IN YOUR FRIDGE / Farmers’ market managers, Pamela Boyer and Annie Suite have joined hands with local farmers to create Oahu Agri-Tours. There’s no fancy farmhouse or massive farm machinery; what you see is what you get. You’ll experience first-hand how farmers are committed to practicing clean, organic farming.
Poamoho Farms is one of the farms on tour, and guests learn how the fruit orchard uses natural pest management and fertilization methods. Tin Roof Ranch farmers Luann Casey and Gary Gunder butcher their chickens the day before selling them at the market.
Na Mea Kupono wetland taro farm practices old school taro farming methods that most locals don’t even know about. Here you can also watch a traditional poi-pounding demonstration.
At Mohala Farms you’ll see how simple and natural farming is still possible (and still exists). After a tour of their herb garden, guests enjoy farm-made treats in the hale. And if that simply isn’t enough to get you excited about organic farms, there’s of course, chocolate. Waialua Estate Cacao, a local chocolate and coffee farm that serves up world class chocolate and coffee, rivals that of our neighbor Island.
Yes, all the hype of organic produce at chain markets may sound a little cliché, and the truth is, it is simple and true to Hawaii’s history.
At the supermarket, most shoppers are oblivious to a battle raging within U.S. agriculture and the Obama administration’s role in it. Two thriving but opposing sectors — organics and genetically engineered crops — have been warring on the farm, in the courts and in Washington.
Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors.
Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants.
But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.
The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their crops as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.
“It was boom, boom boom,” said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Markets, a major player in organics. “These were deeply disappointing. They were such one-sided decisions.”
Unique opportunity for those interested, or already involved, in a related career
A unique opportunity is available for organic inspectors or those interested in working in the organic field — including county extension agents, regulatory agency staff, organic processors and industry activists — in order to better understand the organic inspection and certification process.
The county Department of Research and Development has provided a grant to enable the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) to offer “Basic Organic Farm (Crop) Inspector Training,” to be held Jan. 25-29, and “Process and Handling Inspector Training,” to be held Feb. 1-5, in Hilo.
The registration deadline is Sunday, Dec. 12.
By William Wan Washington Post Foreign Service
IN CHONGMING ISLAND, CHINA The small-scale farmer is a dying breed in China, made up mostly of the elderly left behind in the mass exodus of migrant workers to much higher-paying jobs in industrial cities.
But on an island called Chongming, a two-hour drive east of Shanghai, a group of young urban professionals has begun to buck the trend. They are giving up high-paying salaries in the city and applying their business and Internet savvy to once-abandoned properties. They are trying to teach customers concepts such as eating local and sustainability. And they are spearheading a fledgling movement that has long existed in the Western world but is only beginning to emerge in modern China: green living.
“What we are trying to create is like a dream for us,” said Chen Shuaijun, a young banker who, with his wife, has rented eight acres on Chongming.
“But it is simply bizarre to everyone else,” he added, with a sigh.
Some 14 Hawaii Island farmers, ranchers, food purveyors and ag entrepreneurs were among the “Heroes of Agriculture, Food and Environment” honored at the Hawaii Agriculture Conference held Sept. 23-24 at Ko’Olina, Oahu.
Ag conference organizers began polling the agriculture community in August, seeking nominations in seven categories. A review team then selects the winners based on the write-ups submitted.
“We were looking for the behind-the-scene heroes, the humble leaders,” said Kim Coffee-Isaak, executive director of the Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawaii.
The 2010 Heroes of Agriculture, Food and the Environment are:
Hawaii’s philanthropic powerhouse Pierre Omidyar fell to No. 47 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America.
The 43-year-old self-made billionaire-turned-philanthropist is worth $5.5 billion, the same as last year, when he ranked No. 40 on the Forbes list.
Omidyar, who lives in Hawaii with his wife, Pam, and three children, has donated a significant part of his fortune to local nonprofit groups.
Earlier this month, Omidyar said he planned to infuse Hawaii projects with more cash through his Ulupono Initiative, which promotes food sustainability, renewable energy and waste reduction.
Last year the Omidyars pledged $50 million over six years to the Hawaii Community Foundation, a charitable services and grant-making organization.
“Through the Ulupono Initiative and Hawaii Community Foundation, what he and Pam are trying to do is find ways to provide opportunities for people in Hawaii to improve their quality of life,” said Sarah Steven, spokeswoman for the Omidyar family.