The Lesson of a School Garden


School just started last week and everyday I pick my 7 year old up, I pass a small blue container with several tomato seedlings in it.  Last week, these seedlings looked pretty vigorous but this week, they looked kind of sad.  

I bet that these were going to be planted on the small garden boxes set up around the school as part of their garden. There’s been a push lately for school to farm education in hopes grooming more farmers.  The look of those tomato seedlings tell me a different story. 

There’s a huge difference between a garden and a farm.  It’s great that kids can get their hands in the dirt and see firsthand plants growing everyday.  To be able to pick something you grew is an amazing feeling and great for kids to experience.  Many people equate this to farming and that’s operating under a false assumption.

Growing a handful of tomatoes and other veggies isn’t a farm.  A farm has to be financially sustainable and have the right person willing to work long hours in the hot sun to produce something that will provide a way of living.  There are some “farmers” and “farms” that have the backing of billionaires or famous entertainers who don’t face the harsh realities of production because they aren’t reliant on this income.  For the homegrown, local farmer, that simply isn’t the case.

A local school kid isn’t going to be running any farm soon without an actual reality check of what farming is until they immerse themselves in it.  If a garden fails, it’s no huge loss because there’s a market down the street.  There won’t be a huge impact on anyone when all the disposable income put in the garden turns to nothing. It’s no big deal.  Crop failure to a farmer is a big deal. It’s the real deal with a farm.

What will help to encourage more to go into farming? Pique curiosity about the science in agriculture and teach the business aspects of what is involved. Stop allowing disinformation campaigns against farmers to dominate the media.  Encourage critical thinking and dispel fears around the tools used in agriculture.  Most of all, support those who are already farming because they have a higher likelihood of staying in if the environment is conducive to this occupation.

So what does a garden really hold for school kids? It’s a reminder that it teaches kids how to garden, not farm. A lesson that teaches gratitude to real farmers must be included also.  Most of us could never eat or be clothed without a successful farmer backing us up.  We are all lucky to have a farmer everyday of our lives. 

Feeding People is a Passion

To be able to feed people is a privilege that my family is proud to be able to do. Like so many other family farms, we are intent on preserving the legacy of those who came before us.  As we have learned, innovation and technology is a tool to help us achieve sustainability.

When you’re not on the farm or have no ties to the land, it’s easy to form opinions on the subject with the mass amount of information about the work my family does.  It’s easy to think that you know a better way when you’ve “done your research.” It’s a different story when you’re on the farm, working the land.

Instead of going down to the beach to lounge on the shore, I went down to the farm to help get the papayas out to our customers.  I had my husband and kids join me too.  I still got to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and warm breezes.  I also got to drive down to the other fields to see the new shed.  My dad wanted to fix the irrigation system and show me the progress of the fields.

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The new processing shed and office is coming up nicely.

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The newest field planted.

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The matured fields are getting tall.

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The neighbor’s horse paid us a visit today. 

Despite it being a work day, I had a nice 4th of July on the farm. I felt grounded about myself and reminded about the role my family plays in our community.  We are the farmers and we feed our neighbors, friends, and family.  It’s a passion that keeps us motivated to do the hard work that few want to take on in this day and age.

Passion to feed people is what motivates us.  This is our story and keeps us going everyday.  If you enjoyed a day off, don’t forget those who worked to feed you.

A Passion for Papaya is Not Propaganda

A Passion for Papaya is Not Propaganda

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Dr. Marion Nestle referred to the film Food Evolution as “propaganda” and the other activists like Zen Honeycutt and the Food Babe are jumping onboard.  This implies that the content was misleading, and meant to affect opinions using less-than-honest means. I was really shocked when 45 academic signatories wrote the letter calling the film propaganda from the agrochemical industry.

I’m glad to offer you a taste of that propaganda, or should I say, papaya.

The film’s first part shows a horrible battle that happened here in my home state of Hawaii.  Non-farmers and well-financed mainland activists wanted my family to abandon a technology, the virus-resistant papaya.  The papaya was made resistant by genetic engineering, and it was done by universities and government to help the local papaya farmers. It was not the “agrochemical industry”.

