Listen to the Farmers Representative Wooley

A few weeks ago at the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board meeting, I had the chance to talk in person to Representative Wooley.  She mentioned that we can contact her as to what laws she’d like us to consider for the upcoming session.  I decided to take her up on it and sent her this email tonight.  If you’d like to share a word or two with her you can contact her at repwooley@gmail.com or repwooley@capitol.hawaii.gov

Aloha Rep. Wooley,

I spoke with you the other night at the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board meeting and would like to take you up on the offer as far as what kind of legislation I’d like to see regarding agriculture in Hawaii.
As a daughter of a long time farmer and farming family for nearly 4 decades, I really think that as a leader, Hawaii needs to consider the bigger picture.  Your statement to me that we need to change the meaning of agriculture is very disturbing because for Hawaii. It is not only food that needs to be grown here.  We have many other thriving industries here from seeds to nursery plants and other non-food crops that would not fall under your umbrella definition.  If we want to grow more food, just going after the seed industry isn’t going to solve the problem.  As a leader, I would hope that you could see that.  That is a very linear way of looking at the problem which ultimately never solves anything.
If the goal is to grow more food in Hawaii, we have to look at all the issues that affect why we aren’t more self sufficient.  Look at the whole system to address the best way to reach the intended goal.  When you look at those issues like energy costs, labor, supplies, land issues, and the other factors, you can have a better view of a more holistic plan of solving this issue.  The problem has to be solved systemically.  Your simple solution of changing the meaning of agriculture to growing of food and asking for label for biotech food does nothing to make food more likely to be grown in Hawaii. It places a line between farmers and that is not what is needed.  As a leader for the agriculture committee, how can you best serve the farmers, not just a certain faction of them but all farmers?
Does siding with one kind of farmer do anyone any favors?  No, it doesn’t.  You as a leader need to band together all farmers to solve these problems.  That is the responsible thing to do.  Where does the research and evidence lead to?  That should be your guide through all of this.
I must also note that your broad statement that there is no regulation about GMOs is patently false.  If that were the case, why is it taking such a long time to get through the process to be approved?  I’d really appreciate it if you’d be more honest when talking about the issues.  You know darn well that there is many tests that have to be presented before anything is approved by the FDA, EPA, and USDA.  You may not be happy with the process, but don’t state outright lies about the issue.
I’m counting on you, as well as many the younger generation of farmers, who are hesitant on whether or not to continue family farms in this current environment.  They need to know if you are really going to be a proponent of agriculture and education and plan to secure the future of ag technologies in Hawaii since you stated that there will be an education campaign.  It may not make you popular to your activists but do the responsible thing for the real people who work and support agriculture in Hawaii.
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Hawaii SEED Wants to Destroy Papaya Farmers

The Hawaii SEED version of Greenpeace photo shot.

Walter Ritte and his Hawaii SEED group are definitely helping farmers deal with issues, especially with papayas.  They are spending lots of money to test for GMO “contamination” so they claim but what have they done to solve the real problem that was happening?  *Crickets*

They did nothing.  That’s right, literally nothing. When farmers were getting hit in the 1990’s by the ringspot virus, they were no where to be found.  Nada, not around nothing.  Here’s what Hawaii SEED has to say about themselves: 

Hawai`i SEED incorporated as a non profit 501(c)(3) in September of 2005.

The corporation is organized for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to educate the public, government and business community about locally-based agricultural systems that create real food security for Hawai‘i and about the risk posed by certain agricultural and food systems while protecting human health and the environment.

Activities of Hawai‘i SEED include bolstering the community of sustainable farms and farmers throughout the state of Hawai‘i. By providing workshops to farmers, we hope to deemonstrate alternatives to genetic engineering. Hawai“i SEED facilitated the public testing of papayas for citizens throughout the state to determine if their fruit is contaminated with genetically engineered organisms.

Hawai‘i SEED also conducts general outreach to raise awareness about genetic engineering and alternatives to genetic engineering at public speaking events, and media outreach. We also give presentations to agricultural and other community groups about GMOs and their alternatives.

