Flooded with Fear

I just came back a few days ago from participating in the Independent Women’s Forum panel on Food and Fear held at Washington University School of Public Health and sponsored by Monsanto.  For sake of transparency, my hotel room was covered by Monsanto and my plane fare was covered by IWF.  I took paid time off to attend this forum to share the story of how Hawaii was being used in the fear mongering against farmers and how our story has had a global impact.

I learned a lot actually listening to some of the panelists, especially when it came to understanding the issue of undernutrition and hidden hunger.  I learned that animal proteins are a great way of converting cellulose into energy and nutrition for us.  Animals as food sources can help provide more nutrition for developing countries.  I realized why the fight against biotech crops and even veganism can be factors in denying the poor nutritious foods.  Without crops to feed animals, these countries can have greater hurdles in getting adequate calories and micronutrients.  The anti-GMO movement really want to deny people food and the potential to have a full life.  It’s terribly disturbing to me to realize that yet again.

After participating in the panel discussion, the next day was filled with touring the Monsanto campus which really was amazing to me. There is a lot of high tech work going on there beyond just biotech.  From custom made 3D printing to some cutting edge plants and greenhouses, that place is a hub for the convergence of plant science to engineering and design.  However, the most amazing thing to me wasn’t the technology, but just seeing regular people walking the halls and working at their jobs.  No one looked devious or evil but just very industrious at what they did.  There were no men in dark suits or sunglasses in a boardroom.  It wasn’t what activists want you to think about this company.

In the last day before going home, I decided to take my family around my old stomping grounds which was fun but very short lived because later that evening, my kids and mom got hit by the horrible stomach bug one by one.  My mom had gotten sick on the plane ride over but got over it and then started getting sick again.  Next my middle daughter got sick and then my older daughter, and lastly, my son.  We were sick, sick, sick in a hotel room far from home.  It wasn’t fun being covered in vomit for a night.  I thought I had escaped this bug because I didn’t get sick that night.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t to be lucky.  On the day we were to head home, I came down with the bug too.  It is a horribly illness where you feel your gut is just angry and there’s nothing you can do about it other than hang at the toilet and hold a wad of toilet paper in your hands at the same time.  I was at the urgent care as my symptoms got progressively worse just 6 hours before we were to leave.

As I lay there on the gurney in the clinic with my toddler snuggled beside me, the TV was playing.  Commercial after commercial were focused on foods.  Eat at this restaurant!  Eat this snack.  Take this vitamin and shake to help you have optimal health.  Detox your body for better health.  Eat clean.  Drink this juice to cleanse your system.  When your really sick, food is the last thing you want to hear but on the TV, it’s all about food.  There had to have been at least 30 commercials or mentions of food in the 2 hours I lay there waiting for the doctor’s treatment plan.  The thought of food just disgusted me when I felt so ill.

After literally detoxing from the stomach bug, home was the hotel room for the next 2 days.  Once again, the TV pumped out messages of food, food, and food.  I was in no mood for food after being so ill but the messages were constant.  It made me think that we as Americans are just pounded with the idea that we have to eat.    Very few of us are worried about being hungry for more than a few hours and food is everywhere.  Here I was on a liquid diet for over 36 hours to get over this and there are millions of people in the world who live like this day after day. I also had no energy to do a whole lot either which made me useless.  How can the human potential ever be maximized without adequate food and nutrition?

The average American citizen has thousands of choices when it comes to food.  They may not have easy ways to discern what is healthy and will rely on heuristics to make those decisions.  That’s where the pseudoscience pushers like the Food Babe, Center for Food Safety, Dr. Josh Axe, Mike Adams, and even Dr. Oz have filled a role to take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge of best food choices.  These “experts” have capitalized on this tendency and it’s clear that there are millions falling for this.  Instead of learning about what makes up good nutrition and health, if you have a shortcut to follow, it’s alluring and easy for the masses.

The so called pesticide buffer zone and fear mongering of pesticides are the same kind of manipulation being used in Hawaii.  People are conditioned to hear that Restricted Use Pesticide is something bad and that synthetic pesticides are bad so avoid it.  It’s an easy concept to understand and quickly catches on with the public whose real desire is to be healthy and avoid anything harmful.  Create a few movies to resonate that message and you will get the uniformed public involved into what is perceived to be a social justice issue, when in reality, it’s far from it.

