Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Musings: Thank the Farmers

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.


Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan:
Great post.
It is hard to grow food here.
I have been growing my backyard garden for over 12 years and this year is the hardest because of all of the snails that have taken a liken to my starts.
First they ate all of my bell peppers and then the peas and they love my Kale.
I tried ground up eggs shells hoping that it would work, tried Cory's slug bait around the outside of my beds had some luck with that but still they come.
It is a lot of work to weed and tend to the plants and then one night a snail eats the plant in half. To all that haven't grown your own food try it. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried salt?

Anonymous said...

How about a physical snail barrier or fence?

Unknown said...

Your post reminds me of the story of K-State developing a drought resistant wheat varieties by inserting rice genes. Due to the regulatory requirements demanded by activist, only mega corporations like Monsanto can afford to get the product approved. In the end, farmers bear the cost of those multi-million dollar investments. It's ironic, antis are trying to put Monsanto out of business and working to keep them in business all at the same time. Further, they claim to be helping farmers, while they're actually driving up our expenses. Truly, one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan.
Your Blog continues to promote open discussion.
But from the creepy corners and crevices of a crusty Fistee, Gary Hooser's mentor/Guru emotes a few dribbles.
Yes, from the King of Section 8 Housing, a life of never working and feeble attempts at journalism, the nasty curmudgeon and ardent Hooser supporter, Andy Parx has written a long winded and completely empty esplanation of the BASF/Becks change on the west-side.
This old wind-bag is trying to stir up some GMO dust---But, his "peoples"- JoAnn, Moron and Da Hoos have been strangely silent in their bashing of Big Ag, West Side lifestyle, stupid locals and the horrors of PMRF. They don't be speaking about nothing, except vanilla sweet nothings.
During the last few gasps of the Council race, these three are clawing away to get some votes.
Perhaps, if Da Hoos, JoAnn or Moron were somewhat open minded toward Ag, jobs and housing, they could make a case on WHY a Kauai citizen should keep them in office.
But, WE can not forget the fiasco of 2491. The mob behavior, the threats, the embrace these three had of mob rule. They loved it.
Look at the past. Da Hoos, JoAnn and Moron are all anti-Ag, anti-Big land owner, anti-Housing and anti-PMRF.
Don't be hoodwinked into voting for these three Anti-local politicians. Just because they have muzzled themselves and aren't broadcasting their beliefs, we can not forget the damage done. We are still living in the wreckage.
Throw these Fistee Three out.
Especially Da Hoos....How many lies has this guy told? He even tells lies about his lies.
There are good candidates out there. Norma Sparks, Brun, Kawakami, Mel, Ross, Kaneshiro. Kipukai.
And Andy, your writing keeps getting worser and worser. Maybe your Welfare Checks should have been spent on a "How to Write Good Stuff Instruction Manual".

Anonymous said...

Methaldyhyde works great. Use the bait formulation. You have to spread over an area big enough to reduce the population down significantly. I just made 65 years old. I farmed my whole and used it only twice. Something happens and the snail population reaches a level where low impact methods cannot kill enough mothers to reduce the population. Remember to wash your vegetables well. Rat lung disease is spread by snails and slugs.

Joan Conrow said...

You're welcome @7:30. I looked at the Parx blog, and per usual, he has gotten so much wrong. Plus I don't know why he's acting like he's revealed some big secret about Beck seeds, or that they try to hide their GMO work. It was plainly discussed on my blog, well before Parx weighed in.

I also noticed that Parx reiterates the Hooser trope about "paid bloggers." I don't know of anyone who is paid to blog about GMOs in Hawaii. I challenge Hooser and Parx to identify the "paid bloggers" and then provide proof of their accusations. Just more lies spread by the antis.

Anonymous said...

Snails and worms are a real bother, particularly those in the soil. Three years of a related plant species (and many,many plants come from few genera ) and the soil is contaminated with compatible pests. Most in the soil, waiting for the next planting. You must lie fallow the plot and then change genus.
Now can someone tell me why my lime true won't flower? Any suggestions?

Hanabada said...

"I looked at your Facebook pictures. Your land is played out."

Classic. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Cornell Alliance for Science

"We want to support independent journalists who are doing in-depth reporting on important topics in agriculture related to food security and innovative agricultural practices"

"Individual Journalism Fellowship awards will be issued in amounts from $5000 to $15,000. Collaborative Journalism Fellowship awards will be issued in amounts up to $25,000. The Alliance hopes that the Collaborative track will inspire working partnerships among journalists who may otherwise not have the opportunity to work together.
“Supporting journalists to write articles that explore access to innovation is core to the Alliance’s mission"

Anonymous said...

Joan, I don't know how many comments on your blog you are able to read before they're posted. I have to say that reading posting
by 7:30 pm individual made me sick. Not only was person full of hatred towards this Andy Parx fellow, but the intent to humiliate him by mentioning the Section 8 housing, and possibly being on disability, was the lowest of the low.