Mainland activists riled up local agitators by carefully crafting a massive fear campaign in our communities and manipulated a vote against the papaya. Claims were made that it was poison, it caused tumors, it was increasing pesticide use and more diseases in the industry.  None of this was true, but in fear of retaliation, the majority of the council voted to ban it anyway.

The Food Evolution film crew was in Hawaii because it was the important national story at the time. They covered the story in great detail and presented it as it unfolded, giving plenty of time to the papaya’s opposition.

It also shows how farmers pushed back, and Margaret Wille and the County Council then grandfathered the papaya in, even though they believed (the propaganda) that it was carcinogenic and harmful.

They were caught in a hypocrisy when one tells the public improved fruits are dangerous but then exempt them with pressure.  This is fact.  This is hardly propaganda. The papaya works, it saved an industry, and is outstanding technology.

So it is very disappointing to me that Nestle, Pollan and 45 others go on record calling this story agrochemical industry propaganda, when it is a far cry from the truth.

It is especially disturbing because many of the people that refer to my family’s livelihood as propaganda are graduate students and professors. It seems like a bad career move to call the chronicling political resistance to successful technology agrochemical industry propaganda.

It is even more troubling that these are students and professors that claim to be in favor of small-holder family farms and sustainability.  The papaya allows my family to sustainably produce a local staple that would be gone if it was not for the technology.

If I was a student or faculty member I would think carefully before signing my name to a movement laden with false claims. It seems like the academic road is very difficult today, and when a search of your name shows you standing up against technology and small family farmers, it seems like a short-sighted career move. Your name on that letter symbolizes the rejection of science and the benefits it can have for small family farms globally, who face climate change and it’s consequences.  Do you really stand against that reality?

If you ever are over in the islands please let me know and I’ll personally introduce you to our “giant agrochemical industry”, which is me, my family and two dedicated farm workers, growing a delicious and valued fruit. The movie Food Evolution told our story, our fight, and our ongoing success very accurately.  I would think very carefully before calling my family’s reality throwaway propaganda.

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Joni Kamiya–The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

Dehumanizing of Mankind

Dehumanizing of Mankind

I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to see more and more of the shill and troll accusations flying around by several of the anti-GMO supporters regarding Food Evolution.  It’s maddening to me that a professor of nutrition is even using those terms and trying to back out of the film.  So what’s wrong with this crier of shill and troll bit?

Plenty.

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These are shills.  Does it look human to you?

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This is a troll.  Does it look human to you?

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This is my family.  We indeed look human.

Can you see the difference between the trolls and shills and my family?  The two images above are clearly not human and when people start resorting to name calling, it dehumanizes people.  When you’re dehumanized to a troll or a shill, it’s easy to forget about the beating heart, the feelings, and thoughts of that person speaking out to you and challenging your beliefs.

When a person is no longer seen as human, it is easy to treat them badly.  You can kick a troll and beat it into the ground, and you can throw that shill coin away.  It’s just an object with no feelings and no life.  When those objects are gone, it’s easy to forget about them.  It’s abhorrent to do that to a human, but in reality, that is what we are doing when society uses fear and avoids facts in the discussions at hand. Once a person is seen as an object, it’s easy to do inhumane things to them.  That’s the problem with calling people names like trolls and shills.

I’m deeply troubled by highly esteemed professors and celebrities going around calling others names.  If they are leaders, does a leader seek to take away the human element of our world?  Sure Food Evolution is a movie but it tells a powerful story of humans and what we’ve gone through.  There are real stories in the movie and calling one’s story propaganda is hurtful.  From the small papaya farmer in Hawaii to the African mother who is seeking to feed her children, we are no different from each other as humans.  We bleed the same blood and we feel the pain of suffering.  We want what is best for our families.  I know there are others deserving the same comforts that I have which makes for a good quality of life.  What’s wrong with stepping back and looking at the facts presented in Food Evolution that GM technology may be helpful?  Are you not willing to learn the plight of others?

