Sunday, May 17, 2015

Driving GMOs and Monsanto's Roundup off the Market

Entire article Here: Driving GMOs and Monsanto's Roundup off the Market

Since genetically engineered (GE) crops, foods, and animal drugs were brazenly forced onto the market in 1994 by Monsanto and the FDA, with neither pre-market safety testing nor labels required, consumers and small farmers worldwide have mobilized to ban, label, or boycott these controversial "Frankenfoods."
With mounting scientific evidence1 underlining the human health and environmental toxicity of GE foods, and growing alarm over the toxic pesticides such as Monsanto's Roundup that invariably accompany genetically modified organisms (GMOs), currently 64 nations require mandatory labeling of GMOs.
Numerous states and regions in the European Union, and several dozen entire nations, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, and Russia, have banned GMO crops altogether.2
In the European Union (EU), where mandatory labeling laws are in effect, little or no GMO crops or food are on the market (except for imported GMO animal feed). In addition to banning GMOs, a growing number of countries, including El Salvador and Sri Lanka, have begun to ban the use of Monsanto's Roundup.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Roundup is polluting Hawaii

This type of chemical use has got to stop. Really, spraying a known carcinogen right into the canal in Hilo Hawaii, is one of the many abuses of toxins found in agriculture. This has got to stop.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Urban farming is booming, but what does it really yield?

The benefits of city-based agriculture go far beyond nutrition.

Editor’s note: This story was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a non-profit investigative news organization.

