We Love a Good Story

Every Sunday is my “cook for the week” day.  I pull out the biggest pans and try to cook the thing most of the family will eat.  One kid doesn’t like meat or veggies, another eats everything, one only has 4 teeth, and my husband wants more veggies.  So, with all those dietary preferences, it’s pretty hard to cook one dish that suits everyone’s requests.

I landed up cooking a favorite which was Japanese yakisoba, or fried noodles.  It’s made with Japanese noodles, veggies, a little IARC class 1 carcinogen, Spam, some dashi (soup base), furikake (rice condiment), oyster sauce, pickled ginger, and some garlic salt.  This is comfort food for lots of local families here in Hawaii.  It’s nothing special but definitely a favorite.

As I thought about what to put in it, I realized that there really is nothing outstanding in it.  Everything in it tastes good.  Fried noodles are sold in convenience store here in ala carte containers that we call bentos.  If you don’t know what it is, you’d probably bypass it.

I thought that I would see what would happen if I hyped my comfort food dish up a bit and see what would happen.  Here’s how I described it:

I thought I should share the #healthyfood I feed my family. This is #crueltyfree #meatless #glutenfree #pesticidefree #gmofree olive oil infused noodles. No animal was harmed in the #ironinfused can derived from the hills of the Pennsylvania. The red ginger shreds are colored with #ecofriendly #organic #allnatural beets. The flavoring is derived from #vegan oysters. The Napa cabbage and stir fry was grown with the #moonrhythms and #permaculture methods. The sprinkled seaweed comes from the deep oceans of Japan where the whales swim and dolphins play. Doesn’t this sound delicious???

As I wrote it, I started laughing to myself.  We well fed folks really love a good story about our food.  As much as I despise the massive amounts of useless labels on the GMO free products, it’s giving consumers a seemingly better story about what they are eating.  Thanks to the media, the consumers want to know the stories of their food.

If I pick up a bag of tortilla chips and put it next to a GMO free, organic bag, guess which bag tells a story? The bags that give a nicer story is what appeals to the consumer who has no idea about what it took to grow those corn chips. It’s the same with buying local too.  If the story sounds good, they’ll likely buy it and get a good feeling from it and who doesn’t want to feel good?

The honesty of how much we love stories comes from the mouth of babes.  My eldest daughter has been engrossed in a new series of books called the Rangers Apprentice.  She can’t put the book down and will sneak it in the bathroom and read it while showering.  I had to end that habit because of all the water landing on the floor.

She gets so caught up in it that her baby brother has learned how to get a great reaction from it.  One day I heard yelling and found the baby grabbing a toy fishing pole and whacking her with it.  He thought it was so funny.  

She reads so much that she was scared of the series ending.  I suggested that maybe she could read some non-fiction books now. She told me, “Mom, I just love these stories that take me on these adventures and I don’t want to read about facts.”

It struck me.  That’s exactly why the anti-GMO folks aren’t supporting the Joint Fact Finding report on Kauai, despite demanding it.  There are facts presented to show a story but it simply doesn’t fit the story they want to believe.  A logical way of using the available data would be to seek more data but the absence of harm will never prove safety in their eyes.

The activists have woven a story and the facts presented threatens to unravel it.  The best they can do is revise the facts and continue that story.  The story is what defines this culture that they want to keep intact.  Logic, critical thinking, and reason do not play well in a fiction tale as my 10 year old daughter confirms.  It’s clear that Sarah and Geraldo, the two members with the most expertise and education related to this issue, didn’t want a subjective story.  They wanted to set out on the actual goal to get the facts first and write a non-fiction, objective piece but that just could not happen with the other members.

It’s clear that facts are being denied and it’s about the art of politics.  It all just makes for a captivating story that continues the drama.


The Last Farmer Standing

The Last Farmer Standing

In a few hours, there will be lots of people gathering at the legislature in downtown Honolulu to talk about farmers.  They are miles away from any farm but many have an opinion about it.  Meanwhile, my dad, brother, and their workers are in the fields, are the ones living and breathing farm life.

As a third generation farmer, my brother is coming to the harsh reality of farming.  They have over 20 acres of trees planted and ready to be harvested every week.  With only 4 people, it takes hours to pick all of the fruits.  He just finished working over 12 hours and they still weren’t done.

On top of that, those same fruits must be processed.  That includes grading, cleaning, sorting, and packing it.  After that’s done, it all goes into the refrigerator to maintain it’s freshness to be ready for market.  Hawaii’s moderate climate can accelerate ripening that can lead to damaged fruit in shipment.

The next day of work means delivering it to stores.  With Honolulu’s bad traffic, there’s always delays along the route.  We are fortunate that there are dedicated customers waiting each week for them but they’ve run low on patience lately and complain of the short supply due to cooler temperatures and delivery delays.

