by Claire Caulfield
Farmers and activists gathered at the Hawaii State Capitol Wednesday to call on lawmakers to provide more land and resources to subsistence farmers.
“Since 1959 they’ve pitted the military, tourism and development against agriculture,” said Daniel Anthony, a taro farmer and one of the organizers of the event. “What we demand is fairness.”
In previous years Anthony has successfully lobbied to ease restrictions on traditional hale and to legalize the sale of hand-pounded poi.
“Today is a major day in creating the awareness of the need for the Legislature to start to make some serious decisions to support small, organic, natural subsistence farmers because we are the solution,” he said.
Volunteers set up a drive-thru in front of the capitol to distribute taro cuttings to passersby, pedestrians and even elected officials.
“We want to have land for the people that want to grow food so that we can eat,” said Kapua Medeiros, as she handed a bunch of taro cuttings, a Hawaiian flag and cultivation instructions to a couple through their car window. “It’s all about kanaka maoli thriving in Hawaii.”
The group arrived with 10,000 taro cuttings and is calling everyone who received cuttings to open a family taro patch once their plants are more mature.
“I believe at least 1% of Hawaii wants to take part in subsistence agriculture, which means there’s 15,000 farmers waiting to farm that don’t have support of the government,” Anthony said.
Volunteers arrived at the capitol at dawn to plant 10,000 Hawaiian flags, played music and provided lunch from Adela’s Country Eatery in Kaneohe.
Jordan Devillanueva came down to the capitol from Makaha and spent the morning waving a “support farmers” sign at cars and encouraging people to pick up taro cuttings of their own.
“2021 is going to be the year of the farmer,” he said. “Let’s make it happen.”