If Everyone Farmed

This weekend was spent planting the new fields in. My mom, dad, brother, and their workers usually do all the planting themselves. A few weeks ago, my mom called to ask if I wanted to plant. Since I really had nothing planned, I decided to join in.

When you work indoors in an air conditioned setting, going outside is rough. That weekend was in the upper 80’s with a high humidity. I got my 3 kids lathered in sunscreen and packed a lunch. I haven’t planted a field since I was a teenager.

When we got down to the field, it was already hot. We went straight to work planting the seedlings. My brother had already plotted out the whole field so our job was getting some osmocote slow release fertilizer in the holes and putting the plants in. When this was said and done, we did some 300 plantings.

I felt pretty good after that and was surprised I wasn’t achy. For each planting, it meant squatting down to the ground and staying in that position to cover the seedling. It really equates to hundreds of deep squats. I felt so young again!

Well, the next morning was a different story all together. After a deep sleep, I tried to get up from my low futon bed and got stuck. My quads were screaming at me, “Noooo!” I was so achy but with a good boost with my arms, I got up and walked it out. I felt fine once I warmed up.

This past Saturday, it was planting time again after a delay was caused by Hurricane Lane the previous week. We had twice as many folks and an acre to plant. Up and down, squatting multiple times was the routine again. We finished the field and even got the drip lane installed too. One of the workers, Chansen, said, “Good we had more people. Went real fast today.”

Saturday took 6 hours of work to complete the field with 12 people working. We got about 600 plants in the fields thanks to everyone’s effort, including two of my friends who wanted to get dirty. The humidity was better and we had a breeze that helped. I felt so good working out in the field.

Well, the very next morning was spent getting up and going to the Okinawan Festival. I was feeling pretty good until midmorning when my legs started to ache from all the squatting. I had to rest and shake out the stiffness before working in the soba booth for 4 hours.

All I can say is that I’m wiped out from this weekend. It was constant moving and go, go, go. I did a lot of work and felt good that the task was accomplished. My muscle pain is worse this time but Tylenol helped quite a bit.

The temporary ache I have in my legs is a nagging reminder that too few will ever feel this kind of fatigue gained from planting food for people. Most modern day folks get this pain from running nowhere on a treadmill or pumping iron in a gym. These efforts help build their bodies but provides no tangible goods for others much of the time.

The workout I got will produce thousands of pounds of food for people for years. People simply walk into a store and select their fruit every week. I hope that when they buy food, they hold it think about who grew and produced it. A lot of sweat equity goes into what we eat. Never forget that fact every time you eat.

Think Farmers are Lazy?

As the papaya trees grow taller, we can no longer harvest it at a certain height. Those trees need to be plowed back into the soil. While the younger fields are being harvested, we have to be preparing for replanting the fields.

Starting new plants means growing a bunch of seedlings and caring for them to reach a good size to plant. This is a job done after harvests and processing. The field itself has to be prepared with some fallow time and plowing weeds and old plants in.

After the field is cleared and the old growth composted back in, it’s time to plot the field. This means measuring out the rows and plotting the planting spots. This task can take several days to do and is usually an after work task.

This weekend was the planting of the trees. I haven’t planted a field in years since I still work full time. Given no time during the week, my dad decided to plant this weekend. My mom called me at 8 p.m. the night before to let me know. Since we had nothing planned, I decided to haul the kids down to the farm.

Planting papayas mean a lot of squatting down and covering up the seedling. We used an old shovel that I played with as a kid. My dad used junkyard iron pieces given to him by an old welder for his trailer. The old tractor used was a dumped one left at an abandoned farm. My brother laughed that the 4″ pots they used is reused every year so they never have to buy new ones. Goes to show how green farmers are!

Planting is indeed a team effort. My dad drives his beat up salvaged tractor with a homemade trailer carrying seeds and water along the rows. One person digs the holes where the chopstick marker stands. Another person drops a teaspoon of osmocote fertilizer the feed the new plants. The rest of us squat down and plant the seedling and cover up the roots. The last thing we do is give it a good drench of water.

We planted some 300 plants this weekend. It was like doing a bunch of squats and dead lifts. I really got a gym workout by doing that. Planting the field so it can feed people is so much more satisfying then pumping iron to make myself look good. Our tired bodies were worked to it’s max and we farming folks get a great feeling of satisfaction when people appreciate it.

