Monday, September 5, 2016

Musings: On Food and Land

The Robinson family is asking the state Land Use Commission to designate 20,888 acres on west Kauai — nearly half of its holdings — as Important Ag Land.

All of the proposed IAL acreage is currently in production, with 18,700 acres in cattle and 2,188 acres in seed crops.

The LUC will consider the proposal at a Wednesday meeting on Kauai.

Pacific Business News reports that the Robinsons own 27,640 acres at Makaweli zoned either agricultural or urban, as well as 22,630 acres of conservation land. The family will decline the development rights and other incentives that the law offers in exchange for the ag land dedication.

Grove Farm and A&B have already secured the IAL designation for thousands of acres on Kauai, including Kauai Coffee and Mahaulepu.

Meanwhile, over on Maui, HC&S is moving into diversified ag on the 36,000-acre plantation where sugar will be phased out by the end of the year.

Though still in the R&D phase, sorghum is looking promising. It doesn't have a big pest problem, it can be used for animal feed, human food and fuel, and it appears to require far less water than sugar.

Overall, HC&S is looking at growing energy crops on perhaps 18,000 acres, as well as opening land to farmers who want to grow coffee and cacao. It's also looking to create an ag park, with first priority to the 645 HC&S workers.

Plans also call for raising cattle on 9,000 to 10,000 acres, including a possible partnership with local ranchers to create a 2,000-acre irrigated pasture project. This would give ranchers some protection from drought and also allow them to finish cattle in the Islands, rather than shipping them to the mainland. PBN reports that Ulupalakua Ranch is already engaged in a test project on the HC&S land.

In a thoughtful article, the Star-Advertiser's Andrew Gomes points out the many challenges in converting sugar to diversified ag, ranging from figuring out irrigation needs to dealing with a whole slew of new pests, including birds eating just-sown seeds. And then there's the whole processing side of things.

It's not so simple as the non-farmers like to portray. At least, not if you want to be successful.

Speaking of non-farmers, energy-tech entrepreneur Warren Doi, program manager for Energy Excelerator, a nonprofit venture capital entity that funds “cleantech startups,” is hatching a plan for Kauai ag land. In an email to a Kauai farmer, Doi wrote:

We've been working on a number of agriculture initiatives on Kauai with export potential. We have 5,000 acres on the westside (The Mana Plains), and we are driving out the seed companies to make room for local farmers.

Driving out the seed companies? That's an interesting position for a guy who is the Kauai rep for the Hawaii Technology Development Corp., a state agency that is charged, among other things, with doling out $2 million in grants to “manufacturing businesses in Hawaii for certain purchases and employee training purposes.” 

And especially interesting, considering that one of the proposals to help Gov. Ige achieve his new-stated goal of doubling local food production by 2020 states:

HDOA and ADC are also looking to begin an Agricultural Business Incubator in Kekaha, Kauai for over 5,000 acres of agricultural lands to increase the State’s food production.

So Doi, with his biases, is apparently in charge of that.

But then, Doi, who lives on Oahu, cherishes “hanging out on the north shore of Kauai,” which may explain where he got the idea that the seed companies need to be “driven out” in order for other ag to go in. 

Uh, no. There's plenty of land. What's lacking are farmers.

Yet Ige's food production plan makes just one reference to growing farmers:

The State will increase capital available to farmers by increasing the Agricultural Loan Program portfolio that will give increased capacity for HDOA to provide start-up capital to new farmers. HDOA will submit a request of five (5) million dollars per year for the new biennium budget.

Other plans include:

HDOA is working closely with the livestock industry to revitalize the State’s dairy production in the startup of two (2) new dairy operations.

HDOA working with private partners will increase local egg production with the introduction of a one (1) million hen facility on Oahu.

HDOA and ADC are working with the livestock industry to develop slaughterhouse infrastructure to grow the State’s grass fed beef operations and develop 2 local feed mills to increase local feed production, lowering input costs for local farmers and increasing the State’s food security.

Can't wait to see what sort of opposition the antis throw up to those proposals — despite their cry for more local food. Which leads us to another plank in Ige's food platform:

The State will continue its advocacy in partnership with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office for a farm to school program for a second fiscal year (Session 2016) with an emphasis on increasing the procurement of locally grown commodities by government agencies. Pilot projects starting in early 2017 with the Kohala Complex followed by Upcountry Maui.

It's interesting to note that two of the groups heavily involved in the farm to school program — Kokua Foundation Hawaii and Kohala Center — are funded by philanthropists with an anti-GMO agenda, and in the case of the Kohala Center, run by anti-GMO activist Nancy Redfeather. 

Some of the smaller players listed on the site —Grow Some Good, Sustainable Molokai, Oahu Farm to School Network, Food Corps Hawaii, Pacific Resources for Education & Learning — either link back to the Kohala Center or Malama Kauai, which is anti-GMO.