Brave people are willing to change their beliefs and lead us in the right way.  Yes, you esteemed professors, you have a duty to your students and to the public to teach compassion and remind students that there’s a world far away from us that is affected by our actions.  You can change your mind and know that others will thank you for it.  You’ll face a lot of hate from such a challenge but be brave for the others that you will indeed help.

Please stop the troll and shill cries once and for all and start opening your heart to listen to the needs of your fellow human.  May this story of biotechnology help others as it has helped my family.  We are all human and need to help create that compassionate world for our children.

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Just one of my little “trolls” that I love with all of my heart.  She’s not propaganda and nor is she an object.

Food Evolution

A few days ago, I was able to watch the Food Evolution movie.  I’ve read so many reviews about it and was really excited to see it.  I’m cheering that there is finally a pro-science movie being played!

I have to admit that it really brought out a range of emotions in me.  The first 15 minutes left me feeling infuriated beyond belief because the Hawaii anti-GMO movement was replayed.  The same emotions I felt as that unfolded became fresh again.  I felt sick, angry, and sad.

It still upsets me to this day that my home, Hawaii, was used to affect the world’s ability to access the very technology that save our family farm.  That same technology is helping farmers in Bangladesh, India, South Africa, Brazil, and so many other places.  However, wealthy elites like Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety and pseudoscience pushers like Jeffrey Smith are using fear and intentional misinformation to keep improved plants from the global farmer.  The foodie culture that touts non-GMO and organic food as better does the same to the small subsistence farmer in need of tools.  They say no to technology but offer nothing in return.

Food Evolution isn’t just a movie or “propaganda” as the anti-GMO activists claim.  It’s communication of the true story of biotechnology globally. It tells the story of the papaya in Hawaii and other innovations in the world.  When people like Vani Hari, Zen Honeycutt, Charles Benbrook, and others use primitive psychological tactics like fear to move their followers to stop the story from being heard, our fellow global citizens are being denied a basic quality of life.  Zen even goes as far to say she trusts only the social media and needs no scientist to tell her what to believe.

There is something afoul in society when dishonesty and blockading of technology starts to harm the most vulnerable.  As I’ve observed for years of the discriminatory nature of the anti-GMO activists, it’s the well nourished and well fed that parade as Earth saviors that are against the well being of humanity.  To proudly dress up as bees or bananas then proclaim you’re doing mankind a favor is exactly what your costume represents, something transient and fake.  Even putting on hazmat suits and destroying plants promotes suffering.  Once the facade is gone, we are all humans and are you doing the right thing for our fellow human?

In one clip of the movie, the organic banana farmer realizes that with no food means famine and poverty.  If we truly want to save our planet, we have to have consideration for humanity.  Providing a basic quality of life for our fellow human being is the pono thing to do.  Listening to imported fear that takes advantage of ignorance is the most toxic poison in the world because it denies technology and innovation to those who could benefit the most.  This is what breaks my heart knowing what the future will hold for those worlds away from us.

July 10th at Kahala Mall Consolidated Theaters will play Food Evolution.  I hope it touches you as much as it inspired me to continue the fight for truth.  It’s a movie of hope for the future and a challenge for many to face the reality of what they may believe.

 

 

 

The Journey of Hokulea

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They voyaging canoe, the Hokulea, arrive in Honolulu yesterday which was a tremendous fear after traveling the globe.  Millions watched as it sailed into the shore. A long journey was completed.

If it were not for the brave souls who decided to collect information from the wind, stars, weather, and ocean currents, what we know as Native Hawaiians may have not arrived here in Hawaii. As Hokulea traveled the world following the ancient ways, it’s a reminder that someone must take that first brave step to change the future.

Is it good to be clinging to the relics of old and be blinded to what the future holds? Or do we use the past as a reminder of what our ancestors did to get us where we are today?

To look well into the universe to see beyond what we know is like jumping into that canoe and taking a new journey for the people of Hawaii and even humanity.

Outhouse

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My dad has a very funny story he tells about his adventures on the farm.  I love hearing him tell of such a different life that so many of us know nothing about.

When my grandparents moved to Kaneohe in the late 1930’s, the majority of the landscape was farms.  They settled down near Keole Road to start up their farm.  They tended to cows, taro, and bananas.  Being that the area was rural, no sewer lines or cesspools were in the area so if you wanted a toilet, you had to build an outhouse.