If you want food, it comes from a farm. If you aren’t farming and get your food from an air conditioned store while pushing a cart, you are darn lucky. When you pick up the produce at the market, be sure to remember who grew it. It wasn’t the loud, selfie-obsessed, internet activists growing it. It’s your long time farmer who is producing what you buy.

After busting butt in the fields this weekend, I have a new respect for the work of our farmers. My skin feel parched. My legs are sore. My feet is tender. I have a blister on my baby toe. My hands are stiff and achy. I hurt all over but feel good that my work will bear the fruits of my labor.

Intolerant Politicians

As a public servant, isn’t it one’s job to listen to all constituents in their community? In the case of the anti-GMO politicians, they are quick to ban and censor criticism. I’ve been banned by Rep. Kaniela Ing, Sen. Russell Ruderman, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Kauai County Councilmember Gary Hooser, and now Sen. Josh Green. There is no tolerance for dissent in these circles and in the current environmental movement.

What gets me irate is how those claiming to represent the community only selectively listens to certain people, the loud squeaky wheels. I’ve even had a conversation with a candidate, Scot Matayoshi, about agriculture and fishing issues, only to be left with no response. This person is running for office in my area and won’t even return emails to a potential constituent is very troubling. In mailers and fliers, he’s asking to represent Kaneohe-Kailua but doesn’t even respond back after telling me to send him info on my concerns. There is questionable integrity when people do not follow through on their word.

I’m thoroughly disillusioned by politicians who claim support an issue but then on record vote otherwise. If one actually is honest, they’d act in a fair and reasonable manner. In political circles, it’s smile in your face then stab you in the back. It’s also likely why Hawaii has a terrible voting numbers because the public is disgusted by what’s happening.

Just a few months ago, it was announced that 2 more people were diagnosed with rat lungworm disease and climate change may increase the risks. Not only do we have that, but preventable diseases like mumps cases continue to increase to 1000 as of July 5.

I would’ve thought that Sen. Josh Green as a medical doctor would bring attention to this public health problem. He himself has photos of being vaccinated but doesn’t even mention much about this? Why? I bet that being openly supportive about vaccinations will leave his anti-GMO supporters confused.

Then again, this man has used the autistic community as his main cause. He’s told people that it’s pesticides leading to this condition. Instead of saying vaccines, he’s turned the focus to pesticides. Forget any facts that farming families don’t have higher rates of autism but he’s been plastering his social media about protecting the aina from “toxic pesticides.”

I have to laugh because he was quoted in a news story that the Department of Health better be spraying schools for mosquitoes when dengue fever broke out. Now wait just a second. This man wants no farmers spraying pesticides but he’s fine with spraying pesticides in the schools itself?! Mosquito sprays aren’t water and will kill things but that’s acceptable?

I’d love the day when he stands up for the evidence and actually educates the anti-GMO/vaccine folks. It would be awesome to see him post the fact that vaccines don’t cause autism. I know I’ll never see that because it would cause major cognitive dissonance in his supporters. He’d be eaten alive by the anti-vaccine folks brutally with a post like that. Then again, he will just block them.

It’s sad that a medical doctor had decided to participate in misinformation. He also blatantly ignores the resurgence of mumps that is indeed a public health threat or the poverty that hits his own county. He is a medical doctor who took an oath to do no harm. By not being truthful to the public, he is part of chemophobia campaigns that is contributing to rat lungworm disease when people ignore the utility of pesticides.

As I drive around seeing his signs on people’s yards, I can’t help but feel sad that they want this candidate on office. He represents a Hawaii run by outside influences coming via non-profit lobbying that has no transparency. With his participation with the Center for Food Safety, Sen. Green stands with people who deny technology in agriculture to the world and even blocks the Thirty Meter Telescope. (What does food safety have to do with a telescope is beyond me!)

If he gets into office, I’m fearful for what the future holds. He doesn’t represent the local people. He’s representing a Washington, DC special interest group. He’s almost like the Dr. Oz of Hawaii.

Sen. Green openly lying that I’m a shill.

The environmental movement in Hawaii is leading to many unintended consequences when science is rejected. Go organic they say and that leads to anti-GMO, anti-vax, which turns into suffering. Those same organic touters are printing flyers on non-recyclable glossy paper using corporate derived inks. Hypocrites stating that they care for the environment but are filling landfills with wasteful, non-organic paper products.

I know the last mailer I got is going straight to the garbage dump to turn to power when burned up.

Intolerance runs rampant in politics and it absolutely disgusts me. Matt LoPresti is yet another intolerant politician. His opponent is our long time supporter, Alicia Maluafiti, is running against him this election.