Imagine spending nearly 24-28 hours working in the hot sun all day doing back breaking work only to have angry customers.  Do people have no idea how hard it is to get a single fruit into the store? Have we become so impatient and ungrateful towards those who grow our food? Is aloha running so low in everyone lately? Please tell me it’s not so.

Well, after a day of delivering, the work doesn’t end.  The bugs attack the trees and can destroy an entire field making the fruit unsaleable.  The weeds can sap nutrients from the trees and rob its sweetness.  One must go back to the elements and tend to that field that provides for your food and roof over your head.

You would think that you’d find peace and solitude tending to your field, but sadly, there is no peace there.  Homes now border much of the farm lands across our state.  Instead of getting friendly waves from your neighbors, you get to faces fearful mothers and others who think you’re poisoning them. Other neighbors stand on their porches warily watching you as you spray things like sulfur to protect against bugs. Because you’re not an organic farmer, they assume you’re polluting the air, even though you use exactly what organic farmers use.  

Then if you need to spray for weeds, it’s even more terrifying for the neighbors.  Forget the fact that their other neighbors probably use it and it’s used across the state on the highways, parks, hiking trails, golf courses, and by landscapers, to see a farmer use it is a heinous crime in their eyes.  They’d complain of dust and runoff if we forgo weedkiller so it’s a losing battle.

You might say why not hire more people to do the work.  It’s easy to say but finding the right people is hard.  Thanks to minimum wage hikes and mandatory coverage, the cost of more labor sometimes means no income for the farmer.  Medical coverage is very expensive and if the weather is bad or there’s too much bug damage, it’s tough making ends meet.

It’s even harder to find anyone who wants to work on a farm too.  The labor force used to be high school or college students.  They no longer want these jobs.  The ones who do want the jobs, former criminals looking for a second chance, can’t be hired because of our leasing agreements.  Labor is a major problem here that limits us tremendously.  There is also a lot of training needed for farming too and as soon as some catches on, they move on to another job.

My dad is also on the farm at 74 years of age.  He’s building sheds, driving tractors, packing fruits, delivering, moving bins, and literally busting his buns 12 to 14 hours a day at least 5 days a week and at least half a day on each weekend day.  His golden years are still spent on the farm and not leisurely relaxing like most retirees.  No one works as hard as that man, and yet he never complains about it ever.

My brother came with optimism and hope to farming but as times change, sometimes the reality sets in.  The public keeps talking about growing Hawaii and keeping it local but we aren’t even supporting the local farmers in word or action.  

Something needs to change or this will make us a three generation farm.  Will you help lend your support to the small Hawaii farmer in word and in action? For all the work that’s put into growing food, can you send some appreciation to your farmer when you see them or even speak up for them when someone says something incorrect?  

Stand up for what you love and show it.  Be grateful and appreciative to those who grew your food.  The time is now.  The Hawaii farmers need you now or we will just become another memory of that special local business that is no more.

Don’t let my brother, Mike, be the last farmer standing.  Support your farmers now!

Let our politicians know by sending them a message at sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and reps@capitol.hawaii.gov.  Take time to write a letter to the editor on behalf of the farmers.  We need your voices now!

Where’s the Farm Justice Summit?

Where’s the Farm Justice Summit?

Let’s talk farming.  Real farming, not those 2 acres of various things you’re growing on a gentleman’s “farm.”  This farm is one that will earn you a living for years to come and hopefully allow you feed your family, put them through school, keep a roof over your head, and help you to retire.

What will you need to farm? Land. Lots of it to produce enough income to pay for the inputs you need.  Let’s say a decent family farm in Hawaii like ours leases some 30 acres.  That costs some couple thousand a month in lease payments depending on where it is or if you purchased it, at least another $3000 a month.  

Once you have that land to farm, you’ll need the infrastructure set up to grow your crop.  You’ll need pipes and irrigation lines and sprinklers here and there to cover those thirty acres.  Add at least $5000 for those things and add another several thousand for the labor to put that all in too.  

After you’ve got your field set up, it’s time to plant it.  You’ll need a tractor to plow your field.  A decent one will cost you at least $40k.  A plowed field also needs plants that have to be sheltered in a greenhouse to get to a decent size to survive.  A greenhouse is another several thousand dollars to build with the parts and labor.  The seedlings need medium and planting trays to start also.  Add in a few more thousand dollars to the supplies and labor needed.

Trees don’t exactly plant themselves so there is the cost of labor to get them in the ground.  To give them a head start, a pinch of fertilizer in the holes help.  A bigger tree is more likely to survive a wild pig trampling too.  These wild creatures can tear up a field in a matter of minutes.
You will be paying on the loans or be out a lot of money for at least 4-6 months before you get a crop.  You’ve paid hundreds for labor dollars and inputs only to have to wait for the harvest.  As a business owner, you’re required by law to pay your workers and cover their benefits, but you aren’t guaranteed a salary.