From movie stars, to politicians, to the demagogues of the anti-GMO movement like former Kauai County Councilmember, Gary Hooser, and the Center for Food Safety’s Ashley Lukens, the quick and easy solution to the problem is create more regulation on a made up problem.  The uninformed masses simply believe their messages of fear and potential harm without actually learning about what they are saying. It’s repeated so often that it becomes truth despite the building evidence against their claims.  The facts become useless and meaningless with policy development.

Like the persistent messages of food everywhere, the fear on pesticides only demonstrates the success of using the least educated to create a movement.  Taking advantage of people and only relying on the loud voices of the public is what’s guiding politicians in Hawaii and therein lies the major problem.  The public has received unsubstantiated information through mass manipulation that neither protects people as claimed but is used on a greater scale to deny the world of the very thing we have access to, food.

While farmers are busy defending their access to tools in Hawaii, small farms across the world are being denied tools that could help sustain them.  The argument for buffer zones here turns into the chemicals being used are making people infertile and gay across the world.  Fear of GM foods pervades in these countries who too aren’t educated to understanding the science behind.  You’ll never see Gary or Ashley trying to talk to people to educate them.  They prefer to create fearful, angry people and have them launch their emotions at politicians to get their way.  The sad thing is that they are using people to talk about things they don’t understand and nor do they want people to think critically.  It’s simply believe and never question.  Both Gary and Ashley, as well as several other anti-GMO politicians like Kaniela Ing have blocked anyone who questions their posts.  Thinking is not allowed in the anti-GMO realm.  Thinking is dangerous.

The world doesn’t need more angry and fearful believers.  We need innovators and researchers to find better solutions to the problems at hand. Although we may not suffer from food shortages now, it may well be happening in the future of our children who will pay the consequences of the current status of anti-ag movement.  Fear and belief can’t create the better world we all want.  It has to be carefully planned and studied to know what will work for the future.  Then again, the reality of the anti-GMO movement may not be about food but about taking the lands out of productivity at the rate Hawaii is going.

img_6345

 

Capitol Buzz

Tomorrow, a bunch of people will once again descend down to the Capitol building to testify at the buffer zone hearings.  None of my family members will be there.  It’s not because we don’t want to but it’s because we have real responsibilities.

My dad and brother will be around the island in delivery trucks getting the papayas to the customers waiting for their weekly fill.  Any delay in deliveries leaves their phones ringing off the hook. I will be at my day job taking care of my residents in need of rehabilitation.  I also have to be around to pick up my kids and get homework and baths done.  There’s many things to be done on a daily basis.

As soon as my dad and brother finish deliveries, they are preparing to pick more fields tomorrow and survey the fields for any diseases and pests.  They are also maintaining their trucks and tractors to ensure its in working condition.  They can’t afford to stand outside a hearing room for several hours to defend their work as they have done for the last 4 years.

Meanwhile, the same activists along with their lead lobbyist, Ashley Lukens, will be leisurely waiting to launch their tirades against the “large corporations” and putting in a bitty clause that it won’t affect the small guys.  They do this every single year.  Because they have never visited a farm, they know nothing of our locations and the public’s perception of this excessive and misleading fear mongering.  Misleading people is Lukens forte and making it cool that others repeat her mantras.

If you look closely at the activists there, none of any have t-shirt tans or even the slightest hint of field dirt under their nails or on their shoes.  They are all clean and free of the hands in the dirt look but to the politicians, this is the voice of what needs to happen in agriculture.  Many non-farmer politicians buy into the emotional stories hook, line, and sinker. 

If only more people tomorrow would step back and critically examine what’s being asked.  The numbers of GM fields grown in the US is at 175.2 million acres yet Ashley isn’t going to these communities asking for the same buffer zones.  Why not if she truly wants to protect people?


The truth is out there if one is willing to examine it.  Until alternative facts are rejected, the small farmers of Hawaii will continue to suffer being the collateral damage of outside activists.

The fear mongering leaves people irrational to the point of vandalizing crops.

The Great Toilet Disaster

60f9966d-d617-4348-a255-8d4ac173ed99

What happens when farms disappear? The landscape changes forever.  

As a mom of a 2 year old boy, I sometimes forget that he is capable of doing some pretty disastrous things around the house.  He’s been pretty good for the most part while my husband is away, except for tonight.  My girls are usually pretty helpful too but that was not the case.