Midway through spring, the nearly bare planting beds of Carolyn Leadley’s Rising Pheasant Farms, in the Poletown neighborhood of Detroit, barely foreshadow the cornucopian abundance to come. It will be many months before Leadley is selling produce from this one-fifth-acre plot. But the affable young farmer has hardly been idle, even during the snowiest days of winter. Twice daily, she has been trekking from her house to a small greenhouse in her side yard, where she waves her watering wand over roughly 100 trays of sprouts, shoots and microgreens. She sells this miniature bounty, year round, at the city’s eastern market and to restaurateurs delighted to place some hyperlocal greens on their guests’ plates.
Leadley is a key player in Detroit’s vibrant communal and commercial farming community, which in 2014 produced nearly 400,000 pounds (18,000 kg) of produce — enough to feed more than 600 people — in its more than 1,300 community, market, family and school gardens. Other farms in postindustrial cities are also prolific: In 2008, Philadelphia’s 226 community and squatter gardens grew roughly 2 million pounds of mid-summer vegetables and herbs, worth US$4.9 million. Running at full bore, Brooklyn’s Added-Value Farm, which occupies 2.75 acres, funnels 40,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables into the low-income neighborhood of Red Hook. And in Camden, New Jersey — an extremely poor city of 80,000 with only one full-service supermarket — community gardeners at 44 sites harvested almost 31,000 pounds (14,000 kg) of vegetables during an unusually wet and cold summer. That’s enough food during the growing season to feed 508 people three servings a day.
That researchers are even bothering to quantify the amount of food produced on tiny city farms — whether community gardens, like those of Camden and Philly, or for-profit operations, like Leadley’s — is testament to the nation’s burgeoning local-foods movement and its data-hungry supporters. Young farmers are, in increasing numbers, planting market gardens in cities, and “local” produce (a term with no formal definition) now fills grocery shelves across the U.S., from Walmart to Whole Foods, and is promoted in more than 150 nations around the world.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing what the Worldwatch Institute reports to be an astonishing 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food. In developing nations, city dwellers farm for subsistence, but in the U.S., urban ag is more often driven by capitalism or ideology. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t track numbers of city farmers, but based on demand for its programs that fund education and infrastructure in support of urban-ag projects, and on surveys of urban ag in select cities, it affirms that business is booming. How far — and in what direction — can this trend go? What portion of a city’s food can local farmers grow, at what price, and who will be privileged to eat it? And can such projects make a meaningful contribution to food security in an increasingly crowded world?
Urban Advantages
Like anyone who farms in a city, Leadley waxes eloquent on the freshness of her product. Pea shoots that have traveled 3 miles (4.8 km) to grace a salad are bound to taste better and be more nutritious, she says, than those that have traveled half a continent or farther. “One local restaurant that I sell to used to buy its sprouts from Norway,” Leadley says. Fresher food also lasts longer on shelves and in refrigerators, reducing waste.
Food that’s grown and consumed in cities has other advantages: During times of abundance, it may cost less than supermarket fare that’s come long distances, and during times of emergency — when transportation and distribution channels break down — it can fill a vegetable void. Following large storms such as Hurricane Sandy and the blizzards of this past winter, says Viraj Puri, cofounder of New York City–based Gotham Greens (which produces more than 300 tons [272 metric tons] of herbs and microgreens per year in two rooftop hydroponic operations and has another farm planned for Chicago), “our produce was the only produce on the shelf at many supermarkets across the city.”
Despite their relatively small size, urban farms grow a surprising amount of food, with yields that often surpass those of their rural cousins. This is possible for a couple reasons. First, city farms don’t experience heavy insect pressure, and they don’t have to deal with hungry deer or groundhogs. Second, city farmers can walk their plots in minutes, rather than hours, addressing problems as they arise and harvesting produce at its peak. They can also plant more densely because they hand cultivate, nourish their soil more frequently and micromanage applications of water and fertilizer.
As social enterprises, community gardens operate in an alternate financial universe: they don’t sustain themselves with sales, nor do they have to pay employees.Though they don’t get as much press as for-profit farms and heavily capitalized rooftop operations, community gardens — which are collectively tended by people using individual or shared plots of public or private land, and have been a feature in U.S. cities for well over a century — are the most common form of urban agriculture in the nation, producing far more food and feeding more people, in aggregate, than their commercial counterparts. As social enterprises, community gardens operate in an alternate financial universe: they don’t sustain themselves with sales, nor do they have to pay employees. Instead, they rely on volunteer or cheap youth labor, they pay little or nothing in rent, and they solicit outside aid from government programs and foundations that support their social and environmental missions. These may include job training, health and nutrition education, and increasing the community’s resilience to climate change by absorbing stormwater, counteracting the urban heat island effect and converting food waste into compost.
Funders don’t necessarily expect community gardens to become self-sustaining. These farms may increase their revenue streams by selling at farmers markets or to restaurants, or they may collect fees from restaurants or other food-waste generators for accepting scraps that will be converted into compost, says Ruth Goldman, a program officer at the Merck Family Fund, which funds urban agriculture projects. “But margins on vegetable farming are very slim, and because these farms are doing community education and training teen leaders, they’re not likely to operate in the black.”