When the crop is ready, you need harvesting equipment like a forklift and bins to store you’re fruit in.  Can’t forget that all of these things also must past food safety certification.  That certification cost at least $3000 to acquire and another thousand to set up the equipment needs to meet it. You will have to spend some extra money leading a portapotty to keep on your field too and hope no one steals it.

It will take several months for your trees to grow to produce fruit.  However, there still is work to be done.  Thatincludescleanung the trees of dead leaves and thinning out fruit so that you get nicely shaped ones for the market.  Odd shaped fruit can’t get premium prices.  The thinning of the fruit has to happen weekly since the flowers bloom all year round and it takes a year from flower to fruit.  You’ll also hope and pray that mites, parrots, chickens, or other elements don’t disturb or damage your columns of fruit.


There was a portapotty that was here. Someone stole it and we’re out $2500 to cover the loss of it.


You’ve waited nearly 6 months and your first crop arrives and it’s time to harvest.  After you’ve picked your fruit, you’ll have to prepare it for market, which means washing and packing it.  Someone has to build the processing plant for this to happen.  It’s not free and will cost you around $8,000 for the time, labor, and supplies.

Let’s not forget that the papayas do have to be packed into something to get to the market.  Those boxes cost about $2 a box and minimum orders are several thousand.  In a week, one can harvest at least 200 plus cases.  A good order of boxes will put you out $15,000 or so.  You can’t reuse them either because of food safety regulations, so that increases your cost too.

Recall that you haven’t even sold your crop yet at this point.  You still have to pay your workers’ wages, work man’s comp, benefits, and other bills you’ve gotten just to start off your farm.  

I don’t know of a single local person that can be out some $225,000 to start their business.  It’s not even guaranteed that you’ll get a return on investment either.  If activists ban ag technology or crop protection products without a validated reason other than Google, or a flock or invasive birds nibble at your crops, you are still obligated to pay back what you owe.  With nothing to sell, you’re bleeding more money.  No one wants to dig a deeper hole!  

While hundreds will meet to plot the demise of corporate agriculture this weekend, the small farmers in Hawaii are still saddened by the ceasing of the Maui sugar plantation and Richard Ha’s beloved Hamakua Springs Farm.  The ag community knows that so many other long time local farmers face the same challenges in Hawaii.  The ag sector has been attacked and our state’s bad reputation for being small business friendly doesn’t bode well for that pretty word circulating but never put into real policy to take it to action.  That word is sustainability.

It’s great that there’s so much talk about it but it’s clear that we aren’t practicing what we preach.  We say buy local but then put policies that impede locals from producing products made here.  We need to look at the larger picture about why business are closing and the local folks are jobless.  Where’s the investment to keep the kamaaina working and productive?  Are we supporting those policies and putting it into action?

Let’s face it.  There’s few folks willing to put down some $250K on a risky back breaking business venture like farming.  It’s easy to TALK diversified ag as the savior to keep ag lands in ag, but unless we get some systemic changes on the business and political environment, you won’t see it happening in a flash.  There’s no massive populace raising their hands to be farmers.

This weekend is the Food Justice Summit but it needs to change its name to the Farmer Justice Summit.  More people need to learn from the local farmers still in business now rather than international speakers who know nothing about Hawaii other than Monsanto’s presence.  Don’t forget that without local farmers, you can’t have locally grown food.

Support the local farmers with your wallet as well as your voice for better policies to sustain them for the future.


What’s the Deal with Weeds?

 Lately, there has been a lot of brouhaha around RoundUp being used on farms.  It has been used on farms, homes, and in landscaping for decades.  Thanks to the manipulation of the media and “organic” science, it’s at the forefront of farm talk.  

So why do farmers use herbicides on their farms? 

I remember my dad telling me a story about his first venture into growing papayas.  He had heard of an old Japanese man who grew the sweetest papayas in Waiahole Valley.  He decided to go and visit him to learn what he did to grow them that way.

My dad asked him, “Ojisan, what makes your papayas so sweet?” The old man simply said, “The sun must hit the ground.  My dad was puzzled by his response.  He thought to himself, what does that mean?

Like many Japanese men, the Ojisan (grandfather) was one for little words.  He didn’t go into a lot of explanation but just repeated that the sun must hit the ground.  As my dad observed his field, there was very little weeds and the trees were planted some distance apart.  With the trees nearly 10 feet apart, he could see the maximal exposure of each leaf towards the sun.  He could also see that by planting it this way, the sun hit the soil.  

My dad took this advice to his own field to try out.  He kept the ground free of weeds with Roundup and planted them as the man instructed.  Plowing the weeds isn’t good because it disturbs the shallow root system and the microorganisms in the soil.  Too much weeds fosters too much moisture in the soil making the roots prone to rotting.  The weeds also compete for nutrients and stresses the crops.  Stressed roots create multiple problems for fruit production.  He simply grows a cover crop then later plows it in to prep his field.  When the crop is well composted in, he preps it for planting.

