Why Farm?

How likely would you take a job where people think you’re poisoning them?

How would you like to face an audit for what you use on your crops?

How would you like knowing that a mainland activist can sue and cause your farm to have no water?

How would you like to work all day in the hot sun only to be yelled at by a neighbor who thinks your crop protection products are killing them?

How would you like a job where you have to spend thousands of dollars to pass a food safety audit just to bring your products to market?

How would you like a job where things like portapotties and tractor batteries get stolen?

How would you like a job where people on the internet feel they know how to do your work and let you know it too?

How would you like a job where you have continually defend it every year at the legislature by people who have never farmed in their life but make rules about it?

This is what us farmers face in this day and age. My brother always tells me who the hell would farm knowing all the obstacles we must face? If it wasn’t for my dad’s support, he has no idea how he could manage.

Then there’s my dad watching on the sidelines of what is happening. He always tells me that the way we are moving is going to have serious consequences for all of farming. When he saw the fear mongering around pesticides, he knew that it meant the return of rat lungworm disease.

Years ago, the fear mongers happily advertised “pesticide free” produce. With the return of rat lungworm, people actually want some form of pest control and are afraid of those pesticide free signs. Organic and conventional farmers lost sales after many people fell ill to this parasite.

The professional activists are no longer spreading fear about pesticides and buffer zones but have now moved onto water, the life of farms. The weak legislators continue to cower to their demands will no realization of what this will do for the small farmer embroiled in all of this.

Tales of corporate conspiracy continue while many family farmers and ranchers face closure without water. The talk of sustainability suddenly quiets by the activists because they know darn well, their goal to have all land fallow is in reach. The governor isn’t jumping on his slogan to double food production anymore.

They listened to the activists thinking they will be a political boost. What they don’t realize is that these loudmouths feed no one and will never have a workable plan because they move from one issue to another. Nor do these people care about who is taken down in their efforts. They only seek non-profit donations to continue their unsustainable path of destruction in the ag community. They are takers with nothing to show other than grandstanding about their “accomplishment.”

If celebrating the loss of farms is a good thing, then the legislators have succeeded this year in the development of prime ag lands with their inaction to extend the permits. They’ve showed farmers that their livelihoods aren’t as important as the Sierra Club apparently. Wouldn’t be wonderful if a wealthy non-profit volunteered to pay for all the regulations they demand? I say yes, but we all know the truth isn’t so.

Fear is not Sustainable

Nomi Carmona of the Babes Against Biotech was not present at the State Capitol. Ashley Lukens of the Center for Food Safety was a no show. Walter Ritte wasn’t even there too.

Where were these people who claimed to be saving people? I thought they cared so deeply about their cause. None of these folks were around at the Hawaii State Capitol at Ag Day this past Wednesday.

Six years ago, Ag Day was tense and stressful. The long time farming community members were being accused of harming others and the environment through politicians and activists. While we prepared samples to give that day, on the back of my mind was who was going to come at us with some kind of claim and how I needed to respond. I honestly did not look forward for that day for years but knew how important it was for us to be there.

Fast forward to 2019, we had no GMO balkers or fearful questions at all. Instead, several hundred graciously received a slice of fresh papaya. The “issues” we had were the PETA activists who ate papaya earlier only to be scolded by their leader that it was GMO on their second walk around.

Ag Day this year was pleasantly peaceful. Actually, every year following the height of the GMO hysteria has gotten better. Why?Where are the naysayers? Is the savior cause dead?

Truth is, there was no one to save and all the fear whipped up was just fear. The Nomi’s and Ashley’s of the world had no idea that the average human can’t remain scared. Our brains simply don’t work or thrive on fear. At a certain point, the outer cortex of our brains start to think to quell the irrationality because constant fear is unhealthy.

The fervor of the anti-GMO movement hit its peak and now can’t pick up the momentum. One man who used to come each year to ask me GMO questions stopped. He walked up and grabbed a slice of papaya, savoring each bite and returning twice. He was enjoying it this time instead of fearing it.

While the anti-GMO folks stayed home, the reliable ag community came out in force to showcase their work. We won’t ever preach about sustainability, we show it in action. We aren’t yelling and scaring people but are feeding people. We don’t have time for drama and have lots of work to do to fill a need in the community.

Food is what sustains all of us. Farmers are the ones who put sustainability into action. We will outlast any loudmouth transplant any day.

Give Give Give

Tomorrow is Ag Day at the State Capitol. We will be taking off of work to “educate” our politicians and the public.After nearly 10 years of doing this, I’m not as nervous about being there like I used to be. I’ve learned that fear is not sustainable.