[I]t’s the microgreens that keep Leadley from joining the ranks of the vast majority of U.S. farmers and taking a second job.Several years ago, Elizabeth Bee Ayer, who until recently ran a training program for city farmers, took a hard look at the beets growing in her Youth Farm, in the Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. She counted the hand movements involved in harvesting the roots and the minutes it took to wash and prepare them for sale. “Tiny things can make or break a farm,” Ayer notes. “Our beets cost US$2.50 for a bunch of four, and people in the neighborhood loved them. But we were losing 12 cents on every beet.” Ultimately, Ayer decided not to raise the price: “No one would have bought them,” she says. Instead, she doubled down on callaloo, a Caribbean herb that cost less to produce but sold enough to subsidize the beets. “People love it, it grows like a weed, it’s low maintenance and requires very little labor.” In the end, she says, “We are a nonprofit, and we didn’t want to make a profit.”
Sustainable and Resilient
Few would begrudge Ayer her loss leader, but such practices can undercut for-profit city farmers who are already struggling to compete with regional farmers at crowded urban markets and with cheap supermarket produce shipped from California and Mexico. Leadley, of Rising Pheasant Farms, realized long ago that she wouldn’t survive selling only the vegetables from her outdoor garden, which is why she invested in a plastic-draped greenhouse and heating system. Her tiny shoots, sprouts, amaranth and kohlrabi leaves grow year-round; they grow quickly — in the summer, Leadley can make a crop in seven days — and they sell for well over a dollar an ounce.
Nodding toward her backyard plot, Leadley says, “I grow those vegetables because they look good on the farm stand. They attract more customers to our table, and I really love growing outdoors.” But it’s the microgreens that keep Leadley from joining the ranks of the vast majority of U.S. farmers and taking a second job.
Mchezaji Axum, an agronomist with the University of the District of Columbia, the first exclusively urban land-grant university in the nation, helps urban farmers increase their yields whether they are selling into wealthy markets, like Leadley, or poorer markets, like Ayer. He promotes the use of plant varieties adapted to city conditions (short corn that produces four instead of two ears, for example). He also recommends biointensive methods, such as planting densely, intercropping, applying compost, rotating crops and employing season-extension methods (growing cold-tolerant vegetables like kale, spinach or carrots in winter hoop houses, for example, or starting plants in cold frames — boxes with transparent tops that let in sunlight but protect plants from extreme cold and rain).
“You learn to improve your soil health, and you learn how to space your plants to get more sunshine,” Axum says. Surveying D.C.’s scores of communal gardens, Axum has been surprised by how little food they actually grow. “People aren’t using their space well. More than 90 percent aren’t producing intensively. Some people just want to grow and be left alone.
“Using biointensive methods may not be part of your cultural tradition,” Laura J. Lawson, a professor of landscape architecture at Rutgers State University and the author of City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America, says. “It depends who you learned gardening from.” Lawson recalls the story of a well-meaning visitor to a Philadelphia garden who suggested that the farmers had planted their corn in a spot that wasn’t photosynthetically ideal. The women told their visitor, “We always plant it there; that way we can pee behind it.”
Axum is all about scaling up and aggregating hyperlocal foods to meet the demands of large buyers like city schools, hospitals or grocery stores. Selling to nearby institutions, say food policy councils established by grassroots organizations and local governments to strengthen and support local food systemsis key to making urban food systems more sustainable and resilient, to say nothing of providing a living to local growers. But scaling up often requires more land, and therefore more expensive labor to cultivate it, in addition to changes in local land use and other policies, marketing expertise and efficient distribution networks.
“Lots of local institutions want to source their food here,” says Detroit farmer Noah Link, whose Food Field, a commercial operation, encompasses a nascent orchard, vast areas of raised beds, two tightly wrapped 150-foot-long hoop houses (one of which shelters a long, narrow raceway crammed with catfish), chickens, beehives and enough solar panels to power the whole shebang. “But local farms aren’t producing enough food yet. We’d need an aggregator to pull it together for bulk sales.”
Link doesn’t grow microgreens — the secret sauce for so many commercial operations — because he can break even on volume: His farm occupies an entire city block. Annie Novak, who co-founded New York City’s first for-profit rooftop farm in 2009, doesn’t have the luxury of space. She realized early on that she couldn’t grow a wide enough diversity of food to satisfy her community-supported agriculture customers in just 5,800 square feet (540 square meters) of shallow raised beds. “So I partnered with a farm upstate to supplement and diversify the boxes,” she says. Now, Novak focuses on niche and value-added products. “I make a hot sauce from my peppers and market the bejesus out of it,” she says. She also grows microgreens for restaurants, plus honey, herbs, flowers and “crops that are narratively interesting, like purple carrots, or heirloom tomatoes, which give us an opportunity to educate people about the value of food, green spaces and our connection to nature,” she says.
Sometimes being strategic with crop selection isn’t enough. Brooklyn Grange, a for-profit farm atop two roofs in New York City, grows more than 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) of tomatoes, kale, lettuce, carrots, radishes and beans, among other crops, each year. It sells them through its CSA, at farm stands and to local restaurants. But to further boost its income, Brooklyn Grange also offers a summerlong training program for beekeepers (US$850 tuition), yoga classes and tours, and it rents its Edenic garden spaces, which have million-dollar views of the Manhattan skyline, for photo shoots, weddings, private dinners and other events.
“Urban farms are like small farms in rural areas,” says Carolyn Dimitri, an applied economist who studies food systems and food policy at New York University. “They have the same set of problems: people don’t want to pay a lot for their food, and labor is expensive. So they have to sell high-value products and do some agritourism.”