Note that they are not about research and contributing to agriculture but more about blocking what has been done with papayas.  What is even more disturbing is this statement:

While the GMO Papaya is resistant to papaya ringspot virus, it brought many more problems than it solved. The GMO Papaya has closed lucrative export and organic markets and always has a low price point. This technology has come with too many strings attached and Hawaii has lost almost half of its papaya farmers.

This group constantly touts anti-GMO wording like contamination and so on to disparage papaya farmers and wonders why papayas don’t sell well.  They proudly proclaim how they help test for GMO papayas but what good is that?  Why not spend that money creating your non-GMO virus resistant papaya if you really want to have sustainable agriculture?  

Then Hawaii SEED has to go on complaining how Hawaiian papaya is not being accepted in the worldwide market.  Um, if you’d stop spreading untruths about it, maybe more consumers would not be so afraid of our Hawaiian fruit.  Support all papaya farmers and maybe you can sell it better to help all farmers.  Hawaii SEED is not about doing farmers good, they are about taking things away like all activists.  They contribute nothing to Hawaii agriculture.  That’s the bottom line with these folks because it is all about taking and not giving.  

This group is a far cry from local folks too as we know it is being funded by outside contributors big time.  The truth is that Mr. Ritte enjoys his papayas and doesn’t care if it is GMO or not because he knows that it is fine.  Remember the March ag day Mr. Ritte?

A Farmer’s Say Doesn’t Matter in Hawaii

It is so easy to sit back on a computer and have your opinion about how you  want your food grown.  You have a comfy chair to sit on, a nice computer with a quick internet connection, a fan to keep you cool, and a well stocked refrigerator to sustain you as you comment away on the social media.  That is how you are going to change the world to get farmers to grow food your way.  No. Never.

It is so easy for Jessica Wooley, Russell Ruderman, Mike Gabbard, Tulsi Gabbard, Gary Hooser, Billy Kenoi, and Brian Schatz to dictate the policies that they want done for agriculture because they have nice cushy offices and are guaranteed a paycheck, courtesy of the taxpayers.  They would rather stay in those positions then be on a farm any day.  Why do you think they are in office to begin with?  Farming is just too laborious and risky, while political office is a clean, stable position for life.

As much as these politicians are the listening to the public’s opinions, they have no qualms in ignoring the farmers, ranchers, and scientists testimonies on the future of agriculture.  We’ve seen that what is found on the internet and repeated as truths is much more valuable then the experiences of people who tend and till the land.  They have no say in the issue and are at the mercy of an uninformed public fear mongered beyond belief.  That is the direction that Hawaii is heading when we only consider public opinions for laws.

Our leaders talk about how they want to grow our ag industry in Hawaii but their actions speak otherwise.  Laws upon laws have become huge burdens on our farmers.  From business regulations, taxes, federal food safety laws, labor laws, county laws, and state laws all weigh upon these farmers who are growing food and cultivating the land.  We also can’t forget the outside factors that affect farmers too including energy costs, shipping costs, and being at the mercy of the weather.  These regulations may seem helpful on the outside but make the business and practice of farming less and less attractive.  With all the anti-technology laws being placed upon them also by Kauai and Hawaii county, how much more can these farmers take when potential tools are being kept from them?  What can our farmers do when their hands become tied by the wishes of ignorant politicians and an ignorant public?

As we see more and more farms closing down because of the regulations that our leaders have placed upon them, we get to thank each politician for being responsible for the demise of these farms.  The younger generations do not want to continue family farms because it just is too burdensome.  Would you take a job where your income isn’t guaranteed and bad weather can wipe out your entire crop?  What if the bugs eat up all of your crops and you can’t even use a tool that could help it because some politician said that you can’t?  Imagine having a job where you have to know everything about the tax, labor, and food safety laws to a tee to stay in business.  Not only do you have to manage those issues but you also have to physically work hard to get your product out to your consumers also.  Lastly, you are subject to criticism, thievery and even threats of crop destruction as part of your job description.  That sure doesn’t sound like a very attractive job to me at all. Our politicians have decided that this is the route they want to take with agriculture with their recent actions.  That’s the Hawaii that our leaders apparently want for our future of farming in our islands.