My brother spent hours preparing for ag day. On Monday, an entire day was spent in the fields harvesting the papayas. Then on Tuesday, the day was spent grading, washing, and packing papayas to get out to the store. Tomorrow, is delivery day to get to our many loyal customers across the island. My dad won’t be there because he will be delivering fruit to his fan base at Times Supermarket.

Tomorrow I have taken off of work to work at the Capitol. As farming folks know, we are giving people. We are always asked to donate to various events and hand out samples. We give of our time and of our fields to the community. We go into schools to teach kids and students about our work. There is no pay for the time we put into these events.

Although there are many supporters in the legislature, we face many foes. Instead of being appreciative of the work we do, there are people there who smile at us insincerely as they walk past booths. As soon as the event is done, they return to vilifying farmers through “lawmaking.” Politicians can easily be swayed by many Google farmers in Hawaii.

I watch these two-faced folks walk by and wonder if they have a conscience. Six years ago, GMO was all the hype that needed to be banned. While people like Councilmember Gary Hooser, Senator Russell Ruderman, and Senator Mike Gabbard railed against GMOs, they wore and consumed products produced from this technology. Those early years threw so many farmers under the bus and really made us feel terrified to face the fear-filled public.

My hope for tomorrow is that the ag community comes out strong and stand behind our work so that these politicians stand with us and not against us. So many of their constituents rely upon what we produce day after day, year after year. Their voices are rarely heard over the loud, misinformed full-time activists who represent only themselves.

I know many politicians will enjoy samples of papayas tomorrow. If they can eat it and be nourished, they should have the guts to support farmers in action. No more “I love farmer” talk and then build on farm lands political fluff. I’m really sick and tired of hearing the same old bullshit claims being made by politicians representing minority voices claiming to be sustainable.

Don’t smile at me then demonize farmers. I’m not having it anymore and not tomorrow.

Dirty Little Hands

This Christmas was spent at my parent’s place. We had a nice lunch and spent the afternoon working on making soaps and decorating gingerbreads. After that, my son can’t stay inside so we ventured outside to the farm.

His favorite activity is playing with his tractors and digging dirt. He will spend hours tinkering around the farm. He also wanted to take his new John Deere tractor scooter to get it dirty. Test driving that scooter on the field was a must-do today.

Connor is not afraid to get dirty and he thinks it’s work. Dirt and rocks fly all over outside and brand new boots get dusty and filthy. He doesn’t care because he says he is farming. Not many kids are getting dirty on the farm because there are less farms every year as people give up or retire. I bet my dad was very much like my son— playing outside and getting dirty. He grew up loving that kind of life.

As I watched him play, it hit me that the best bet of growing more farmers starts with the family farms. These kids learn what it is like to work and and get dirty. Their successes are because they have their hands in the dirt and outside seeing what’s happening. If these family farms fail, the community loses out.

It is trendy right now to be telling tales about farmers. It is fun to feel like you’re saving the earth but ask yourself if you truly know what you’re talking about. If you are part of the non-farmers sharing links about the virtues of only one kind of farm, it means you’re likely harming the livelihoods of a farmer.

When you spread disinformation , your hurt many small farming families here. Your food hobby hurts real people. Do you take responsibility for the consequences of hobby activism? A community’s success is dependent upon farmers of every type. Being discriminatory and exclusionary of people’s livelihoods is harmful. Using the law to tear down farmers without evidence is all political with no realization of the unintended consequences. That become a bigger problem than what the actual intent was.

Everyone is dependent upon the work of all types of farmers. If they fail, we all suffer the results. Our best hope for future farmers lay in the hands who are working the lands now. They grow up on the land and tend it to earn their keep while providing for others.

Sore and tired bodies can wear on one’s endurance to continue but their faith to go on is renewed in seeing and hearing from appreciative customers. Knowing that people are grateful for our work is helpful to our sustainability. Farmers are doing good when the community is well fed and able to do many things other than farming.

The future of farms lie in the hands and hearts of those who are in the dirt now. They know the story of perseverance and true sustainability. The families who farm deserve our gratitude and support.

Food Wars

As I’m preparing food for thanksgiving, a thought came into my head about food. So many families are gathering today around food. I’m betting that most families will not be having a full on organic meal this year because at Thanksgiving, that really doesn’t matter.

Food brings people together as it did at the beginning of mankind. When a hunt was completed, people gathered together to consume it. We do the very same thing that our ancestors did years ago.

It strikes me as odd that once we leave our tables and get into the political arenas, food is not bringing us together. Whether it is in Europe or the US, a food war is going on. Some shouting that we must only go organic and no one can use pesticides. Politics is adding more regulations on farmers that are not based in scientific evidence but rather on feel good rules. Imported activism is keeping developing world farmers from improved plants also. In the end, our ability access food becomes hindered when science is pushed aside in favor of emotion-based regulations.

