Hawaii is known as the melting pot of cultures. Many people from diverse regions of the world came to our islands for one common reason… To start a better way of life. The opportunity that brought them here was agriculture.
My family have had their hands in agriculture for a very long time. My great grandfather was born in Hiroshima, Japan and came to Pahoa on the Big Island, where he grew coffee. My great grandparents on my dad’s side immigrated from Okinawa and started their life on the Big Island of Hawaii to work on the sugar cane plantations over a hundred years ago. Many other local folks have similar stories of relatives who came from the Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, Portugal, and other countries to give them a better opportunity. The very diversity in Hawaii was created by agriculture.
With the blending of so many cultures, brought specifically for the industry, the groups of people placed on the plantations had to develop a new culture. They didn’t share a common language or culture so a new one evolved over time. That culture is what we know of today as being “local.”
Being local has its own set of unstated rules about how we treat each other and how we interact with each other. Local folks value respect for others. Can you imagine if the Chinese workers went up and told the Japanese ones that they didn’t like something about them? Plantation living meant maintaining harmony and working together towards a common goal. It was key to the success of the plantations here. A plantation could never function if there were such uprisings of people against each other. Coexistence and interdependence was key to everyone’s survival and a way of living here.
Fast forward a century later and see what has happened. The plantations are no longer here and a new kind of agriculture has replaced those lands. Technology has advanced how we farm and how we take care of the land. Farming has built an evidence base to expand on. Agriculture still remains a huge industry here and is still what makes the country country. However, what has changed is that certain people have started to attack it. Agriculture is essentially a tapestry of what makes Hawaii unique. A small group of people, who don’t share our plantation and farming roots, have decided to unravel at the threads of what made us who we are by using fear and misinformation. Local people have never experienced such kind of tactics and stand at a crossroad as to how to handle this.
Many long time local farmers have decided to remain quiet, while others, have decided to speak up. The ones who have spoken up have paid the price by being ridiculed and disrespected by these activists. They’ve decided to lay low and hope that the tide will change soon since activists have succeed in destroying reputations on the social media. Local folks don’t like being the target of this kind of behaviors and just endure quietly. Leaders are not hearing these voices as a result.
These activists and aligned politicians have essential decided to unweave the very thing that made our islands what they are today. It is very clear that they don’t understand or embody what it means to be local. Richard Ha, a long time farmer who owns Hamakua Country Springs Farm, calls these locals the “rubbah slippah folks.” They want their Hawaii, not the local style Hawaii that those of us born and raised know of. They are also taking advantage of the fact that local folks just don’t speak up. It is so against typical rubbah slippah folks to stick their necks out for something. The level of respect of the activists are clearly zero. They are essentially coming onto local folks’ farms and dictating what and how they want their food grown. What local person would ever think of doing that?
Right now, local family farms like my dad’s and others are at a huge junction as to what will be their next action. Local farmers and ranchers are being put in positions where they have no choice but to speak up for themselves against a public, who have little to no ties to their work or agriculture. Even our faithful customers don’t know how to help in this environment. There is a new culture being formed, as to what values the new generation of farmers need to possess. The new local style of handling this needs to be, “SPEAK UP for what you love and honor!”
I am only a single person, who decided to take a leap and speak up. I have created a simple way for others to do the same. Please sign the petition to give your support to the farmers of our state and let our leaders know that the local folks aren’t going to sit back anymore. It’s now our turn to be heard! That is how I will honor and respect my roots in agriculture! Will you do the same?