Under Control
On a miserable March morning, with a sparkling layer of ice glazing a foot of filthy snow, a coterie of Chicago’s urban farmers toils in shirtsleeves and sneakers, their fingernails conspicuously clean. In their gardens, no metal or wood scrap accumulates in corners, no chickens scratch in hoop-house soil. In fact, these farmers use no soil at all. Their densely planted basil and arugula leaves sprout from growing medium in barcoded trays. The trays sit on shelves stacked 12 feet (3.7 meters) high and illuminated, like tanning beds, by purple and white lights. Fans hum, water gurgles, computer screens flicker.
[W]ith 25 high-density crops per year, as opposed to a conventional farmer’s five or so, CEA yields are 10 to 20 times higher than the same crop grown outdoors.FarmedHere, the nation’s largest player in controlled environment agriculture — CEA —pumps out roughly a million pounds (500,000 kg) per year of baby salad greens, basil and mint in its 90,000-square-foot (8,000-square-meter) warehouse on the industrial outskirts of Chicago. Like many hydroponic or aquaponic operations (in which water from fish tanks nourishes plants, which filter the water before it’s returned to the fish), the farm has a futuristic feel — all glowing lights and stainless steel. Employees wear hairnets and nitrile gloves. But without interference from weather, insects or even too many people, the farm quickly and reliably fulfills year-round contracts with local supermarkets, including nearly 50 Whole Foods Markets.
“We can’t keep up with demand,” Nick Greens, a deejay turned master grower, says.
Unlike outdoor farms, CEA has no call for pesticides and contributes no nitrogen to waterways. Its closed-loop irrigation systems consume 10 times less water than conventional systems. And with 25 high-density crops per year, as opposed to a conventional farmer’s five or so, CEA yields are 10 to 20 times higher than the same crop grown outdoors — in theory sparing forests and grasslands from the plow.
Is CEA the future of urban farming? It produces a lot of food in a small space, to be sure. But until economies of scale kick in, these operations — which are capital intensive to build and maintain — must concentrate exclusively on high-value crops like microgreens, winter tomatoes and herbs.
Reducing food miles reduces transit-related costs, as well as the carbon emissions associated with transport, packaging and cooling. But growing indoors under lights, with heating and cooling provided by fossil fuels, may negate those savings. When Louis Albright, an emeritus professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, dug into the numbers, he discovered that closed-system farming is expensive, energy intensive and, at some latitudes, unlikely to survive on solar or wind power. Growing a pound of hydroponic lettuce in Ithaca, New York, Albright reports, generates 8 pounds (4 kg) of carbon dioxide at the local power plant: a pound of tomatoes would generate twice that much. Grow that lettuce without artificial lights in a greenhouse and emissions drop by two thirds.
Food Security
In the world’s poorest nations, city dwellers have always farmed for subsistence. But more of them are farming now than ever before. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, it’s estimated that 40 percent of the urban population is engaged in agriculture. Long-time residents and recent transplants alike farm because they’re hungry, they know how to grow food, land values in marginal areas (under power lines and along highways) are low, and inputs like organic wastes — fertilizer — are cheap. Another driver is the price of food: People in developing nations pay a far higher percentage of their total income for food than Americans do, and poor transportation and refrigeration infrastructure make perishable goods, like fruits and vegetables, especially dear. Focusing on these high-value crops, urban farmers both feed themselves and supplement their incomes.
In the U.S., urban farming is likely to have its biggest impact on food security in places that, in some ways, resemble the global south — that is, in cities or neighborhoods where land is cheap, median incomes are low and the need for fresh food is high. Detroit, by this metric, is particularly fertile ground. Michael Hamm, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University, calculated that the city, which has just under 700,000 residents and more than 100,000 vacant lots (many of which can be purchased, thanks to the city’s recent bankruptcy, for less than the price of a refrigerator), could grow three quarters of its current vegetable consumption and nearly half its fruit consumption on available parcels of land using biointensive methods.
No one expects city farms in the U.S. to replace peri-urban or rural vegetable farms: cities don’t have the acreage or the trained farmers, and most can’t produce food anything close to year-round. But can city farms take a bite from long-distance supply chains? NYU’s Dimitri doesn’t think so. Considering the size and global nature of the nation’s food supply, she says, urban ag in our cities “isn’t going to make a dent. And it’s completely inefficient, economically. Urban farmers can’t charge what they should, and they’re too small to take advantage of economies of scale and use their resources more efficiently.”
That doesn’t mean that community gardeners, who don’t even try to be profitable, aren’t making a big difference in their immediate communities. Camden’s 31,000 pounds (14,000 kg) of produce might not seem like a lot, but it’s a very big deal for those lucky enough to get their hands on it. “In poor communities where households earn very little income,” says Domenic Vitiello, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, “a few thousand dollars’ worth of vegetables and fruit grown in the garden makes a much bigger difference than for more affluent households.”
History tells us that community gardening — supported by individuals, government agencies and philanthropies — is here to stay. And whether these gardens ultimately produce more food or more knowledge about food — where it comes from, what it takes to produce it, how to prepare and eat it — they still have enormous value as gathering places and classrooms and as conduits between people and nature. Whether or not cultivating fruits and vegetables in tiny urban spaces makes economic or food-security sense, people who want to grow food in cities will find a way to do so. As Laura Lawson says, “City gardens are part of our ideal sense of what a community should be. And so their value is priceless.” View Ensia homepage

