How Hawai‘i Squandered Its Food Security & Sovereignty—Now What it Will Take to Get It Back: Incentives, A Plan, & Home Grown Food; Things Have Changed.

Hawai‘i imports more than 80% of its food. Some islands even more.
Each island needs to grow at least 50% of its staple crops to be self-sufficient.
To achieve that level of food security, experts say it will take old values & new tools.
Growing more staple foods will help buffer the islands from disruptions to the state’s supply line.
Today less than 1% of the state budget is committed to agriculture,

How Did Hawaii Lose Food Sovereignty? State & Ag Community searching for answers/
Local agriculture could not keep up with soaring needs for large & consistent quantities of food to supply hotels & facilities.
Gov’t, economists, farmers, food shoppers & community activists tried to solve food supply imbalance.
In previous years, Native Hawaiians managed a self-sufficient agricultural system for years.
Thrived by fishponds &  taro, banana, pig, chicken and sweet potato production.
Farmland were transformed into sprawling pineapple & sugar cane plantations.
Ag infrastructure exploited cheap land & labor to produce goods to be shipped out of state.
Eventually, Hawaii was importing more food for local consumption than it could produce.
Caused trend toward importing food to be accelerated for three decades.
Sought local production of hogs, eggs, milk, chickens, cattle declined since statehood.
Challenges now range from the high cost of land to zoning and infrastructure issues.

Farmers need more support from incentives, advocacy, state support to gain food sovereignty.
Advocates say Hawaii would benefit by growing more food for local consumption.
Need for healthier diets, deeper connection with nature & society, & landscape
Replacing food imports with Hawaii-grown alternatives would strengthen island chain’s economy.
State created Agribusiness Development Corp for new plan for agricultural future. Outcome in question.

“We’re not in the same environment,”. “We have to deal with challenges that our ancestors didn’t have to — new species of weeds and pests and rodents and diseases that just didn’t exist.”

“Our ancestors developed their agricultural practices and methods in an environment that was really different,” he said. “And there’s literally no going back to that.” –

“To me, it’s depressing when I go into the grocery store and the ginger root is coming in from Brazil,” – Bruce Mathews, a professor of soil science at UH Hilo.

“Hawaii needs to invest in agricultural parks, irrigation systems and distribution facilities with the same gusto that it developed infrastructure and amenities to support tourism. “It’s not enough to make land available for agriculture,”

– Glenn Teves

“If you’re serious about developing agriculture, you need to look at the big picture and create infrastructure similar to what was done for tourism: airport, convention center, hotels, scenic vistas.”-
–  Glenn Teves, University of Hawaii extension agent on Molokai who grows taro and tropical fruit on his 10-acre Hawaiian homestead farm.

“But self-sufficiency in the 21st century will require a new system rooted in the sustainable values that guided Hawaii’s pre-Western food system” –
—Noa Lincoln, assistant professor of indigenous crops & cropping systems at U of Hawaii

“One of the biggest issues is how hard it is to be a farmer in Hawaii — specifically to make money as a farmer,” – Angela Fa’anunu, a tourism professor at the University of Hawaii Hilo who farms breadfruit on 10 acres near Hilo.

Hawaii spends up to $3B a year importing more than 80% of its food.
Only half of the state’s fruit and vegetable supply was produced locally.
Small-scale farms are bulk of  farms struggling to achieve economies of scale.
87% of the individual 7,328 farms statewide generate less than $50,000 annually.
Meantime,  State has given the ADC nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

Some islands oppose Big Ag production,
Example – Fierce community opposition from dairy farms is significant hurdle.
The dispute ultimately put the Big Island dairy out of business.
Environmental compliance & community pushback from large-scale agriculture projects compound problem.

“How Hawaii Squandered Its Food Security — And What It Will Take To Get It Back”


About the Author of the article that prompted this post:
Brittany Lyte,  Reporter for Civil 

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