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My grandfather was a resourceful man who would take my dad and his siblings down to the junk pile to search for little treasures that might be useful to make something.  He’d take an old can and fill it with old nails and screws and other stuff.  Many of the old structures he had built were made from stuff that was thrown out.  Back in those days, it wasn’t too hip to recycle and using old junk was just a symbol of a poor farmer.  I doubt he really cared about that image very much because he continued to use junk and scraps for years to make sheds and other farm structures.

From the junks of others, a useful outhouse was built outside their home.  Nothing was bought to make it.  I think of it as a pretty amazing feat how he could transform what looked like trash into a fully functioning outhouse.

Back in those days, there wasn’t bountiful amounts of affordable of toilet paper either and people had to make do with what they had.  Toilet paper for my dad’s family was using the old tissues that wrapped oranges.  They saved all of the tissues from the oranges and recycled the old crates to store it.  Just to have tissue to wipe was a luxury for my dad.

One night, when my dad was about 8 years old, he had to go to the outhouse very badly.  In those days, there was no lights and everything was pitch black.  Being the resourceful kid he was, he decided to take the matches with him to provide some light while using the toilet.  He made his way in the dark to the outhouse with no problem but inside, he thought he’d make some light and lit a match.  He took the match and lit a piece of tissue for light.  Before he knew what was happening, the tissue burst into flames and he dropped it into the crate of tissues.  In no time at all, the tissues were set afire and then the entire outhouse was set on fire, sending him running into the bushes naked.

He told me that it is a story that he would never live down because the blaze could be seen from a distance and it was well known to many that Kenneth burned down the family toilet.  We still laugh heartily at that story every time he tells it.  It also reminds me how his generation really was the first “green” people.

As an occupational therapist working with rehabilitating people, I see firsthand how much the older generations were very much “green.” When someone has a hip replacement or some major illnesses, the basic task of toileting becomes difficult.  I have to teach people how to get back to being independent with something so many take for granted.  One thing I’ve noticed is that my seniors have a very unique way of using toilet paper.

Instead of grabbing a wad of toilet paper, my patients will carefully count out their preferred about of toilet tissue.  If you hand them a wad of toilet paper, they will unfold it and separate the squares.  Then they fold it in a very certain pattern before wiping.  They will use those 4 or 5 squares to get multiple wipes from it and I get so impressed with this toilet paper origami.  These behaviors are lifelong learned patterns of using resources wisely because they knew there would be times when there may not be any.

I do chuckle about this but there is a grain of truth in the old ways and learning from the lessons they experienced.  When we are in abundance, we do go for quantity, whether it be food or toilet paper.  It’s human behavior to indulge.  There is a price to pay with indulgence as it leads to unintended consequences like a clogged toilet or weight gain.  No longer do I see huge advertisements for supersizing food or buying huge quantities of food.  I admit that I used to stock up at Costco for foodstuff only to realize that we weren’t eating all of what we bought.  That discount we thought we were getting became a wash when we landed up wasting the food.

It’s easy to want to fall back on that behavior of more is better.  My friend started gardening and I mentioned to her that she needed to apply slug bait to prevent rat lungworm disease.  She rushed out to buy the pesticide and said she shook that stuff all over her garden instead of following the label.  There’s not much to lose by using more to home gardeners and following the label isn’t a big deal when the bottle costs less than $20.  If a gardener were to do the cost analysis of growing those cucumbers and lettuce, heads, they’d be shock to know how much it would cost to grow it.

To farmers it’s a complete different story.  Some people believe that farmers will toss fertilizer out like crazy but when it means cutting into your bottomline, that is far from the truth.  When you’re trying to maximize the benefit of a product to help support your livelihood, you’re not going to toss out bags of stuff that costs you money!  It’s not going to provide any additional benefits and will have an unintended consequence along the way.

We all can learn from the lessons of the past to guide us for the future.  Clamoring for the old is a different story when you’ve actually lived it to know what it’s like.  My dad’s lessons keep me grounded and appreciating what I have now.