t help but think about what kind of world we are creating if people are so willing to bomb communities and harm innocent children.  What are we doing wrong in the world that is making this happen?  That baby could’ve been one of our kids and there wouldn’t be much that we’d have control over to stop it.  It’s utterly heartbreaking.

Is this the world that my children will have to face when they grow up?  Do we want a world where you can’t even go to the mall or school without fear of some crazed person coming in and wanting to shoot or stab you?  I sure as heck don’t want to them to face that.

I’m starting to think that we as a free society is creating a very angry one.  Though a petition to ask a burger company to provide an option that they’ve never had and throwing them under the bus while doing it sounds inane, there’s something that bothers me about it.  It’s not about the petition or wanting a vegetarian option but the prevailing attitude that you can change things by making a loud noise.  Like the GMO issue where millions marched against Monsanto in anger got so much attention, a loud noise isn’t always the best way to do things.  Even with the protests against the pipeline making a media stir, I have to ask if being angry and making noise is really changing the bigger picture?

I’m starting to see that loud noises are only temporary and no truly having an impact overall.  It’s fueling an attitude that if you’re loud and mad about something, that’s the best way to see quick change.  It’s not necessarily good change if it wasn’t thoroughly thought out.  The loud noise against GMOs in Europe and the US have stymied efforts to adopt this technology in places that’s needed the most.  The idea that having enough people not always standing on fact but desires is enough to change policy is an dangerous stance to take.  The protests of Greenpeace worldwide has blocked the world’s ability adopt Golden Rice for nearly a decade.  The environmentalists have claimed victory in saving the earth from it, but malnourished and disabled children have suffered from the loudest demands.  They’ve made change but it hasn’t been for the betterment of society as a whole.

What has happened to the concept of making change by taking your own path and creating that better way that you think is superior?  Instead of resorting to attacking established businesses, why not be innovative and create your own company to to fulfill that perceived consumer demand?  Why use others successes to fundraise for your cause and go on your own merits to make that change you want to see?  Are you willing to take on that work to do that or do you choose the self-serving, easy path to create your “success?”

The prevailing attitude lately is make plenty noise to change things.  Once the noise is done, the work is over so one thinks.  The world doesn’t work that way and problems aren’t solved with a bandaid of noise.  Everyone has to take a commitment to be a part of the process to work together to figure out how to take the next step and what your contribution will be to address it.  Not only do we have to embody this attitude, but we need to teach this to the next generation so that they can be contributors to society instead of noisy complainers who aren’t sincere about making a world a better place.

DSC_2127

People have to be in the fields, getting their hands, dirty, and committed to solving a problem.  Just making noise  over consumer demands have never had a truly lasting impact on society.