While it's great to give school kids access to healthy food and an awareness of gardening, it's troubling to see state money used to advance an initiative grounded in a false ideology. Kids should be taught critical thinking, not anti-GMO dogma. 

And is it really appropriate to use state money to procure commodities grown by anti-GMO groups operating on grants, including some state money, which gives them an edge over local farmers who aren't similarly subsidized?


Anonymous said...

You think the biotech companies here on Kauai may use their knowledge, lease lands, equipment, and know how to grow food to market---wouldn't it be wonderful to have them grow sweet corn, non gmo soy beans for tofu, sweet potato, ginger, olena, veggies for the table?! You think they may go that route because that's what we are longing for?

Unknown said...

Anyone looking at teff?

Anonymous said...

Are you really longing for these crops to be grown on the same soil you have been saying is toxic soil?

Anonymous said...

“The State will increase capital available to farmers by increasing the Agricultural Loan Program portfolio that will give increased capacity for HDOA to provide start-up capital to new farmers.”
This is such a typical answer for non-farmers. Starting off with debt is a sure way to lose everything. The reason is simple. Farming comes with all sorts of uncertainties like drought, storms, insects, plant disease, animal pests, etc. that materially affect income and consequently the farmer/debtor’s ability to repay. Debt on the other hand, requires regular servicing unfettered by weather and pets. Only a fool or a gambler would finance his farm with borrowed money. And if the farmer goes under, he often hurts his suppliers and employees. Kinda like what people are saying about how Trump hurt the people who did business with him on some projects. In the old days, people saved their money from jobs to finance their ventures. It may take them years to save up enough, but it was the smart way to do it. Then when bad weather hit, they didn’t have those demanding monthly payments to make on top of everything else they had to pay.

Anonymous said...

If the soil is toxic, nothing would grow. I think some of these big mouth wannabee farmers who are having problems trying to grow their orgy veggies in crappy clay soil are blaming former land users and not their own lack of knowledge about soil. Kinda like a hippie version of Homer Simpson.

Anonymous said...

anyone looking at weed, the only crop that is profitable

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Joan. Thank you.

Enlightening, and in some parts, frightening.

I hope HC&S and the Robinson family are successful in their ag endeavors....we should all hope for this because it's what we said we wanted-- local food and energy production...AND we won't like the alternatives, should they fail.

Who the hell does Warren Doi think he is?
"We have 5,000 acres on the westside...."
Who is "We"?
Is he referring to you and me? As in, the citizens of Hawaii who own that land? Is his salary funded by our tax State/Federal dollars; is he our new Monarch?

And since we have such a surplus of our tax money, we are raising another generation of anti-GMOers with zero critical thinking skills.

This, Joan. This is the question. And the answer is NO!
"And is it really appropriate to use state money to procure commodities grown by anti-GMO groups operating on grants, including some state money, which gives them an edge over local farmers who aren't similarly subsidized?"

It compounds the issue of subsidized, non-profit organic farms like Ma'o who can outcompete local farmers in the marketplace. How is this okay?

Anonymous said...

Modern Agriculture lexicon:

Anti-ag (sometimes confused with being Anti-GMO) - anyone not in favor of herbicide and pesticide use, or one who is known to support organic farmers

Joan Conrow said...

Supporting organic farmers is not anti-AG. It's trying to stop any AG that isn't organic.

Anonymous said...

These are great ag lands. Water, sun, rich soil.

Anonymous said...

9:29: no, i don't mean to use toxic land for table foods, there are ways to clean up the soil and i am sure the industry knows exactly how to do it---they have the scientific know how, $ and means to do it! Doing it may lead to us being less dependent on importing our food. Yes, the cattle industry here on Kauai is a god thing---Shimogawa beef is also a good thing. So is the Kaneshiro's pork business which has been in existence for many, many years!

Anonymous said...

The land isn't toxic. That's a bunch of BS from the antis. They're growing crops on it right now. If it was toxic they'd be out of business. Stupid people making stupid claims.

Anonymous said...

I just laughed when sorghum was brought up as a feed crop. The birds will have a feast! Kauai has a lot of farms on the north shore, great for tax farming. If these farms just used 30 % of thier land we would flood our local kauai markets.
Antis stay away from the westside, we don!t want you, the land is too toxic for you but not for us. In the end you will occupy the land and the westsiders will have nothing again. If the seed companies leave the land belongs to the westside. Maybe we will raise gmo corn and soy.

John Kauai said...

Whoa. So many things to respond to and not nearly enough time so let me try to concentrate only on Mr. Doi.