I was pretty proud of myself that I had cooked up dinner and was just about to finish washing up the last dish before setting off to bathe the kids.  I stopped for a second to grab a Reese’s peanut butter cup before I was going to bathe my two younger ones.  They were pretty quiet so I was happy to not hear fighting.  Little did I know that the silence meant something very devious going on.

As I walked to the bathroom, I saw my Connor standing over the toilet pointing at something and saying, “Look momma!  Water!”  I thought that yes, water was in the toilet.  As I stepped closer, I realized that the toilet was overflowing all over the bathroom with pieces of toilet paper floating gracefully in the swirling water.  My calmness went out the window immediately.  The entire bathroom floor was flooded with water and it was still pouring out of the toilet with Connor starting to splash in it!  I looked at the toilet paper holder and realized that the brand new roll I put on earlier was completely in the toilet!  I so wanted to swear and yell but kept to myself to take care of the issue at hand.

Thankfully,  I had learned a few things from my grandpa on how to fix a toilet.  I immediately went to the shut off valve and tightened it.  I tapped the handle so that the water would stop in the tank.  I fished out all the large pieces of paper as best as I could and started emptying the bowl.  My first hope was to take the plunger to unplug it.  I tried and tried and nothing was happening other than more obliteration of the toilet paper soup.  I knew I needed another tool.  I grabbed my toilet auger and spun that wire down the toilet.  It took a little bit of time to wind its way to the plug but thankfully, I started to see the water drain down from the bottom of the rim all the way out.

After sopping up all the water and drying the floor, it dawned on me that with any problem, we need a variety of tools to fix it.  If I only used the plunger, I’d be stuck with no upstairs toilet.  I could keep using it but it likely wouldn’t have fixed the issue.  By using the auger, that immediately solved the problem.  It’s no different with farming where we need a variety of tools available.  Without access to these tools, we stand to lose too much.  If we discredit the scientists and other available tools, what will we be left with?

If I didn’t stick around to learn about the auger, I’d be left with calling Roto Rooter and probably spending a ton of money to fix my toilet.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do that because I was equipped with some knowledge and know how to solve my problem.  While the anti-GMO forces are once again convening to demonize pesticides, none of these people have any real knowledge about what they speak on or even the know how.  When problems are encountered in agriculture, will we turn to these folks to solve it?  Nope.

Even the politicians like Senator Josh Green and Representative Chris Lee don’t have the knowledge or know how on what it takes to grow Hawaii.  They’d be the plunger users who act as if they are solving a problem but only stir the toilet waters getting nowhere.  Hawaii needs to have those with real knowledge at the front of farming to lead the way.  We need those with extra skills and smarts to problem solve our self sustainability goals.  Right now, we have lot of people like Ashley Lukens, Nomi Carmona, and other activists throwing in lot of toilet paper into the toilet and flushing it, only to clog it up.

A lesson was learned tonight by my Connor that putting in toilet paper may be fun but it makes for an ugly and messy problem later.  Hopefully, this toddler will get it and so will the anti-GMO activists too before they make an even bigger mess than what we started with.  It might be fun to protest and play around but there are consequences if you don’t really think about what you’re doing.

One Man

 

I remember when I was 5 years old and developed an insatiable love of reading.  I would find anything to read from magazines to comic books.  I even would take my dad’s dictionary and try to look up new words.  It was thrilling to be able to read as a kid.

One day, I had picked up a calendar and looked up my birthday, January 15th.  To my surprise, I saw it marked as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday too.  I asked my parents who this man one was and they gave me a bit of history on what he did.  I was in awe that I shared the same birthday as a great person.  To a 5 year old, it’s just the greatest news in the world to learn these things.

On the day I had learned about MLK, I had an appointment with a doctor that day.  I remember going into his office and jubilantly  telling him about what I had learned.  I was hoping that he’d be as excited as I was knowing that I shared a birthday with a great man.  To my disappoinment, the doctor replied to me, “Well, he’s just a black man.”  I was heartbroken as a kid and it’s something I never forgot.

The more I grew up and learned about Dr. King and what he did, I always remained proud that I had the same birthday as him.  He was one man who did something very brave to make things better for people.  He inspired so many to join him in making a right from a wrong even though it was an unpopular and very dangerous stance to take.  To me, he was more than just a black man, but a real inspiration to so many that helped to change the world.