With just a pinch of fertilizer, my dad carefully planted he evenly plotted the field out.  He learned that he needed specially bred seeds from the University of Hawaii to grow the best possible fruit.  He learned from my grandpa’s first venture into farming that you can’t simply save seeds and plant it.  

My grandpa had saved seeds from a Big Island Kapoho papaya to find that it produced golf ball sized papayas after months of tending to his field.  He had planted over an acre of this papaya only to have to destroy it.  My dad surveyed the field and shook his head in dismay since he had learned from his study of agriculture the importance of selecting the right seed.

When it was time to plant his fields, careful planning went into undertaking this endeavor.  My dad had money invested into land and equipment that needed to be paid off with the crops he grew.  He carefully tended his crop and followed the advice of the old man.  

Tending a crop means going in and taking a backpack sprayer and spot treating the weeds so that they don’t overrun his field.  This is a far cry from the alleged “dousing” that farmers are accused of.  The weeds must be kept down or the young trees can’t compete against these fast growing things.

After several months, the trees will flower and fruit.  It takes about a year before a field is ready to produce fruits.  A farm isn’t an instant money maker unless you are a farmer.  

When it came time to harvest the first fruits, he could see the difference in the consistent size.  Then he cut into the fruit and tested the sugar content.  Sure enough, the reading gave a brix of 14-15, indicating a very sweet flavor like no other.

My dad’s pride came when customers fell in love with super sweet papayas.  The consistent sweet flavor created a following of customers for decades.  Many flock to the markets seeking his papayas.  It’s this simple act that has kept him farming for life.

It’s easy to get scared of the things you read on the internet about what farmers do.  The reality is that Google can’t tell you everything about their practice so.  There is science in everything that we eat and that same science in the way farmers farm.  My dad uses his knowledge learned in textbooks and via observation to grow those tasty fruits.  It takes precise actions and careful cultivation to get a product that consumers will eat.  There’s science being practiced in every aspect of growing and preparing a single papaya before it ever gets to the store.

In everything that we eat, there is science.  You might not see it or realized it isn’t even labeled.  The base ingredients have an array of science incorporated in how it’s grown and processed.  Not many people sit there and think about it. If you like what you eat, thank that farmers who grew it for you.  They deserve our appreciation.

Why GMO?

Why GMO?

So why do farmers need biotechnology?

If you look closely at the image above, you can see tiny rings on the skin of the papaya.  It looks like no big deal but in reality it’s the most dreadful thing a farmer can find.  It’s caused by a little bug called the leafhopper.  It flies around fields and takes little tastes of plants only to infect it with the virus.  One could spray for these critters but once a plant is bit, sprays are ineffective.

Beneath that healthy looking plant is a disease that slowly weakens the it over time.  Many farmers would see these rings on their fruit and think nothing of chopping down a tree with lots of good looking fruit on it. These trees are loaded with papayas.  It’s money sitting on those trunks.  The leaves show no sign of disease so a threat doesn’t appear imminent.

As time goes on, the virus count starts to increase in the plant and the leaves eventually become mottled and disfigured which impairs photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is how a plant converts light into food.  Impaired leaves can’t produced food for the plant.  That affects the trees’ ability to produce fruits.  As the disease progresses, fruits become more covered with the ringspot.  The quality of the fruit also declines as a result. The papayas are unsaleable as a result of the virus.

So what’s a farmer to do?  The most economical thing to initiate is killing the virus infected trees to prevent a vector source.  The other thing that can be done is trying to breed a stronger plant to resist the virus.  One has to have the good plants that can be crossed if any exist.  If there aren’t any signs of virus resistance found, other things are tried.  Cross protection was trialed by using the weak version of the cucumber mosaic virus to inoculate the plant.  The problem with cross protection was the varied production in the papaya trees and inconsistent fruit quality.  Farmers did not want this option.

There isn’t a whole lot a farmer can do at this point.  Some farmers move field locations to escape these pesky bugs but that’s also risky because it means clearing more forests and no certainty that the virus will not hit.  All the hours of preparing a field with clearing it, setting in the irrigation, fencing it, and other work needed isn’t guaranteed that you’ll get anything.

For the papaya farmers of Hawaii, there really wasn’t much left in terms of options to grow their crops.  Papayas are really a main staple fruit for many of our locals.  For decades, people would line up at the small Chinatown markets for my dad’s arrival with his cases.  I learned how dedicated these old folks were when I had to do a delivery there and was 10 minutes late.  I got scolded and canes shaken at me for not being there on time.  Then when I helped to unpack the cases, they came at me like a mob of gray and white flurries of herbal smelling hobblers.  They were determined to get their papaya.  Some were so determined that if they didn’t get the one they wanted, they whacked their fellow customer’s hand with their hand carved wooden canes.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or be afraid of the mob.   Even at the local Times Supermarket, retirees would wait outside to watch for his delivery truck and alert the produce folks when it came.  Many customers were dedicated to supporting our farm by choosing his papayas with the distinctive Kamiya papaya sticker.  We have made so many friends through the selling of our papayas over the years.  These people are so appreciative and supportive for our farm and we are thankful that we can provide these labors of love to them.