Doi was a spokesman/investor/manager for "greencar" , which you see no longer exists. Having been involved in several startups myself, I would classify Mr. Doi (for which I could be very wrong) in that group of individuals who have the same motivations in life that Donald Trump does. (Please understand that there are so many variables here that I'm not saying Doi == Trump.) They are more interested in promoting themselves than in actually doing something. (Again, this does not mean they are incapable of "doing something", although it sometimes does.) I know a few. They can sometimes "pull it out of their ...", but not always. The startup I was hoping to make me a billionaire (LOL, I'm exaggerating) was eventually run by a guy who had been very successful with another tech company, but even I could tell that he f... up the new company -- ruining my life. (LOL! I live on Kauai! WTF would be "success" if not that?)

So now Mr. Doi has moved on to HTDC which is a state organization that (among other things) is suppose to assist Hawaii Small Business in obtaining a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

Things may have changed (DOH!) but I was successful in obtaining a $20,000 SBIR grant in 1987 directly through the Small Business Administration SBIR grants . It wasn't difficult -- although tedious. Just find a category that no one else is going to address and make something up to meet the requirements of the grant. (We did. It was successful. It went nowhere. Kept us going for a while. The company still exists.) The people who do the awards don't know anything (unless I really did write an amazing grant request, I kind of think not. I have "patents".) They just have to fill the category.

We also got involved with an "enterprise recruiter" from Ernst & Young (which appears to be Mr. Doi's role ) who offered to "guide" our company. It took several months, but we realized we were being scammed when we received a bill for more than our yearly income. (We did not pay it.)

Point being, what exactly is the role HTDC plays and what are they paying Mr. Doi to do? Which then brings up the question of when Mr. Doi joined PICTHR another state organization (well actually UH). So is Doi one of the "in crowd"? (Like Hanabusa who always seems to land on her feet no matter how badly she has screwed her voters or HART.)

OTOH, I surely understand that there are very few entrepreneurs (apparently, at least in R&D although I recall a Macintosh developer I tried to join back in 1986 that had a cool app which was based in Honolulu but either died or moved to Silicon Valley) in Hawaii and perhaps the "best" way to encourage them may be through a government agency. (WPA anyone?) But, at the same time, that leaves the Governor (government/citizens) open to being scammed by a "Donald Trump".

Hey anonymous, I anchored my links. It is a PITA and IMHO adds nothing to the point. But I did it just for you.

And I'd also like to thank anonymous for defending my right to express myself.

Anonymous said...

That's right 2:04PM - It's just an other fear mongering lie to bolster their failed argument.

Manuahi said...

As 3:37 said, there's plenty of north shore land owned by organic espousing faux farmers that could be growing food. Instead, they want to have their picturesque orchards and don't want to provide sufficient water for vegetables...ya know, the stuff we live on. We have plenty fruit here. If you're going to espouse the sustainability bullshit then why aren't you growing the food we need to eat and not ornamental plants for your pleasing vistas. So don't tell anyone else what to grow and how to grow it. Do it your fucking selves.

Anonymous said...

Bizarre it is. People trying to tell A&B, Grove Farm and Gay&Robinson how for be one farmer.
These companies have been dependent on Ag for 150 years. They have had responsibilities for housing, water transmission, electric and roads for decades. The real enemy to these fine Ag Owners is the State and of course the real enemies of Ag and Housing, JoAnn, Mason and Gary Hooser.
The State and County put out rules and BS consistently to trim Big Land's holdings and ability to just stay in business. The Feds and State entry to immerse themselves into the interior parts of the island to control water, birds, plants etc etc. would be a fiasco. Thank the Good God Above us that the Big Land owners have kept the government out of the interior of Kauai.
A&B and GF have done some development. G&R stands alone. One family on a piece of land that just want to be left alone.
Taxes, Insurance and recently the f*cking Fistees have done their best to 86 Big Land. Gary Hooser, Mason Chock, Jay Furfaro and JoAnn Yukimura are the responsible individuals, who as a group decided to try to take down Big Ag on Kauai.
Leave Big Land alone. They know how for keep the land and water working forever.

Shucks....I'd rather have GF, A&B and G&R run the entire County. They know how to takes care of the people, the land and the water.
They are loyal and steadfast in their dealings...and the County and especially Da Hoos should say I'm sorry to Big Ag, especially as they look toward the Big Land owners to alleviate any and ALL traffic woes.
Why would Big Land ever negotiate with a group of people that includes JoAnn, Mason and Gary on any use of Haul Cane roads etc ...these are the very people that are steadfast in putting Big Land out of business.
Most of us are here because of GF, A&B and G&R.....give them respect..or our ancestors would have been planting rice in Japan, starving in Puerto Rico, Portugal, Spain or the fighting for survival in PI. Literally.
Oh except for the JoAnn, Mason and Gary supporters...these are mostly people with no ties to the history, the land or the people. They love the beach and mountain....but do not love the people, the regular people. And isn't it the duty of all of us to try to improve life for everybody? It seems the Fistee brigade has forgotten that the it is "we the people", all the people and not just "we the rich people who have self-ordained virtue and know more than anyone else" mindset of the primarily new-comer, Hooser supporter, dilettante farmer folks.
Poke my eye out with a ballot Batman, if we re-elect Hooser, JoAnn and Mason, we deserve our Kauai future of more government interference in our lives, higher housing costs, higher taxes and fewer jobs. Less freedom.