A Day on Papa’s Farm

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From the time my siblings and I could follow directions, we were working on the farm.  Our Saturdays were spent on the farm working.  We did get to play here and there while waiting for the harvested fruit to come in from the fields.  Those were some fun and great memories.  The memory that sticks in my head is

My mom reminded me that at 3 years old, my youngest sister was already stickering the papayas.  As an 8 year old, I was one of the washers who cleaned the fruit before packing.  From there I moved on to grading the fruit to some packing.  It was hard work!

I want my kids to experience that too so we headed down to the farm today.  I already warned them that we were going down there to work and not just play.  My older daughter agreed to it since she found out that she could collect recyclables and make some money afterwards.

Today started out with my younger one, KK in awe of all the tractors everywhere on the farm.  She saw some at the sales lot a few days ago and kept telling my dad that she wants to ride one.  Just look at her face and see the thrill of just sitting on one.

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KK getting to hang out on one of papa’s tractors. She’s my dirty little farm girl kid.

While the fruit was being picked in the fields by my dad’s hard working staff, we were preparing for the packing and processing.  Harvesting is done by a forklift as the trees do get pretty tall and this is a much more efficient way to get the work done.

Processing the fruit takes a lot of prep work.  That included taping up boxes to pack in, setting up the bins and wash tub to clean the fruit in and setting up the sorting area as well as the final storage area after it was packed up.  Our farm complies with all of the food safety certifications and follows the rules very closely with washing the fruit properly as well as handling it as approved.  We are food safety certified with a perfect passing score according to my brother, Mike.

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The hard working staff processing the fruit by grading it, washing it, and sorting it.

After it is prepared, the fruit is then packed up according to size which takes some skill as to packing them properly.

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Finally after being packed, these fruits are stickered and palleted.

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KK and Ky hard at work putting those exclusive Kamiya Papaya stickers on the fruits.

Tomorrow it will be ready to go out to the stores, restaurants, small markets, and hotels to be sold or served up to their customers.  Many of whom come clamoring for it every week for years!

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An Open Letter to Hawaii Politicians about Agricultural Technology

Dear Governor, Legislators, Senators, Representatives, County Council Members, City Council Members,

I am writing to you as a daughter of a long time farmer, Kenneth Kamiya.  Our family has been long time farmers for over 4 decades on the Windward side on Oahu.  My grandfather farmed the land with beans, Okinawan potatoes, cucumbers and finally papaya, which my dad and brother continue to this day.  I am asking for your support in these contentious times of dealing with the issue of agricultural technology, specifically GMOs.

The First Kamiya Farmers

I speak out not only for our family but for all other families in our islands who use this technology to run the farms that they do.  Our state cannot afford to be left behind because of the maligned fears of the public of this technology.  You as a leader also have to be able to separate fears created by the black marketing strategies and consider the evidence that is presented.  That is your responsibility to us as your constituents, even though the farmers and ranchers make up 1-2% of the public.  Those are the voices that should ring loud and clear in your minds.

What does the evidence show us?  Worldwide, there is a consensus that biotechnology is safe.  Read below for the worldwide organizations that have made statements about biotechnology in food:

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Given this evidence, will you accept what the worldwide scientific community states?  Or will you fall prey to the fear mongering of the environmentalists and the organic industry’s tactics like this:

facemaskScreen shot 2013-06-29 at 9.45.24 PMscaremongering

The public sure has become beleaguered with fear which is evident when you see these kind of events happening across our islands:

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The same people that join in these protests are so fear mongered that they have even done this to farmers or anyone who speaks out for biotechnology:

KB crop destructor  DF fertilizer momi LM

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namastestpeh MV RGV tw2 tw TC manaai agroterrorism

Activist groups too are guilty of promoting hate and crop destruction as in this meme from the Babes Against Biotech with Roseanne Barr’s quote:

babs crop destruction

Notice how much hate there is because fear has made many people irrational already.  Ignorance is evident here in many of these comments.  And it’s not pretty to be at the receiving end of it.