So when you’re crops are failing and dying, your customers whom you’ve known for years, are left with nothing.  Their favorite comfort food is no longer available.  It’s hard to turn them away and tell them that you have nothing.  With no income from the farm, it means the family farm needs supplemented income since leases, utilities, maintenance, and other costs remain.  A farmer’s livelihood is in danger.  My dad always knew this about farming and worked a day job as a result.  Farming was his after 3 p.m. job.  It didn’t matter if he worked some 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week.  This is what he loved.  So many other farmers share his passion that few people can really appreciate much of the time.

To hear that the disease might threaten my dad and brother’s farm gave me that feeling of sinking again.  My brother said that he felt really sick finding the disease in the fields again and had a flashback of going with my dad and taking the machete to rogue out tree after tree.  He almost fell panicked by seeing the rings on his fruits.  I felt so afraid knowing that maybe something really bad is happening that the virus mutated or something else is happening.  Luckily, he saved all of the trees affected and took them to get sampled at the lab to see what was happening.  It turned out that all of the infected trees were the Kamiya type that weren’t crossed so they were non-GMO.

When people go on the social media and start telling me that any farmer can go organic and should, I know that they know nothing about farming.  They know nothing about losing your livelihoods to diseases.  Their farm life is based on what they read and not real life experience.  They can spout all kinds of “facts” and try to dictate how farming should be but they know nothing of the realities of what it takes and why farmers want science to sustain them.  The story of the Hawaii papaya is a great example of how science saved a crop and can even helps save other farmers’ crops.  It’s a tool that we simply can’t dismiss with bad information and misconceptions.

What’s even more disturbing is that a key University of Hawaii professor is telling his fellow anti-GM activists that the coat protein used in papayas are pesticides which makes it subject to safety issue.  I thought that their accusations that Dr. Gonsalves created the PRSV virus to make GM necessary was bad but this is even worse.  Even alleging that papaya farmers are selling an untested, unsafe product is their continued attack against small farmers.  

If you want farmers to be sustainable, we’ve got to restore our faith in science and the experts who help them grow our food.

Google never saved a farm.  A scientist did.

The Science We Eat

 Once again, the experiences I’m having here at Cornell just makes me realize how ignorant I am about food and farming.  The more I’m learning about plants and food production, the entire concept of what’s natural and what isn’t really gets blurred more and more.  It’s also kind of bothers me how “informed” consumers really are.

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Cornell Research Station in Geneva, New York.  It’s a place where all kinds of research is taking place to help study various crops from grapes and berries, renewable biofuels, and a gene and crop bank.  It was also the place where the biotech papaya was saved.

Here is a just a few of the different research and breeding activities happening there.

In each of the above photos, there is a huge variety grapes, berries, and apples.  The colors, texture, shapes, and tastes are all completely different despite all being of the same fruit variety.  It really makes you realize how we as humans have manipulated everything we eat.

Many of the professors speaking to us are world renown for their knowledge and expertise with breeding these products.  They use a lot of technical know how of applying both conventional breeding techniques with a vast amount of information from gene mapping of these crops to determine the expressions of certain genes.  

It’s not GMO development that they are seeking but using the power of genetics to understand how the breed the best plants that consumers and growers desire.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a conventional farmer or an organic farmer, all want good products from strong, disease and pest resistant plants.  

There is an amazing amount of science that is going into every food that we eat.  Some research focuses on disease and pest resistance.  With those traits bred into a crop, it means stronger plants that need less sprays and hopefully increased yields.  Other research focuses on plant architecture such as decreased thorns to make it easier to harvest.  Flavor and texture factors are also a major consideration with crop breeding and genetics. The varieties are also gene mapped to learn the locations of the traits too.  This is high tech science in things we eat everyday regardless of the way it’s grown.  

The tour I took at Geneva really fascinated me about how much there is to know about the foods we eat.  We are so accustomed to simply driving to the store and selecting out our food.  I wonder how many consumers think about how those varieties got on those produce shelves.

The trend now is to eat natural.  When you look at what really is natural in the wild and what’s in the market, there is a stark difference.  Then if we actually taste what is wild, it’s clear why we don’t eat those products.  

I also start to realize how much science is going into our entire food supply that is unnoticed by consumers.  While there is a seemingly loud contingent of people demanding the right to know about GMO, they don’t even know about the thousands of years of science that even developed our current varieties.  The fact that scientists who understand this technology advancement are being attacked by these activists is even beyond me.