He’s been going around stealing signs of his opponents before but is now resorting to sending Babes Against Biotech activists to community events set up by his opponent.

This event happened at 5:36 pm and shortly after, he posts a picture with Jessica Mitchell.

He claims that she was kicked out of the event ignoring the fact that she was being very rude and obnoxious. This is not her first time acting like this. She left a racist message on Senator Clarence Nishihara’s voicemail before. On top of that, she was involved with a confrontation with Nalo Farms’ Dean Okimoto when she was verbally attacking a fellow farmer, Shin Ho.

I somehow doubt she realized how shameful her behavior is because it’s celebrated by LoPresti’s followers. They can’t be civil because they operate from emotion. Both LoPresti and Mitchell claim to hate GMOs but are always wearing, eating, and driving it.

While the Babes Against Biotech claimed to be sustainable, it’s clear that they aren’t. Nomi Carmona, their leader, isn’t flaunting short skirts at ag hearings and smoking anymore. Maybe they’ve realized their hypocrisy.

Shin Ho is still farming and so are we. Thousands continue to enjoy what we grow and seeing fields instead of hotels. This election needs reasonable people supporting farms if we are to feed our communities. The ag community deserves support and show it in your vote!

Farm Fair 2018

This weekend was the 56th Annual Hawaii State Farm Fair at Kualoa Ranch. Once again, we spent the whole weekend working it. We didn’t sell our papayas but donated it to be sold in the Farm Bureau ag tent. We passed out thousands of samples to many families.

As always, we get hit with anti-GMO activists here and there. This farm fair was a bit more prevalent than the last 2 years, which was odd. We had one lady drooling when she saw the slices of papaya, but then abruptly changed her mind when she saw the dreaded “GMO Story” on our booklet. While she rejected it, half a dozen little kids were chomping down on papaya. A few minutes later, she came back and took a slice and ate it to the skin.

Several other people saw the papayas asked if it was GMO. When we told them they were, they weren’t even nice and said, “I don’t want it then.” These folks did this in front of their kids displaying no manners. It was quite irritating. Other realized it was modified but thanks to photos of diseased fruit posted, I was able to start a conversation about it. Others were curious to learn the story joined in and asked questions.

I had many people saying that they thought GMO is dangerous. I asked them why and most could not articulate a reason other than saying they read it somewhere. Many of these folks were teachable and willing to learn. They simply lacked critical thinking skills and did not know how to find good information.

I did get the GMOs means pesticide bit too but easily walked them out through photos. It helped that the Department of Ag had a contest that made people seek out answers of the farming booths. By presenting a question, many did not know where to find the info. Great learning experiences happened through that.

I have to say that it wasn’t a surprise that the rejector of GM papaya went right to the food trucks. There were no organic food serving trucks and has never been at the fair ever. These folks think a fried lumpia is better than a slice of fresh papaya. Many were also wearing cotton clothes while saying no to GMO.

Several who expressed being afraid of pesticides had dyed hair and covered in tattoos. They inject synthetic inks into skin and apply it in their hair but fear Roundup. I’m simply amazed and saddened by the level of ignorance in people.

Politicians even came by to talk story. I reminded them that ag needs support in words and action, not pandering to the loudest activists. We need facts and more science to adapt to climate change or face devastation. We need tools to sustain us, no fear mongering attacks seeking to remove options. They nodded in agreement and hopefully will pull through but I have my doubts.

Despite the few rude anti-GMO activists, learning was happening this weekend. I’ve realized that those who tend to know the least but avoid GMOs are victims of heavy handed fear mongering campaigns. They’ve been deceived by what they read on the internet. All we can do is treat them fairly even though they cannot do the same.

Many people learned our story and why the technology is needed. They saw pictures of the disease and how farmers are hurt by it. The reasonable person can learn our story and hopefully share it with others to combat the fear against the very farmers they rely upon.

Hawaii cannot afford to be manipulated by outside influences. If farmers are to be successful, we need communities on board with our work. There is land to be cultivated and we need the people and communities supporting us.

If you want local food, you got to be supporting those who are working towards that goal.

The Humble Fruit Behind a Dream

The people of Hawaii love papayas. It is a major staple for generations of families here. Many consider it to be the equivalent of the banana on the breakfast table. If bananas were gone, few would know what could be a suitable replacement. That is the reason why the papaya was saved through technology for the people of Hawaii.

