In honor of National Farmer's Day, I salute those who are producing the food, fuel and fiber that support us all.
Less than 1 percent of the population lists farming as an occupation, according to the US Census Bureau, which also reports that 87 percent of the nation's farm are owned and operated by individuals or families. Partnerships own 8 percent.
It's a tough job, with farmers facing weather challenges, price fluctuations, fickle and demanding consumers, ill-informed activists and numerous regulations.
In Hawaii, some of the small water users are now dealing with an expensive, lengthy and unclear process in shifting from revocable permits to long-term leases.
I just wrote a blog post for the Hawaii Farm Bureau, which you can read here, about the difficulties confronting the East Kauai Water Users Cooperative as it embarks on that process.
Though activists were targeting A&B and its use of water from East Maui streams, small farmers are paying the price for the court ruling on revocable permits.
The Moloaa well, which serves the small farmers in that area, is also on a revocable permit. Unless Jeff Lindner is willing to pick up the tab for securing a lease, water users there may see hefty increases in their costs. Because it ain't cheap to do all the studies required to get a lease.
It seems that those involved in litigation and activism don't often consider the full consequences of their actions. That's why I've spoken so strongly against efforts to target the seed companies. It's not because I'm a corporate shill or a pesticide-lover, since I'm neither.
It's because rules and regulations imposed on the big guys — stuff like real time pesticide disclosure and buffer zones — end up falling on the shoulders of the small guys, too. And they typically don't have the financial and other resources to easily comply.
Last night, someone left this comment on my blog, in response to Nebraska farmer Bradley Choquette, who frequently offers intelligent comments about real-life farming:
Your agriculture system is like an athlete on performance enhancing drugs, it's good for a short period of time and then it comes crashing down. I looked at your Facebook pictures. Your land is played out. You need the "performance enhancing drugs" to compete. Without them your worthless. My land is full of life and thriving. Hundreds of people rely on the fruits and veggies grown on my land that's only getting better. True, my land can't feed the world. Nor, can yours. If everybody on Kauai turned to organic permaculture on whatever size piece of land they owned our island could feed itself. Your wastelands days are numbered. All you can hope for science to figure out how to save what you destroyed.
I've had the pleasure and honor of visiting many farms, in different parts of the world, and I've never heard farmers talk like this about other farmers. There's much more of a mutual respect, a live and let live philosophy at play.
I'm reminded of a comment by Dr. Ted Radovich. Though he's the CTAHR specialist in sustainable and organic farming, he's not wanting to shut anybody down, or talk stink about conventional and biotech ag. As he said, "Everybody just needs to focus on their own farm and not what anybody else is doing."
There's room in Hawaii, and on the planet, for all types of farming. Organic, permaculture, homesteading, indigenous, biotech, conventional — they're all tools in the agricultural toolbox. Farmers should have the right to use whatever method serves their own situation best.
Let's focus on co-existence, supporting all agriculture, while expressing gratitude to those who can successfully pull off a crop.