I never realized that one day, I’d set foot in the National Civil Rights Museum while visiting Memphis.  This museum was build around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated.  It also houses the bus where Rosa Parks had boarded and is filled with other historical artifacts around the civil rights movement.  I was overcome with emotion as I walked around this museum.  It was the same sadness that overwhelmed me when I visited the Holocaust Museum.  I still get emotional just thinking about what people faced in this century.

Dr. King was just one many who inspired many to change the status quo for many people.  His movement made things better for so many.  One man changed the world for so many generations.  What he did shows us that in our own actions, we too have the power the change the future.  Joining the popular, transient movements aren’t always the right thing to pursue.  We have to strategically look at the things that will affect generations to come.  Teaching our children to look to the future and inspiring to be innovators and creative and critical things is an investment for their future.  Like farmers planting the right seeds for the best crops, we as a society must cultivate the right environment that will foster a brighter future.

My birthday wish is that we continue to grow as people and cultivate a desire to learn and end fear of what isn’t understood.  We can’t sustain a community of people remain fearful and resistive to collaboration.  We don’t encourage our children to gossip and spread false rumors in schools so why should adults continue to do that? Genuine leaders will take the hard step of standing up for the facts and being a good example to others.  We already have enough divisiveness in our country and in Hawaii and it’s time to start the healing and move forward.  It’s time for it now and we all deserve a Hawaii filled with aloha.

 

 

Story of Hope

Story of Hope

img_5657

The winter break has been a great chance for me to reflect back on the last several years since I get to take my kids down to my folks’s house on a daily basis.  It’s the first year that my son, now two, gets a chance to really play on the farm.  He’s been really big into watching big trucks on the street and even admiring the garbage man.  I find it pretty amazing how these very mundane events can make a child just sit there in awe at the world.

The other day as we were leaving my folks’ house, my dad had happened to park his Peterbilt truck on the roadway as he reshifted vehicles around.  My son was just amazed of the sheer size of it and said, “Big truck.  Want see big truck.”  Being the mom who lets him explore, I let him stand there and touch it and look it up and down.  It was pure magic to see his eyes twinkle at the sight of this truck.  This was no toy truck but the real deal with real noise and a loud engine.

Not only did the truck put my son in awe, but hearing and seeing all of the tractors around the farm made him squeal in glee.  He walked around the shed looking at the machinery asking, “What that?”  I spend a good hour taking him around the farm and letting him sit on the tractors as he talked to him self and kept wowing about trucks and tractors.  I’ve realized how so many kids never get the chance to see a real working farm and what happens on it in this day and age.  If it does happen, it’s maybe once a year.  For farming families, this is a daily experience that loses its wonder sometimes.

When my dad saw how excited my son was about the truck, he decided to give him a treat and let him in it.  My dad asked him, “Want to go see it?” My son replied that he did and the smile on his face, as well as my dad’s face, was priceless.  When the door popped open, my son freaked out at how large the cab was and declined to go inside.  He wanted to admire it from the outside.  My dad laughed and carried him on to see the other machinery around the farm.  These are the moments to the general public never gets to see of the farmer.

Our family farm was started by my grandfather who planted the seed in my dad to farm.  For one generation to pass it on to the next is like handing over the torch.  This is what families who farm want to see happen in the ideal world.  To see my dad talk about my brother taking over the farm is another proud moment.  When my dad gets to take my son and daughter around the farm, it’s yet another happy moment to bring a smile and share a long family history to yet another generation.

Farms aren’t popping up all over Hawaii at the moment and many are closing and selling their lands.  The reputation of farms have been damaged thanks to a loud, vocal minority who have tried to define us as a danger to others, when we have been neighbors for many decades.  They have much more scary and alluring stories that want to redefine the work we do in our communities and desire to divide it.  They’ve been pretty successful because it’s a full time job for them.  The narrative they’ve crafted fits nicely with many of the Hawaiian values and resonates with the strong desire to protect the land.

Farming families have the same values to protect the land for future generations and protect a way of living.  Our stories and experiences are passed on to each generation in hopes of growing our roots and keeping our families flourishing.  It is those powerful lessons that plant a seed of hope to continue our agricultural legacies in Hawaii.  It is our history and what defines us as a being a local.  It is what brought our families here to provide a better future for each generation to come.

