Caught in the Crossfire: The Small Farmers


It’s 5 am in the morning and the sun hasn’t even broken through the horizon but the papaya farmer is up already.  He gets dressed and ready to start the day to head down to the farm with his lunch packed and water bottle filled.  His body aches from the work yesterday but a little bit of muscle rub and a pain pill helps him get going and ready to toil the land again.

The farmer takes one last look at his desk before heading out to be sure of the things he has to do today.  He looks over his list to remind himself that today he has to stop by the accountant’s office to be sure to turn in his labor hours for payroll so that checks can be cut on time.  He has to make sure that all his invoices are tallied and ready to file for the general excise taxes and quarterly tax bill.  The invoice for the tractor battery that was stolen last month also have to be paid along with the utilities used.  Property taxes and leases have to be paid by the accountant.  Hopefully, there will be enough income at the end of the month to pay himself a salary also.  Once all that is settled, he heads outside to load his truck to head down to the farm.

His pickup truck is already loaded with the gas cans, fertilizer, potting mix, seeds, and other supplies needed to prep for the new planting.  The farmer did that earlier the day before and can just take a leisurely drive down to the country where his farm is at.  While driving, he gets multiple voicemails from his customers but continues on to check it later.  For some reason, it is unusual that he has gotten at least 7 calls before 7 a.m. but he reminds himself to listen to it.

When the farmer gets down to the fields, he unloads all the supplies from the truck and prepares the tractors and packing shed for today’s harvest.  It had rained the night before so the soil is really soft and moist which means that the picking will take longer than usual to get through the mud.  As he surveys his fields, he notices that his newest field looks different.  The wild pigs must have come down and dug up some of the latest seedlings and tore up the irrigation lines with it.  He makes a mental note to be sure to replace those seedlings and make the repairs after the harvest.

He stops for a moment to check all those new voicemails he received.  Apparently, the outer island’s controversial bill was passed and his customers are worried that they will be affected by it.  He reassures them but in the back of his mind, he’s troubled that there is yet more regulation to come.  He already went through an onerous regulatory process to get food safety certified that cost him a significant amount of income and time.  He also knows that he completed all of his Federal compliance documentation and is preparing for his State level regulations too.  He gets a headache just thinking that there will be yet a third level added to his plate in the future.  That thought goes to the back of his mind as he reassures his customers that they will still have their papayas.  Those conversations leave him very troubled for the future viability of the farm but he has work to do.

It is now time to harvest the field under the ominous cloudy skies that hang overhead.  He jumps on his forklift with its platform and bins preloaded to pick this week’s fruit.  The workers are quick to notice that the harvest looks suspiciously low in the new field.  Upon closer inspection, they notice that there is sap dripping from the stems of the trees.  They all realize that someone has beat them to the fruit already.  The farmer climbs down the forklift and scans the field.  It looks as if some 500 lbs. of fruit have been stolen this morning.  He gets back up the seat and continues to pick whatever remaining fruit is left.  It’s a devastating harvest of half of the usual amount.  That’s not a good thing because his customers were expecting full orders to be filled and he won’t be able to supply it.

After about 3 hours, the entire field is picked of whatever fruit is left and brought to the processing shed.  There the farmer and his workers grade, wash, then pack the fruits up for delivery tomorrow.  The papaya cases are packed in to the refrigerator to keep it fresh for tomorrow’s delivery.  The day is not done yet since there is still more work ahead.

The farmer does a check of his equipment to be sure that it is all in working order to get another field ready for a new planting.  The cover crop is matured and ready to be plowed back into the soil.  His plow is hooked up and the gas tank is filled in the tractor.  Everything looks like it is in working order and good to go.

He then checks his other tractor that will be used to spray some sulfur on the maturing field to prevent the bugs from investing that crop and destroying his fruit.  He calculates the acreage and amount he needs and gets it ready to be used by his other workers in prep for the next day.  He also checks that he has enough fertilizer to get that on the other fields that are ready for it.

The farmer does yet another scan of his fields to check for any diseases or pests in the trees as well as check the irrigation lines.  Walking through several acres takes sometime but he has to be sure that everything is intact.  As he goes through the fields, he pulls off any loose leaves on his younger fields to prevent damage to his fruits should the wind tear through it.

He gets back to the shed in time to also meet up with a reporter who received a tip about problems he’s been having on his farm with thefts.  He spends about an hour with the reporter and the camera man to show them the field and tell his story.

Last but not least, he sets up the farm to get ready to give a private tour of the farm to some school kids.  He plans his lesson with them to help them learn more about farming.  He would like to show these young children how things grown on the farm and what he does there.  He wants to make it lots of fun and pass on some knowledge to them in the time he has.

It’s already 5:30 p.m. and time to head back home to get up for yet another day.  He remembers that he has to plan for the following week because will lose a whole day’s work due to him needing to testify at legislative hearing.  He has to speak up to defend his life’s work because the public’s pressure on politicians to dictate how he should farm.

Our small farms do this day in and day out.  They provide a very basic need for all of us…  Food.  Where is the leadership needed to support these farmers?  Are they aligned with the activists who are essentially standing on a farmer’s front yard dictating how they want their food grown?  There’s something very wrong with that picture.  That is not the local style of doing things.

Our leaders already have shown that they can make hard, unpopular decisions as with the marriage equality issue.  When it comes to essential needs of the populace, where are they in coming out to create an environment of support for farmers?  Yes, it is an election year and the activists are putting pressure on those seats of yours.  Do you cave to the demands public opinion or can you stand up for the small guy?

Take a stand leaders of Hawaii and do what is right.  The farmers will never be the loudest voices but deserve your support in the form of strengthening laws to give farmers the respect they need.  Not doing anything tells the future generation of farmers that they should quit ahead of the game because they are at the whim of leaders who hinge popular opinion and misinformation.  Hawaii’s future in agriculture depends on good leadership to move it forward based in evidence and sound information.

People are starting to speak up for the farmers.  Read what they have to say here about what others are saying.  Sign it too if you support your farmers and what they do.


One thought on “Caught in the Crossfire: The Small Farmers

  1. Pingback: Caught in the Crossfire: The Small Farmers | HawaiiFarmersDaughter

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