Most of us will have an abundance of food to enjoy today because of science and technology that few will ever see to appreciate. Everything we eat, whether it is organic or conventional, has been grown with science. Even the recipes we consume has precise measurements for taste and satisfaction in each recipe. Science is everywhere but so easily rejected by the non-farmer.

If only politics of food could start at the Thanksgiving table where we call all share in the effort of a great meal. If everyone stopped to think about the food on that table, we may be able to find a common ground to move forward upon. Sadly, the food wars take place in a sanitized room far from a farm and after well-fed people who are out of touch with the reality of farming.

This Thanksgiving, truly think about that food when you eat it and know that someone worked very hard to get it there.

A Smaller World

I am on a plane flying home from a whirlwind of a trip in Germany and Brussels. It is something I never thought I’d do but am so glad that I did. I realize that the world is much smaller than most of us can imagine.

I learned a lot about German policy around agriculture through the German Farmers Association. Like American farmers, we face similar challenges with implementing policies not based in science due to consumer pressure funded by non-governmental organizations.

These feel-good ideas are placed upon farmers with no consideration of the consequences of its impacts. This has resulted in the closures or consolidation of farms due to the costs. It is even more sad to know that the German farms in the west are mostly small, multigenerational farms with some dating back over 300 years.

Development is also impacting farmers where some areas are losing acres of agricultural lands to development. Buildings and homes are filling prime farmland and stopping all farming forever. New developments move in and farms are kicked out or face constant complaints.

There is also an image by Europeans that American agriculture is something bad. The perception is that we are harming the environment and endangering people. That tale has its roots in Hawaii unfortunately. Thanks to fear mongering, this idea affects trade of U.S. goods and is hitting the farmers.

As much as we want to talk facts, facts clearly do not matter. Whomever has the best story is heard the loudest despite any evidence. This angers me to no end because farmers have a powerful story that is constantly drowned by activists’ manipulation. Minds are shut with fear and all critical thinking is gone.

While touring the EU Parliament, I came upon a fascinating sculpture. Each part touches each other even though they seem distant. I find it quite ironic that policymakers can walk past this with no consideration of what their work is doing to the developing world. Europe’s inconsistent laws on GMOs have made it extremely hard for their own farmers and others worlds away.

When the well-fed reject advancements in science and technology, we affect people that we never see or hear their stories. We never feel hunger pangs from the lack of food. We live in comfort everyday and minor issues become big deals in our lives. The complaints of the hunger-free have huge repercussions around the globe.

Farmers in the US and Germany may be thousands of miles from each other but there is a common link. Many German farms have a long family history that keeps them going for centuries. The same applies to the US farmers I met on this trip who want to see their farming legacies passed on. Farmers want to keep continuing their work. It is universal. However, if society chooses to makes their lives harder, we will lose more of them.

At a time when the climate is changing around us, society is rejecting the evidence that farmers operate upon. Farmers need to be able to adapt but are having their hands tied by the loudest minority. We need innovation and technology to survive. Without it, we will see more farmers become less sustainable.

If you want to have open spaces, we need farmers. If you want an abundance of fresh foods, we need farmers. If you want to have comfortable clothing, we need farmers. Want farmers? Support them in word and action.

Poor Farmer

A few weeks ago, I was at work picking up the recycled newspapers for the farm. My 3 year old was with me wearing his plaid shirt and cowboy boots. One of the family members saw him and remarked at how cute he was dressed as a cowboy.

My little Connor stood there and listened to her. He quietly lowered his head and looked at the ground shyly. He raised his head up slowly and made eye contact with her.

“I’m not a cowboy. I’m a farmer boy!”

She chuckled at his response and said, “Oh, you don’t want to be a poor farmer! Better to be a doctor or an engineer.”

We all kind of laughed about it and parted ways. Her statement didn’t sit quite right with me. The older generation still believes in that old stereotype and now the internet generation has the belief that we are some evil villain. What in the world is happening?

For too long, farmers just did their work and others told our story. We ignored and and kept working with no idea that those tales would start to define us. It is already tough doing farm work and having to advocate for what we do, but we must.

Everyday we need a farmer. They deserve credit for why most aren’t in the fields. The elites of the West are blocking technology to farmers in the developing world because they fear progress means the end of rural life. While we farm using high tech, we are still farming the same way we did decades ago doing much of the work one fruit at a time. We don’t have a factory of mechanized processing despite growing biotech fruits.

Progress doesn’t mean standing in the way of tools. If you do not farm, why should you dictate how farming should be done? We need to be utilizing science-based policies to sustain farms. If we did not use science, our family farm would’ve ended with my dad. We need continuous research and innovation so that the vision of a great-grandfather can continue for another generation.

Help support family farms now. Educate others so that they know our plight.