Knee Jerk Reactions

Over 40 years ago, a brand new chemistry of weedkillers came out and revolutionized farming. No longer did farmers have to till the ground to reduce the weed pressure in their fields. This product also was much safer than any of the chemicals used earlier. That weedkiller was glyphosate.

Back in the 60’s, farmers used many highly toxic crop protection products on farms to reduce bugs and weeds. As a result, many farmers landed up in emergency rooms with some even dying. When glyphosate came out, my dad was amazed that something so low in toxicity worked great on the farm. It was revolutionary to see weeds gone and better produce resulting.

Many long time farmers know the evolution of crop protection over the decades. What they started with worked well but was very dangerous. As more research developed over the years, improved products became available as old stuff got phased out.

Fast forward to 2019 and expensive ads are being played on the radio and newspaper phishing for victims of glyphosate. Many of the court cases are not even farmers who have had long exposures over decades to it which is of no surprise. The activists could not get the results they wanted in a scientific study and instead went to the courtroom to make their case.

Although the many regulatory agencies around the world have found that Roundup is not a carcinogen, the juries are finding otherwise. These cases are being awarded multimillion to billion dollar verdicts, farmers are still working their fields like they’ve done for decades. The media has been quick to craft scary stories about what happens in the fields.

Thanks to lots of undisclosed funding through non-profit “advocacy” lobbying groups, Dewayne Johnson is touring Hawaii about the dangers of glyphosate. I swear I read that the case had to be expedited because of his deteriorating health months ago but now he is able to tour Hawaii. He has even rallied our State Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to ban the use of herbicides on campus and seek organic alternatives!

The fear of cancer and the need to “protect the keiki” likely shut down the Superintendent’s critical thinking skills because it does not appear that the Department of Agriculture was consulted. As a parent of public school kids, I am angered by this lack of logic and critical thinking by the leadership of the DOE.

My kids get served hot dogs, spam, and other processed meats which are known carcinogens, yet she thinks banning weedkiller is a good thing? Does she realize that weed growth harbors rats, ants, snails, slugs, and mosquitoes? We could be increasing keiki’s exposure to rat lungworm disease and even dengue fever! Let’s not forget that little fire ants were found in my community also. I guess school gardens will become infested by pests too and modern agricultural practices will go out the window.

I wonder if Dr. Kishimoto recalls how the current lieutenant governor Josh Green demanded that public schools be sprayed for mosquitoes after an outbreak of dengue fever occurred on the Big Island. I bet fearful parents were not happy and would rather take the consequence of getting dengue fever instead. It begs the question where I have to ask, how much should we listen to the angry, fearful mob? Is that doing us any good?

Dr. Kishimoto’s reaction to reject the science and ignore agriculture is just another mark on the board of the same people pushing only organic agriculture and a complete rejection of science and critical thinking. Those same parents demanding no pesticides probably don’t vaccinate for the fear of “toxins” rule their lives. I even chuckle because the ban is limited to staff and not to all the homeowners who live right beside the school. Even a volunteer parent could apply weedkiller on campus too given the way she has written her “ban.”

We will all pay for the bad decisions made by the leadership in Hawaii. The fact that the Hawaii Department of Education and even the Board of Education is moving us in this direction means another nail in the coffin for agriculture.

Photo from a litigation settlement seeking cancer sufferers.

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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.