I hope that 2017 will bring a year of learning and sharing stories and experiences of Hawaii’s agricultural history.  It’s time to agree upon facts and work on collaborating on how we preserve agriculture in our state, rather than try to shut it down forever because of fear and misinformation.  Will you close your eyes and see a grandfather telling his grandchildren about his farm and teach them the lessons learned there?  Will you see and feel the pride of a father when his son fills his shoes?  Will you be listening to the stories of farming families and hear why they want access to tools?  Will you speak up for our family so that fair policies are made to help preserve our way of living?

It is the voice of the reasonable people and the ones who are willing to listen that will help keep the stories of hope alive.  Our story in Hawaii may seem insignificant to many, but I am hoping that it will have a reach beyond our state to help people in other countries who are seeking food security and the same comforts that we enjoy.  May other fathers get to share in the joy of seeing their farm passed onto the next generation thanks to tools that have so much potential to improve their sustainability.  I hope that you’ll join the voice of reason in 2017 to plant the seeds of hope for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Music

In my household, my husband loves to listen to Christmas music.  It’s all good except for the fact that we listen to the same 6 CDs every single day.  He loves to romanticize the past when he was a kid.

As someone who has worked in a dementia unit, listening to the same songs can drive me batty.  Imagine everyday hearing the same song as you go in your car over and over.  I simply get tired of it.

Today, I decided to put in my favorite Christmas music, Dave Koz and friends.  It’s the same songs like Jingle Bells, Let it Snow, and so on with a nice jazz twist to it.  As I listened to it, I thought about the romanticizing of agriculture.

So many want farmers to go back to the old days of farming because they think it perceived that it was so much better.  Like listening to the same old Christmas songs, that is what the old ways sound like to the modern day farmer  There’s such a huge variety in farms and like the vast array of Christmas music, it’s no different for our farms.  Some like the old favorite ways and some choose the latest and greatest songs by fresh, new artists.  There is comfort in hearing the oldies but goodies and the newer versions. It really makes for a beautiful variety.  It’s no different for farms big and small.  Why would anyone force people to make a single choice when there are choices are available?  Our world is so much more beautiful with an array or variety and the freedom of choice.

Will you be the one demanding that everyone only be forced to choose one kind of music this Christmas? Or will you be open to listening to the many new artists and genres of holiday music? The greatest gift to our farmers will be the gift to let them choose their music.

We are Voyagers

This past weekend, my kids all recovered from their colds so I decided to do something fun with them.  We decided to take a break from Christmas shopping and see Moana.  It was nice to sit in the dark away from the overstimulation of the mall and have my toddler son stay still for at least an hour.

Even though Moana is a kids’ movie, I was really touched by the story and music.  One song in particular really struck a chord in me.

As I listened to the lyrics, I heard a very powerful message in it.  On the surface we see the characters taking a journey on a canoe seeking a new life and a parent teaching his child that same skill.  They know their history and use it to guide their future.  Moana may be a Disney flick, that message really resonated with me.

We are always striving to do things better than before.  We have that drive in us to follow that path. From my great great grandparents leaving the comforts of Japan and China, they took a voyage that would forever change the future of their family.  So many other families took the same journey over a hundred years ago.  For the Hawaiian people, they took that journey over many centuries.  It was in our blood to find a better future and it didn’t matter what our ethnicity is.  That is our history and story that guides us for the future.

No longer do we have jump into the ocean to set sail for a better life.  We can take a different kind of voyage right now in our present lives.

For me, my voyage and journey is to create a better future for my children.  I’m using my voice on this vast digital ocean to help build that future.  I know my history of where my roots lay and where I want to see my tree to grow towards.  I come from very humble beginnings and through hard work, my family built their lives up so that the future will be prepared.  For that, I am deeply grateful for what they sacrificed for me.  It’s my duty to honor their legacy and pass on those same lessons to my children so that they will know where they came from.

It is by knowing our past and history that will help keep us on track for creating that future.  Getting astray on hobby activism that really doesn’t solve an issue won’t guide a people forward.  Instead, it knocks them off from the real goal.  The focus on protesting this and that isn’t going to build that better path since it only acts as a temporary emotional release. We need more than protest after protest to create the future.  Our own ancestors knew that.

From the song, these words ring true:

“We are explorers reading every sign.

We tell the stories of our elders in a never ending chain.”

It is in us to push the boundaries and challenge ourselves.  Whether it be pushing for scientific discovery in genetics to the looking at the universe to find the answer, we are the explorers of our world and it’s in our nature to be that way.  The old ways are always in us as we go on that journey for the future and that will serve as our guide.