Our American foodie culture loves the latest and greatest heirloom produce or new breed of vegetable but are clueless of the amount of science needed to develop that novel vegetable.  If we want to have unique fresh produce, we need to go back and ask questions about how we even got our food variety.  It’s one thing to demand the right to know but you’ve got to really know to appreciate the amount of science we eat every single day of our lives.

What kind of science did you consume today?


Farmers Are the Musicians of the Earth

Longevity runs in our genes and a few weeks ago, our family celebrated the 100th birthday of a great uncle.  As part of his birthday celebration, we were treated to an Okinawan taiko performance.

It’s really thrilling and mesmerizing to hear the rhythmic pounding of the drums.  There’s a lot of choreography, planning, and practice involved in a single piece.  Each drummer has his or her own certain drum or instrument to play at a certain time.  Everyone has a role to play at a certain time.  When it’s all coordinated, the piece comes together to make a beautiful performance.

As I watched each piece being played, I couldn’t help but think about how this is a simple metaphor of music and farming.  Very few people have a special talent and dedication to play for the masses but yet everyone enjoys having music in their lives on a daily basis.  It’s an essential part of what brings us happiness.

Like music, every person has a role and responsibility to play at various phases in their lives.  We can choose what instrument we want to play as part of this ensemble.  Some don’t even know how to play music at all but will listen to it.  The ones who want to make music take on a lifetime dedication.  They have a strong inner drive to learn that instrument well individually to develop a skill.  A single musician can play a few songs, but people really enjoy a variety of pieces at various times of their lives.  A singer can only sing without instruments for sometime before audiences get tired of it.  Eventually, the individuals desire to come together with mutual respect and cooperation in learning how to make even a richer sound.  Lots of practicing is needed as an ensemble to develop perfection for a formal presentation for your audiences.

The styles and sounds of music are also ever changing, just like farming.  Nothing is static as there are many different ways of playing instruments and even singing.  In Hawaii, we have traditional sounds of chanting to falsetto or even modern styles including a mixture of all the above.  With the introduction of the Portuguese came the ukulele that changed the songs we hear to this day.   We treasure the old sounds as well as the new sounds.

The technologies around farming isn’t much different either where the musicians of the earth can select which instrument they want and use their expertise to compose their masterpieces with.  There’s no one single way the music can be made.

The farmers are all the performers in these respective bands.  Each has their own skill and role to play.  If each member doesn’t take the time to practice or develop the right skills or some only focus on pointing fingers at how bad certain members are, how can that piece ever become mesmerizing and beautiful? It just can’t if there is no desire to work together to create an array of melodies for their eager audiences.

The leaders of the ensemble really have the hard job of maintaining its members and keeping people engaged and wanting to be a part of the band.  The members themselves must also support each other to stay focused.  As members age, they must look to the youth to develop a skill and spark a fire within them to pursue being a part of the band.  The band is only as strong and as sustainable as there is a desire to be a part of it.  Without new members, the ensemble numbers will dwindle and end.

The performers are supported by the conductors, the farm bureaus and our leaders, who help to launch and sustain the careers of their members.  Not only does the leadership have its musical recruiters using the strengths of its members, but there are also conductors who also provide the backbone for the musical direction.  That is our mayor and senators who help to provide strong leadership to guide the band as well as the public in supporting the longevity of the music.  Without them setting the example for the public, the band’s music can never be heard or enjoyed.  If they don’t support the music, then neither will the audiences as they set the example to others.

A concert can never be heard by the masses without a venue to perform in.  That takes many people to set it up and organize it.  There are heavy machinery folks, agricultural suppliers, construction materials, auto shops for vehicle maintenance, accountants and health insurers, marketing people and the stores to sell their products.  Many hands are working together to share our music to the world.

If the audience would like to partake in these performances everyone is welcomed.  Majority of their supporters are the ones who enjoy what’s being provided to them and are a gracious audience.  They can’t sit at a performance and tell the musicians what to play and how to play their melodies because they realize that they aren’t skilled enough to do the same.  It would be a terribly disruptive concert for those who appreciate the musicians efforts because they don’t like to pieces that might be new and unfamiliar to them.  Some audience members may be inspired to start their own band and play their own music if they choose at their time and place.  It’s a music that can be played but not in the same hall at the same time.

We have the potential in Hawaii to become a beautiful ensemble if we nurture it.  We have people who are doing the hard work of developing that great masterpiece.  A band is only as good as its strength in collaborating and taking responsibility for oneself.  It takes many to put on a concert for the masses to enjoy by a very few skilled individuals.  If we don’t continually support those skilled folks, we stand to lose an important piece of what makes Hawaii beautiful and unique.

Hawaii has its own unique music and sounds that many of us have learned to enjoy and grew up with.  There are people who haven’t learned to appreciate that music and adamantly refuse to learn the melodies we love and cherish.  Some farmers are using new instruments and trying out new songs that are reaching the masses faster.  Some farmers prefer the old ways to make their concerts. Their audiences have choices in the concert they want to watch.