The papaya has also helped so many farming families stay in farming. The papaya ringspot virus ravaged so many farmers who were forced to change occupations. Once they stopped farming, many left those fields never to return.

My dad came so close to losing everything. He worked long hours at his day job then worked even more hours on the farm. He was determined to do both jobs to support the family. I only learned recently why he chose that path.

He knew that the farm held many life lessons of working together and staying focused on quality work. Those two values were taught to him by his father and mother. He wanted me and my siblings to learn that on the farm because it would stay with us forever.

Many times, the farm didn’t make money but we were told we had to work to support the family. We learned how to persevere through long hours and the beating hot sun. There was no giving up because people depended upon us. That lesson is stuck in my mind that nothing is as hard as the physical labor needed to grow food. As a result, I am always appreciative for what I have in my life.

My dad is living his dream by farming and seeing my brother learn the ropes. His hands are stiffening up at the end of the day and sometimes he has a sore back. I see him limping from time to time but it doesn’t stop him. He still goes on with his work and beams when happy customers send their appreciation for the fruits of his labor.

A farmer has raised a family on the farm and planted the seeds of success in his children. The farm has changed over the years through new ways of growing crops and using modern technology, but the lessons learned are the same. It takes a lot of hard work and grit to be a farmer. That lesson has to be passed on to each generation in order to sustain family farms.

The Hawaii papaya story has helped to sustain our family through 3 generations. This high tech fruit has fed millions of people for over 20 years. It is GMO technology feeding people!

People around the world can learn from what happened to us where we can rise up from devastation. One plant disease or major weather event can end a farmer’s livelihood. If we want more farmers being successful, we need to support the science that can help them reach those goals.

The Hawaii papaya story is one of hopes and dreams for future. If we had lost access to this technology, our family farm would be gone and only 2 generations would have experienced farming. Farmers’ success is dependent upon our ability to adapt and anticipate change. We can’t let fear block opportunities and stymie success.

Do we want people to succeed in life? Do we want generations to thrive? If so, we need to give people tools like food. Without food, the human potential will never reach its peak.

Let’s keep giving to people across the world. Keep speaking loudly about the Hawaii papaya story so they can benefit from it. A full life is what each and every human deserves.

Backbone

I work with elderly people as my day job. I see firsthand the effects of aging everyday. So many people tell me how they used be so tall and have lost several inches as they aged. Not only do I see people who have lost height, but I see people with severely bent over or curved spines.

The spine is the body’s support structure that keeps us upright and maintains how we function. Once there are permanent changes to this system, the person’s abilities is altered. The long term damage results in disability and suffering.

With the recent passage of the anti-pesticide bills in our legislature, I received messages and emails from certain legislators apologizing for voting for this. I was told that a no vote would not have mattered so they had to vote yes. I also was told that I didn’t understand the politics behind this passage. I appreciated the emails with the rationale but am very much saddened by the message sent with this vote.

I remember as a kid how honorable it was to visit a legislator at the State Capitol. It was like visiting a local celebrity when you’re 12. I saw them as great people and a leader to look up to. Fast forward to the present and I honestly have a hard time wanting to call several of them honorable.

In my mind, the legislators have a duty to the public to use resources wisely for all constituents. They are the backbone of our community who have chosen to lead people in the right direction. Unfortunately, the last 5 years have shown me otherwise.

Many leaders are abusing that spine with politicking and damaging the integrity of our communities. Instead of looking at the real issues around pesticides, they choose to listen to the DC lobbyists’ tales. The evidence shows homeowners misusing pesticides and even immigrant farmers not properly applying it. So instead of addressing these issues in a bill, they choose to ban a pesticide, chlorpyrifos, used in many sweet potato farms for killing weevil infestations. Who cares if this weevil can destroy up to 97% of their crops and there’s no evidence of misuse by them?!The politicians need to be a hero so forget consequences! They’ve attacked the most regulated user instead of the problem ones.

The message sent to the public gives the perception that farmers are the bad guys and legislators are flying in with the saviors to rescue us. I’d really appreciate a public education campaign to get homeowners educated since there’s more of them than farmers. The layperson fears farmers but don’t realize that their neighbor may be the real culprit.

With the recent incident where pesticides are being used to kill prawns in Hawaii streams, the environmental groups remain eerily silent on it. If they were to make noise about the pesticide usage by a layperson, it may start to get people thinking that farmers aren’t the only users! That would create curiosity about the claims made and likely chip at their credibility and fundraising.