Unknown said...

Anyone looking at teff?

John Kauai said...


"Toxic" is perhaps a pejorative word to use, but my land was used for pineapple and getting stuff to grow here isn't exactly easy. (Unless its guinea grass or those "damn citrus trees" that are strategically placed in holes first filled with crushed rock then a layer of compose; a layer of manure; a mix of composted dirt from Kauai nursery and chemical fertilizer; and finally topped with another layer of compost and irrigated twice a day and fertilized way too often. LOL. I think I'm growing $2 oranges. Of course, my labor is free.)

Yes I"m a "faux farmer" (on the South Side) in that I just do this to occupy my time. I tried to sell my lychee once. No one offered a price that made it worth my time. Last year I gave over 300lbs to the Food Bank. (This year the trees weren't happy.) My neighbor put years of effort into growing stuff and he had clients that wanted his stuff. But it wasn't like he was made any money on it. I think he finally gave up. (Perhaps more because of the Kauai Assessors Office [a long story that somewhat intersects with the Bynum "scandal", but in the end is just stupid] than because of his failure to turn a profit. He had beautiful produce.)

My pockets (and my motivation) aren't as deep as his so even trying is not an option. (And the alternatives I've looked into aren't exactly appealing. Almost bad enough to think I should vote Republican -- remember the Assessors office? LOL!)

Whatever happened to the land I witnessed the Robinson's turn over Hawaiians several years ago. (to Atooi)? Last time I looked it was the same nothing that was growing when they got it. Perhaps the land was "toxic", or maybe Atooi is just a bunch of lazy bastards? Hey, I really don't know. Just saying, "nothing there". Perhaps someone here can 'splain it to me. I'm sure it is quite complicated. (And maybe I should get out to Kekaha and see for myself! I just hate driving.)

I'm hardly telling anyone what to grow or how to grow it. I'm just saying that if you want to do more than subsistence farming, you need something "special" going for you. "Size" seems to me to be that "special" thing, but there may be examples where this is not true. Perhaps Kauai Kunana Dairy is an example?

Laughing at those who try and fail doesn't make you a better man.

Denigrating those who succeed by using technology you don't like doesn't mean they are evil.

This "everyman for himself" philosophy that dominates America right now is going to ruin us. We are all in this together. I would be happy to have a "sharecropper", but as soon as I use that word, I recoil. Or we could do like they did in Zimbabwe and give the land to people who haven't a clue about how to grow anything. (Or perhaps it was they didn't understand the effort involved and didn't have the capital equipment.) Now the former breadbasket of Africa is itself a basket case.

Anonymous said...

Jeebus John, you don't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess, you cook Portuguese Sausage in the plastic because it holds da flavor and don't think that' is "toxic" either.

Anonymous said...

Farming is really hard work. It is not for the weak minded. Once you start you cannot stop. They won't be time off to go surfing or to the gym. It is a huge commitment. Your mind has to be tough to handle all the setbacks and assholes telling you what to do. You are not allowed to cry because some jerk cut your Papaya trees down like on the Big Island. You got be the tough guy to survive. Is it worth the time and effort? For some it is. We should not be nice to these farmers. Anyone tell you they doing real good???????I doubt it unless they growing pot. Farmers should be respected for what ever they grow, GMO included. No need buy or eat if you do not want to. Just shut the fuck up and let these "Farmers" do their thing. You can not do what they do. Better yet just try.................

Anonymous said...

What 8:45 AM said.

Anonymous said...

Don't fuck with Farmers

John Kauai said...

If you were wondering where Makaweli is, it has a Census Designated Place in it called Kaumkani .

This is the TMK of the largest parcel. If you click on the parcel map you can see the parcels surrounding it.

Anonymous said...

John, since you dont know so much, why are you always trying to educate us. Try look at the spelling and get it correct next time

Manuahi said...

8:45 AM - You are so right! Let the market place decide on GMO vs. organic. I predict that both will survive just fine. If more money will be made in organic, then farms will covert to it. So, if you're in a small minority and the producers don't see any profit in supplying you, then they won't plant what you want. Don't try and give us bullshit reasons for why we must go organic. If the people truly want it, they will get it. End of story.

Anonymous said...

PS - That's democracy!!! The majority rules! Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

@5:44 pm John
Your anchored links look a lot better. Your posts would probably make for enjoyable reading if some of the history lessons were eliminated, To lengthy. Remember the old cliche "sometimes less is more".