Right now in Hawaii and in our communities, there are audience members who have taken on a very misguided role in the making of music.  They’ve decided to go on the Internet and spread disparaging remarks and share false information against certain musicians to get more crowds for themselves.  They’ve taken to not making music but heckling those who are trying to play their songs.  Some politicians have even sided with these ungrateful people who partake in the music but still criticize those playing it.  These people don’t encourage others even try to learn how to play the songs of our farmers or even desire to listen to those cherished ways.  Don’t let that few hecklers and those politicians in the audience forever change the music of our islands.  Leaders don’t shut minds down to experiences or use fear as an instrument to lead from. They take charge of opening minds and inspiring others to think outside the box and create their own music to share with the world and share that passion to do the same.

I want to hear all the music in harmony.   I want to hear all kinds of music and support all those talented musicians of the land.  Will you join me in supporting the musicians of Hawaii, the farmers? Let the music play in harmony and collaborate to showcase that beauty of Hawaii farms.  I want my children and their children to know those melodies of the Hawaii I love.  If we don’t help support and nurture these ways, we stand to live in silence forever.

The Food Babe Hates the Small Farmers of Hawaii

The Food Babe Hates the Small Farmers of Hawaii

Just when I thought there would be nothing more for me to blog, it never fails that some anti-GMO post comes up that just infuriates me.  Who is the latest awardee of the anti-education/ anti-farmer movement? It’s none other than the Food Babe.

The Food Babe has decided to attack the small farmers of Hawaii that includes my dad, brother, and their farm manager, Neil, as well as the hundreds of others including the organic farmers.  She posted an article telling her dimwitted, gullible followers to avoid Hawaiian papayas because they are GMO.  She spells out the types that are GMO and the ones that allegedly aren’t.  She even tells people to buy papayas from other countries and claims that even organic ones are contaminated.

From her anti-Hawaii papaya post:

She never discloses any real facts about the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association either.  She only perpetuates the repeated, factless myths about biotech and tries to make a connection about pesticides to papayas.  I laugh because the Environmental Working Group found that papayas have some of the lowest residues of pesticides yet they quickly tell consumers to buy organic variety without any explanation! Nor does Vani mention that the people who grow papayas here are all small family farms!

Why I say the anti-GMO folks are anti-education is because she has no mention about the nature of the modification or how this technology saved the industry here.  These activists talk about people being in the dark about GMOs but they obscure any facts from their followers.  Facts make people think and thinking is dangerous to this house of cards.

She will never post real science or anything that actually educates people like this.

I’m starting to think that this anti movement is really anti-American at heart.  They attack an innovation that has saved the smallest of farmers that have no ties to big ag.  They attack the legacies of long time, multi-generational farms here in Hawaii.  Majority of the papaya farmers here came to the U.S. with nothing and built themselves up through hard, honest work and dedication.  Their families learned the same lessons and carried on those same dreams.  The Hawaii farmers are becoming fewer as many are retiring and the next generation does not continue those farms.  Vani and her ilk must want people to quit farming altogether with the way she blatantly spreads misinformation.

It’s really disgusting how people like the Food Babe and others like Nomi Carmona of our Hawaii Babes Against Biotech can bring nothing but factless campaigns to our state and feel good about their actions.  They perpetuate attacks against the hardest working people I know.  They can sit pretty and go on TV or spout their BS about their “expertise” against farmers.  How can anyone with a conscious ever do such a thing? Apparently it’s easier to make money lying than it is to farm.  These women know nothing about earning an honest living through actual hard work.  A broken finger nail is likely devastation to their careers.

I applaud the generations of papaya farmers that toil on their farms everyday to grow these miracle fruits that Vani Hari calls them.  Yes, it’s a really good product that millions have enjoyed for nearly 20 years thanks to biotechnology.  Our customers who buy our papayas for decades know how healthy these biotech miracles really are.  Vani probably doesn’t even know that papayas are staples here and might contribute to why Hawaii has the highest elderly population in the US.

So Vani Hari and the other anti-education activists out there need to get a clue and either work on a farm and grow a comparable crop.  They need a lesson in honesty and some work ethics before them come criticizing my fellow farming friends.  When the Food Babe can grow a sweet papaya like our Hawaii farmers and talk real science, I might stop criticizing these charlatans of Google.

P.S. Food Babe better adopt her precautionary principle with the imported papayas.  Many countries have their own strain of PRSV infecting the papayas making it a natural GMO.  Guess she’s better not eat these fruits at all!


The Evolution of a Family Farm

My family has close to 80 years of farming experience.  My grandfather started it all.

My grandfather, Thomas Yushin Kamiya, as a young boy.


My dad collecting grass for his water buffalo.


My Uncle Paul with one of their dairy cows.


Fields of bananas planted.


My dad with my grandmother outside their old house.