By not standing tall for what is needed, our legislators have damaged their own credibility in my eyes. Many have written messages of support to me over the years. I no longer view them as honorable given the politics behind the passage. It is no wonder what many aren’t seen as up and up leaders. Their actions show us a person with no backbone to stand up for what is right. The public sees them as old crooked and bent people who can’t stand tall anymore. That image only gets worse each year and faith in our public servants go down.

When the want-to-be politician stopped at my house a few weeks ago, he gave me the “I support farmers” spiel but then plans on building a school on farm land. Then I asked him what he will do about the anti-pesticide issue should a law be passed. His idea was get parents to sign a waiver and everything will be fine. He was clueless about what was happening to agriculture!

No, Mr. Scot Matayoshi, as a lawyer, you should know that waivers like those are not going to work. A parent can’t sign away a child’s right and it’s simplistic to think that. Any new law that comes into effect can change the legality of the waiver. In a typical politician way, he talks the talk but operates from incorrect assumptions. Maybe that is why he is suited perfectly for Hawaii politics as he is another without a backbone. To tell me that he supports farms but intends to build on it is two-faced.

A long time ago, this is what Kaneohe looked like.

From a similar view, this is Kaneohe today, full of homes. I know that it’s inevitable development will happen. When farms are gone, they are gone forever. What farms are left are now battling for support of our leaders but getting little actual action. It’s a message that maybe farms are going to be gone sooner than we realize.

If the community wants farms, then we need leaders with a backbone now. When one has a straight backbone, one can functional at his maximal potential. If one allows their backbone to be attacked and bent, their appearance and function will be altered permanently. We need people willing to stand tall for what is right for once. Who will that be?

Our Connection to the Stars

Over a century ago, my great grandparents made a decision to leave China, Japan, and Okinawa. They left like so many others to a new and unfamiliar place way across the Pacific for future opportunities. I can only imagine what they envisioned as they made that journey.

Many left family behind in their homelands to seek a better way of living. My great grandparents traveled aboard a ship for weeks to get to Hawaii. I can only imagine what it was like to be captive on a board with hundreds of others going to an unknown place. Life must’ve been very hard and the only other opportunity was far away. I bet they sat in the darkness looking above at the stars hoping for a better life.

The ancient Hawaiians were probably thinking the same thing thousands of years earlier when they sailed the oceans looking up at the stars for guidance. The stars were guides for the people to build a new life in an unknown place. It was a constant symbol to people who undertook a journey across the Pacific.

For my family and the ancient Hawaiians, they both looked to the stars for a better life for their families. As I recall my own family history, I appreciate what they did for me over a hundred years ago. I know where they came from and the hardships they faced over the years. They made major sacrifices to give their children better opportunities, and for that I am forever grateful. I tell those stories to my children who reap the benefits of the sacrifices made so many years ago.

In this current day, people have forgotten to look up into the sky for guidance. The same stars that gave people a map of future travels is no longer of value to the modern day person. People would rather protest something under the guise of sacredness rather than see the need to grow a person’s capacity and potential through learning. Like the Hawaiians who stopped voyaging for 600 years, the modern day people are setting the stage to repeat that again by rejecting the curiosity that their ancestors valued. Hawai’i will be set back for years with the loss of the Thirty Meter Telescope should they choose another site.

I see the stars as a connection to my ancestors who also saw the constant light in the sky in a sea of darkness. I have dreamt that those glittering lights are bits of hope for the future.

It makes me very sad to see a young Hawaiian like Senator Kaialii Kahele adamant about stopping the Thirty Meter Telescope with his unscrupulous gut and replace lawmaking. It’s angering to see elite groups like the Center for Food Safety joining in on blocking this opportunity for an island faced with limited opportunities and poverty. The celebrations of activists blocking the telescope only signals a disregard of the stars that connect each and everyone of us to our ancestors.

The world is advancing in leaps and bounds which makes many fearful of what’s to come. We can hide in the dark and try to pretend that it’s not happening. My ancestors didn’t resist the change of moving forward. They got on that boat and sailed away with hope. They also planted hope in my grandparents and the next generation in my dad.

We won’t lose a piece of who we are because of technology if we remember our stories. That technology can help us remember and preserve our heritage and stories for decades to come. Each generation must know their personal histories to keep hopes and dreams alive. The elders carved a path for the future and we need to continue it and maintain that connection. Know who you are and where you came from for that is your roots to keep you grounded for the future. Honor our past to move us forward for the future.