We know that many of you have become the receiving end of these activists, especially the Babes Against Biotech who went after Senator Nishihara last year.  We know that many of you have also been portrayed as targets too.

nishihara target

As a result, not many people want to speak out for agricultural technology here and when you do, many times, you get threats like this sent to you.  Here’s one I personally received a few days ago:

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Or you might get called a name or something, but it doesn’t bother me for I know what the truth is:

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So when leaders like you decide to reject the evidence presented, you are feeding and fueling fear.  This same fear happens because so many people have little to no knowledge about agriculture or the technology around it.  They may be loud and demanding but you must also listen to the quiet ones who toil in the fields every day.  My family like so many others are just regular people who want to have access to the tools to do the job we have at hand, which is to feed people the best way possible.

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

When it comes time to listening to your constituents, all I ask is that you listen to your most valuable ones.  The farmers!

Aloha,

Joni Rose

The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

What can a Farmer do?

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Growing up as a kid and having to work on the farm, it is easy to not appreciate the things you have until you’re older.  As a kid, I hated having to wake up early on the weekends to go down to the farm.  We never had the chance to lounge around watch cartoons in the mornings.  I used to think that this was so unfair that we were the only kids who couldn’t do this.  It was like drudgery every weekend to know that we were the workers.  From the time I was about 8 until I was well into my twenties, it was working on the farm at least once a week.  Even during the summers it was working for me and my siblings.  The work got easier when we realized that we could negotiate being paid.

My parents always taught us that if we ever wanted something, we had to earn it fair and square.  You couldn’t make deals with them if you wanted that new cassette tape of Wham! or Madonna.  If you wanted it, you had to work.  There was no other option to them.  We did learn that grandma and grandpa were great ways to just get things easer though.

Well, you can bet that as a teenager, when I had the first opportunity to get a job elsewhere, they were all for it.  It felt great to not be working in the fields, or in the shed processing papayas for hours.  To scoop ice cream in an air conditioned mall and decorate cakes was fun!  The work was way easier than the farm any day.  I was happy to be free as teen and later as a college kid.

As I step back, my views of the farm have changed now that I have children.  I realize that as much as I hated working on the farm, I truly had the best childhood growing up and an amazing farmer father.  He was a tough guy as a dad and very strict but the lessons I learned stick with me to this day.  He may have officially retired from his regular job, but he still works more than 40 hours a week doing what he loves the most:  farming and agriculture.  His family always comes first but those are his other true passions in life.

His own early lessons in life helped to build his values to what they are.  My dad grew up very poor.  His dad was a dairyman and farmer himself.  He spent his childhood playing around in the dump searching for handy reusable trinkets or other recyclables.  His way of recycling would put the modern day green person to shame.  They reused everything and saved many things.  He has some of the same tools that his father used on the farm that is still usable to this day, some 60 years later.  Talk about durable!

dadwaterbull-Mw

As a farmer’s kid himself, at a young age, he learned the ropes of how to do everything.  He could ride a water buffalo to use it to plow fields, tie knots of every kind, drive any vehicle, and fix it too.  He was always tinkering. Later when he realized that the military could give him an education and other skills that also shaped his life.  Soon he was in Vietnam fixing aircraft in the Air Force also.  Those experiences gave him the skills to do practically anything, which he indeed does.

My dad is unbelievably skilled at nearly everything which is no understatement.  He rigged up his own tractor to become a forklift, welded the picking platform, built bins, built the shed and processing portions, plows, drives a backhoe to dig up stuff or uses a bulldozer to grade the land, can diagnose plant pests and diseases, knows how much and when to fertilize the fields, lays out drip lines and irrigation systems, knows which cover crops to grow and when to plow them in, delivers and packs the fruits and can instantly spot a ripe one from 10 feet below, hauls 50 lb. boxes of fruit several hours a day, knows how to control any weed and what to treat it with, knows almost every kind of plant there is to know and how to grow it, can reuse old fence posts to build a new fence, fix big rigs and trailers as well as park those things, can maneuver in the tightest of spots in Chinatown when delivering the fruits, and so many more skills that I could not list.

Farmers like my dad and others across the world are truly amazing people.  Until you know one personally and see exactly what they do and how they do it year after year, you can appreciate the depth and dedication that these people live and breathe each day.  Farmers were considered one of the noblest of professions which should still indeed ring true today.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”