In traveling around the Islands, talking to farmers and scientists and policy-makers, I keep hearing, when people ask where I'm from: “Oh, Kauai. That's ground zero, isn't it?”
They aren't referring to GMO field trials or crops, but the hostility and hatred that has been focused against them, and by extension, any form of agriculture that doesn't pass the non-farming activist smell test.
The mention of Kauai used to elicit quite a different response around the state: old-school, charming, still Hawaiian, special. Folks had a sense that it was a little oasis preserving the most wonderful aspects of Hawaii. And now, thanks to Gary Hooser, Hawaii SEED, Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and GMO-Free Kauai, it's viewed as the center of a shit storm.
In talking to farmers and ranchers, I am continually struck by how hard they work, and the incredible risks they take, in order to produce something that sustains others. Every initiative is an economic gamble, yet they keep at it, because they love the life, and they feel good about what they do.
I can't help but contrast these frugal, self-made folks with the heavily subsidized Kilauea ag park, which is moving forward, supported by grant money and public funds.
After getting the land at no cost, they've spent $1 million to get water to just one section of the park, while another $500,000 is needed to irrigate the rest. And what will they get for that investment?
Well, according to today's edition of The Garden Island:
The plan for the park is to allow 30 families to work together, with a six-month commitment, under the supervision of a farm manager to grow food. Those families will receive a bi-weekly, custom-made box of produce with at least seven items. Seeds, tools, fertilizers, and soil amendments will be provided to families.
Wow. Those are some super expensive veggies — if they even pull it off.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's great to teach people how to grow food. But when I hear folks like Keone Keone claim that this park “will serve thousands of residents on Kauai as a regional food hub assisting Hawaii’s shared efforts to increase food security, preserve rural character, provide viable, agriculturally based economic development with a long term vision to provide our youth with rewarding jobs and skills in agriculture” — using “traditional practices” no less — I can't help but catch a whiff of bullshit.
As farmers have repeatedly told me, the definition of sustainability is profitability.
And that's the part of the equation that's missing in the Kilauea ag park, the Kilauea “food forest” and the activist dream of communal agriculture. It's founded on freebies and hand-outs, when we should all know by now that there is no free lunch.