Hawaii Finds Solutions

By   July 7, 2015

Paul's farm-kauai

Did you know that our 50th State imports 85 to 90 percent of its food? It comes as a surprise to most of us mainlanders who probably never give it a thought. With all of the services that are readily available to us, from local towing companies to caterers and everything in between, it’s becoming easier to get things done without having to put much thought into it. This is not so much the case in places like Hawaii. Although the State doesn’t have a huge population, only in the neighborhood of 1 and a half million people spread out over 6 islands, it does have a transient population of around 9 million. The latest census dates back 2 years so these are approximate figures.

Being realistic and not waiting around to solve their food dilemma, the State of Hawaii has decided to take self sustaining food production into their own hands. This comes with dozens of challenges, but with more apparent rewards than hurdles. The purpose is to increase the amount of locally grown food that would be consumed mostly by Hawaiin residents.

Presently Hawaii is dependent on foods coming in from other parts of the world, mostly the continental United States. This has been a big concern for the little State in terms of security and self sufficiency. Dependent on supply lines that cross 2,500 nautical miles leaves Hawaii vulnerable to natural disasters that could disrupt shipping and food supply. It also takes away a chunk of their independence as to how they can grow their food and make decisions about using organic or conventional farming methods.

The Hawaii Organic Farming Association must still follow Federal regulations, but the opportunity to get farmers on board from the beginning is foundational. Keeping more agriculture local offers a stronger possibility for the consumer’s wishes to be met. With more than 61 percent of the population requesting organic produce and free range, antibiotic free meat, it’s more likely regional preferences will be achieved.

It’s been estimated that replacing just 10 percent of the food imported would save the State $313 million annually. This is based on an assumption that 30 percent is farm share, impacting the general economy with $188 million in sales, $47 million in earnings, $6 million in state tax revenues and also creating 23,00 jobs.

Fruit and vegetable markets across the islands have proven to be self sufficient and the number of organic growers is beginning to out number the conventional farmers. The issues are with livestock and egg and dairy product production. Eggs are at a premium with only 100 farms producing on island, and local dairy products are greatly limited with only 2 dairy farms statewide.

Hawaii has 3 initial strategies:

1. Increasing awareness so the public is educated to buy locally and thereby increasing demand.
2. Increase the production on locally grown foods to meet a higher demand
3. Put policy and organizational support actively in place to meet self sufficiency needs

To increase demand a large marketing campaign is underway to educate the consumer. Labeling “local” to help the shopper identify products and quality standards is being implemented. Also pilot programs are being introduced into private schools and other public institutions.

To increase production, more educational programs are available to farmers who want to become certified organic or conventional. The Agricultural Parks Program is making public land available with long term, low cost lease options. More agricultural infrastructure is being provided with increased and improved irrigation systems. The number of distribution facilities is increasing. Also a “green jobs initiative” to build a workforce is underway, distributing jobs from the field to the grocery store.

Policy and organizational changes and inclusions are incorporating a Market Analysis and News Tracking division into the Department of Agriculture. Strategy also includes more research and development on recommendations for pest control, food safety, and food self sufficiency.

Hawaii is a perfect example of Green Power Offering Workable Solutions. It may take years for the transition to take them where they are hoping to be, but they have started. Big kudos or should I say Kahunas, Hawaii!

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think of Hawaii’s birthing a self sustaining food supply.