This blogger is disgusting, he has no respect for you, your readers, or many hardworking folks running for office. One can disagree with politicians, and NOT VOTE for them, but vicious personal attacks and name calling have no place in a blog like yours. I am not a frequent reader of your blog but 7:30 post degrades the quality and integrity of your blog.

Joan Conrow said...

@9:09 -- Congratulations. You're able to cut and paste. I'm not sure why you posted that bit from the Alliance website, but in case you're interested, the one and only journalist who has gotten an award is Lois Parshley, for this piece, which appeared in The Atlantic:

John Kauai said...

I read your Farm Bureau post. It sounds really bad. It also sounds exceedingly complicated. I hope you won't mind me asking some uninformed questions.

If the "plantation" was suppose to maintain the system, what entity is it that has replaced the plantation? How does that entity avoid maintenance now? Why isn't the state (the owner of the system) holding that entity to that responsibility? FWIW this Star-Bulletin Story says the owner of the sugar mill was AMFAC but they went bankrupt and sold off all their holdings on Kauai. Do those holdings now belong to Grove Farm?

I found some historical records on the Lihue Plantation but that hardly provided any information related to today.

In Ornellas case, where is Kapaa Homesteads?

Is there a link to the A&B case that Ornellas is caught in? I couldn't find one. It would be nice to know why the lawsuit was brought in the first place.

Lastly, is there something readers of your blog might do to help?


John Kauai said...

FWIW: I found a map of the East Kauai Irrigation System which provided me with a clue where Ornellas (and Kapaa Homesteads) is located. This map was done in 2003. I know for certain that the coffee plantation map has some significant deletions in capacity so take this east side map with a grain of salt.

I did find this Earth Justice lawsuit over water but this is on the West Side. There are so many Earth Justice lawsuits I wouldn't know how to narrow it down. The one link that looked like it might be good on the Maui News, returned a 404 error.

A 2010 Civil Beat article appears to be about the issue. I get two of my closely held opinions reinforced from this article: 1) corporations are doing everything they can to gain a monopoly over the supply of water (it is illegal to capture rainwater in Colorado ); 2) the designation of "Important Agricultural Lands" is a smokescreen for corporate theft (the Horton Development in Ewa comes to mind.) But I recognize my prejudice and am willing to listen to a different interpretation of the facts.

Considering the fact that AMFAC is gone, should not the responsibilities that AMFAC assumed have been transferred along with title to the land? I'm not a lawyer, but when there is an easement across one's property that easement remains in place when the land is sold. Failure to accept that responsibility is the same kind of shenanigans that made Mit Romney rich. (As an aside, It would be interesting to know just how much the closing of Sports Authority in Lihue benefited Romney.)

Anonymous said...

If farming was easy more than 1% of the population would do it.

More than 1% of the population SHOULD be doing it for the sake of the entire population.

It is only through scientific research and GMOs that the 1% will be able to feed the world. We need science/GMOs to do so.

Why cant people see that?

Joan Conrow said...

I gave you all that information about the IAL, but it didn't seem to change your (incorrect) opinion.

Anonymous said...

Farmers were ran out of farming by corporations. The 1% that is left are now modern day indentured servants. The corporation control the food , especially the seed, they control the world. Why can't you see that. People on Kauai should stop worrying about "feeding the world" and worry about Kauai. Growing things on Kauai isn't hard. You can literally stick a stick in the ground and it will grow. Next papaya you eat, throw the seeds into a bush and you will have a papaya. Plant your next Avacado pit, ... The only people that find it hard to grow on Kauai besides the lazy are the ones destroying their land with fertilizers and pesticides.

Anonymous said...

So when you google Joan Conrow Cornell Alliance for Science and the articles you have written for them appear, you want us to believe you weren't paid for them?

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, I was paid for them as an independent contractor, which is how I've worked for many, many entities over the past 20 years. It has nothing to do with their Fellowships and nothing to do with my blog.

John Kauai said...


I know several Farmers who are not beholding to anyone. They work very, very hard and take amazing chances. I will agree that US Ag is in crisis in that there is hardly any way for a new farmer to get established. And older farmers have a difficult time determining how to turn over their huge capital investment to someone who has a $200,000 student debt.

I grow stuff on my property. Yes, the papayas produce -- once in a while. The bananas produce -- once in a while. The avocados produce -- once in a while.

Your insistence that one only need put a stick in the ground is only true if one wants to eat the same thing for two weeks in a row, and then starve for several weeks waiting for the next crop to produce.

Unknown said...

@ 12:10 I know of several farmers who started with nothing. They worked 9 to 5 jobs. Then, they went to work part-time for a farmer and fell in love with the job. Then they found one of their neighbors was ready to retire. They rented the ground and exchanged farm labor (after already working a 8 hr day at their regular job) for machine hire. Next thing you know, they pick up another quarter and bought a tractor. Then they buy a planter and a sprayer, but still have their boss harvest for them. Next thing you know, they add two more quarters and buy one with their equity. Next year they fix up an old used combine and buy an 40 year old truck. 10 years later, they farm with two sons (or three daughters, brothers or their dad) and have a 3 year old combine and two new tractors. It can be done; but, it takes drive, ambition, determination, and the right opportunities.