Cattle grazing in the pastures below the Koolau Mountains.


My grandparents cattle roaming the pasture.


My dad, as a teenager, driving an old military jeep.


Back in the 50’s, my dad learned to hunt.


My grandma tended to her dairy cows every morning.


The old family house that sat beside the Koolau mountains between rice paddies.


My grandparents farming in Waikane Valley. They grew beans, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and bananas.


Our farm manager’s son helping out with the planting.


My dad plowing the field to get it ready for planting.


The trees that was saved by science.


Farming is a family thing with my mom and daughter processing the fruit.


Farming is a business and it takes HR skills and some marketing savvy to sell your goods.


Our farm manager, Neil, resting in the shade after a day of picking.


If it’s not picking or planting papaya, it’s fixing stuff.


My dad on his 1974 Ford tractor.


My brother, the next generation, planting next year’s crop.


My dad with my daughter, the next generation of farmers.




The Great Responsibilty of Science Based Knowledge in the Age of Information

As I think more about my experience of going into my daughter’s fourth grade class, I came to a realization about the need for us as well fed individuals to be responsible for the kind of information we share.  I reminded them of how lucky we are and that it’s important for us to use good information regarding the issues at hand.  What we share may have an impact upon others that we are not aware of.  Just because we don’t see these people, it doesn’t mean we should not care about them.   

We have a wealth of information available to us and because of that, we have a great responsibility to use it wisely.  Why? It’s because misinformation can become very harmful and even deadly in many cases.  

One example of the harm in misinformation comes from what happened to my great grandmother.  She died in her 20’s because she believed that drinking vinegar was good for her.  Despite it being naturally derived, she was told that it was helpful.  She wasn’t well educated or given professional advice and just believed it.  She died when my grandmother was a young girl.

The misinformation about the Japanese Americans being spies for the enemy without any evidence is another example of bad policy that harmed people.  My uncle lost everything, from his belongings, house, and his business because of this unfounded belief.  He has to live in an internment camp for sometime as a result.  When it was clear that the Japanese did not pose a threat, he was released but had to start anew again.

Despite having an wealth of evidence showing that vaccines are safe, a single man and his bad study caused significant harm and death.  The former Dr. Andrew Wakefield unscrupulously spread fears about vaccines causing autism and unleashed decades of vaccination refusals.  People even gave bleach to their children in hopes that clearing their guts will get rid of autism.  Babies have died from being exposed to preventable illnesses or suffered permanent injuries as a result of unvaccinated children.  Measles has come back recently with several hundred being affected by it.

Bad advice about cancer treatments has also taken lives too.  The preference for supposed natural cures have cost lives being taken away too early. Is that fair to a child to be denied treatments that could save his or her life? Do we deny them a chance at a better life or is nature the preferred course to take because one fears modern medicine?

The story of Matthew Sheppard is another one where misinformation and hateful ideology led to his death.  With the media spreading allegations about homosexuality, it’s of no surprise that so many people became homophobic.  Parents shunned their children for being gay.  That in turn led to harsh feelings towards gay people and some going as far as killing people and even some being bullied and escaping through suicide.

While the much of the developing world is being denied the opportunities to grow better crops, the western world can keep new agricultural technologies from these farmers.  We don’t hear or see how farmers from India are thriving with Bt cotton and needing less pesticides to grow it.  We don’t see how much cassava is turning toxic due to plant disease.  We don’t see or experience those problems so many people feel the need to express fear about a technology they do not understand.

We never see our children going blind or dying from something so preventable like vitamin A deficiency. Instead of speaking truthfully about this potential solution, the activists state things like vitamin supplements and carrots and leafy greens will be better.  Duh, if it was that simple, why didn’t it happen? 

It behooves me even more about the how other food providers are hit by the misinformation campaigns.  So many people love their sashimi and poke but then will state that Hawaii is overfished.  If that really were the situation, where’s the data to support this and why aren’t markets stopping the selling of fish? It’s because what’s being said in the media just isn’t supported with evidence.  The hard working fishermen are left with a bad reputation while we still enjoy our raw fish. 

The Internet has given people who have no connection to agriculture a loud voice.  Just because they are loud, it doesn’t make them right in their assumptions.  All of their demands have consequences that many haven’t even considered at all.  Policies should always reflect the evidence available as the best source supporting it.  That is how we disperse information responsibly and end unnecessary hysteria and harm people’s livelihoods.

We live in a world of plenty.  Plenty information.  Plenty food and clothes.  Plenty of things to do.  Because we are blessed with plenty things, we have to add in responsibility.  Google does not give one a license to promote harmful misinformation.  The social media does not give one a license to share badly research memes and links.  Everything we do must be done responsibly.  It’s our role as a global citizen and to each other.


My dad is the hardest working person I know. Sharing bad information harms his way of living as well other small farmers who benefit from technology around the world. Be a responsible information sharer!