Welcome to the last episode of Hawai`i’s Roots - the newsletter that tries to cover all of Hawaiian history in three posts. Last episode, we covered Hawai`i’s transition from an isolated, self-sustaining nation to one that required industry, trade, and tourism to survive.
Before we get into exploring the current landscape and what we can do to fix it, please take a moment and simply imagine.
You live in Hawai`i. But the Islands are no longer simply a place for tourists to come and go, experiencing a version of Hawai`i that is neither accurate nor ideal. Instead, Hawai`i is a role model. A role model to all other nations in the world, proving that if the most isolated islands in the world can build a system that is capable of sustaining itself, then any nation can.
At least 65 percent of our livestock, produce and fruit is raised and grown right here on the islands, providing a fruitful and fulfilling livelihood for Hawaiian farmers, and we produce enough renewable energy to fuel our operations without being completely dependent on imported oil for our existence.
People from all over the world look at Hawai`i as a model worthy copying, similar to how we look back at the ahupua`a system the Native Hawaiians constructed. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
The question is: how? And what do we need to fix?
Our Current Situation - A Different World
Ask anyone who lives in Hawai`i, “What if the barges stopped coming?” and you will get some variation of: “Well, we’d be screwed”. Why? Because Hawai`i currently imports 90% of its food and generates 70% of its electricity through imported oil. You don’t have to be an economist to know that this is a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we all got a taste of what that disaster might look like: empty shelves, shockingly long gas lines, and an uneasy feeling of fear in the air. While most people in the world raided the stores due to fear of the virus, here in Hawai`i, we had an additional concern: there might not be food on the shelves or gas in the pumps next week.
Empty Shelves in Honolulu
Is this how we, as a nation, want to live? So desperately dependent on other regions’ products that we couldn’t even survive without them?
Hawai`i’s emphasis on industry and the rapid growth of tourism has left us bound in our own chains.
The Problem With the Solution
Now that we know what the problems are, we have two options: complain or fix them. Here at Kaunamano Farm, we choose the latter.
There are many different solutions for the vast number of problems that will eventually need to be addressed in helping rebuild Hawai`i’s local food production and energy resiliency, but here at the Farm we choose to focus on one in particular: make farming lucrative again.
Who can blame a child growing up in Hawai`i today for wishing not to become a farmer? It consists of grueling manual labor, unpredictable harvests, and, today especially, little financial reward. Compare this to the promised first-world thrill and distractions of lawyering or managing a hotel, and where students go is no surprise. The population of farmers is aging, and without an excited, younger workforce there to replace them, we could easily witness the disintegration of farming entirely.
To fix this, farming must be made an attractive option for younger generations. It must, at its core, guarantee a fruitful and fulfilling life, despite its harsh physical requirements or unpredictability.
The future of Hawai`i depends on it.
What Can We Do?
There is a reason for Hawai`i’s campaigns encouraging individuals to “Eat Local”. Supporting the Islands’ agricultural system is the most direct way to put money into our farmers’ pockets and allow them to continue doing their crucial job while supporting their families. Selling their products is the only way they get paid, and to sell them, they need buyers!
We understand that local foods are more expensive than many imported foods. We understand many of you may be on a budget, and that food is already one of your largest expenses. We would never ask you to bankrupt yourselves in your attempt to help rebuild Hawai`i’s food resiliency, and if you are someone who needs to keep costs low, then there are other ways to show your support.
However, if you are fortunate enough to have the choice as to what to buy, and were previously unconvinced that spending more for local food was worth it, we hope that you now see things differently. Buying locally does not simply buy you high-quality food, it contributes to rebuilding the system that provided the foundation for the entire nation of Hawai`i and everything it stands for. It is a crucial part of our existence, past and future, and deserves the support of every individual that chooses to live on these Islands.
If you do choose to contribute to rebuilding this necessary system and Eat With Impact, we hope you do so through Kaunamano Farm. Here at Kaunamano, we source directly from suppliers all over the Islands, in addition to producing various pork products ourselves at our own farm on the Big Island. Choose from our pre-made boxes or craft your own from our A La Carte selection, and get them delivered to your doorstep anywhere in Hawai`i!
Whatever you do, we hope that you have a renewed appreciation for buying locally, and that you will choose to Eat With Impact any chance you have.
Mahalo for learning with us throughout this newsletter, and we hope to be packing up a box with your name on it soon!
Mahalo Nui Loa,
- Kaunamano Farm