There are reasons why it's only 1% of the population. The profession entails considerable financial and weather risk. It's an expensive business to start and there are years where the returns are low. The hours suck. It's dirty, hard, tiring work. Finally, you're competing against another 2 million other farmers, and all of those men (and women) have the necessary qualities to make their business work. Maybe only 1% of the population is cutout for the job?

Anonymous said...

October 13, 2016 at 9:11 AM ---Never meant to distress you. But if I did, I am very sorry. But one reaps what one sows..and Andy and Da Hoos deserve every bit of sarcasm and truth insinuated toward them.
I don't know if Andy is a disability guy or not. All I know is he has been a pain in the kaduckas for decades, never worked, disrespected everyone and the reference to Section 8 is that he is an example of why people do NOT rent to Secton 8 folks..Andy types leave the places filthy. This I know for a fact....Mine own eyes have seen the filth he leaves behind...But I rent to a few other Section 8 folks...I prefer to help where I can.
You must be a newbie. Andy is not. No disrespect to Disabled because I am one. Andy just never had a job and worked the system. He could make a million if he wrote a book on "Live on Kauai for 40 Years and Never Work".

John Kauai- The DLNR doesn't allow anyone to fix the hanawai ditches without permission. This permission can take about 1 year to get an answer..which is usually "No". If the ditch is around your property you should get permission just to cross it.
The Hanawai ditches are a real historical asset. There are moocho miles of them in Kapaa/Wailua and hundreds of miles of them on the island. Ditches, tunnels, water bridges etc...the ones under DLNR control are disintegrating. A disgrace.
The ditch systems at GF, G&R and A&B, for the most part are perfect.
The ditch systems are amazing. Only the Big Land Owners keep them running. The Eastside is hit and miss.
The State has been a failure with all water. Mauka and Makai.
Kapaa Homesteads is the area between Kaehulua and Olohena (Kaapuni, Hauiki, Waipouli) ...but don't go wandering off the puka puka County Roads...lots of dogs and lots of guns. And lots of Aloha.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember after Iniki when Joanne prohibited the Navy from landing supplies at Nawiliwili and Elieli? So they had to fly it in at PMRF? I do. Because they trucked water and food into my subdivision 24 hours later. She is crazy.

Anonymous said...

I love all these people telling others about how to farm.
I wonder if they are equally well versed in physics, chemistry, and economics. They sure seem smart. /

Anonymous said...

Andy Parx has engaged in vicious ad hominem attacks--including against people who have bravely described personal struggles with mental health issues--plenty of times in an ugly and dehumanizing manner.He assumes a know-it-all position from which to criticize and condemn others when he can't manage his own life competently, relies on the public dole and resorts to online panhandling to put together a few bucks to go visit his grandchild. Amazing he reproduced at one point. He singlehandedly caused the KCC student publication to be suspended and his self-published journalism would never withstand the scrutiny of an even modestly competent editor or fact checker. People in subsidized glasshouses shouldn't throw stones. Andy Parx doesn't have the chops to get paid for his work by Cornell or anyone else. That's why he's the chronicler of the Fistees, Babes and anti-ag crowd. Pathetic housebound troll who has eaten himself into self-induced disability.

Anonymous said...

9:11 - Parx is as pilau and nasty as they come. With all the toxic venom he spews at others he gets what he deserves in return.

Unknown said...

Na Wai Eha pertains to
West Maui, not the East Maui diversions by A&B.

Anonymous said...

Joan you would make a great defense attorney.
i think most Kauaians would rather co-exist and raise a family downwind of a 'light-Ag' papaya farmer than a 'heavy-Ag' seed manufacturer.
....but no foget uncle stay making one good paycheck running spraying equipment for da seed guys

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Marjorie. I often get those two cases mixed up, even though I was just looking at background clips the other day. Na Wai Eha is Earthjustice. The East Maui diversions are Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.

So John, here are a couple of links that offer some background on the East Maui diversions that led to the ruling on the revocable permits. One is from OHA and the other from Associated Press:

@3:55 -- Your comment reflects your ignorance about the operations of both papaya and seed farms. And is there something wrong with local workers making a decent paycheck in agriculture?

Anonymous said...

Joan anyone who even remotely thinks chemicals used in the seed operations are affecting people's health is 'ignorant'

John Kauai said...


Thank you for those links to the East Maui water story. The more one reads about the problem, the more frustrating it gets, which, of course, feeds my paranoia concerning government inefficiencies.

Concerning Important Ag Lands maps are here for those who might care to look.

Here is the TMK for one of the parcels on Oahu. It is owned by Hawaiian Turf Grass . Is growing grass "important"?

There isn't much on Oahu designated as "Important", especially when compared to the large areas on Kauai. For example, the entire Coffee Plantation is Important Agricultural Lands..

I did misrepresent my point about the Horton Development on Oahu. I meant to say Hoopilli "should have been" designated Important Agricultural Lands. Yes Horton does have an ag plan Maybe the Civil Beat article overstates the situation.