UPDATED 05.06.15: A source was added for the percent of global food grown in cities.

Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™

We want the county council to cease the funding of, and stop the county's use of glyphosate & neonicotinoids, immediately and permanently.

Sign the petition here: Stop the Sraying
May 11th, 2015 - Video by Kami Carter of county workers spraying RoundUp in a pedestrian friendly residential neighborhood of Kamuela/Waimea, Hawai'i Island.  It's time for Hawai'i County to stop all spraying of Neonicotinoids and RoundUp/glyphosate, in our parks, on our roadways and streams. There is ample evidence to heed the precautionary principle for the protection of Hawai'i residents, visitors, property, and wildlife, now.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization, asked a group of experts to spend a year examining the data from peer-reviewed studies about glyphosate. The research found that the herbicide, along with two other insecticides, was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” — a description used when there is limited evidence of cancer-causing effects on humans, yet sufficient evidence of it in animals.
Many countries and several U.S. towns & cities have banned or stopped spraying glyphosate or are planning to - with many more to follow. As recently as 5-11-15, members of the Bermuda farming community supported the Government’s decision to ban the importation of the weed spray Roundup amid fears that it can cause cancer in humans.
May 6, 2015 - The City of Boulder, Colorado yesterday became the most recent locality in the U.S. to restrict the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides on city property.
Neonicotinoids have been widely cited in the demise of both managed and wild bee and pollinator populations. Acting as potent neurotoxins, studies have found the insecticides have the ability to disrupt the reproduction, navigation, and foraging of bees exposed even to infinitesimal concentrations.
There are many non toxic and less expensive alternatives to weed control and we, the residents of, and visitors to Hawai`i County, ask that you make this necessary change.
We ask that the County stop all use of glyphosate and neonicotinoids immediately and permanently.
Mahalo to the Hawai`i County Council for protecting us sooner, rather than later.

Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Crop Insurance: a Smart Step toward Sustainability

By Diana Duff

A big part of being a successful business is learning ways to manage risks. When your business is growing food, plants or flowers, insuring your crop can help protect you from financial disaster as well as cover minor set-backs in production. Though we hate to think of the possibilities, we do live in a place where storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires or lava flows can negatively affect our crops. Of course, our frequent heavy rains and strong winds are lesser dangers, but they can also severely impact a harvest. Fluctuations in markets can also cause financial losses. Growers with crop insurance can face these potential problems with less anxiety knowing that if losses do occur they are covered.

The US Department of Agriculture, in its efforts to keep agriculture viable in this country by helping farmers be sustainable, underwrites insurance for many crops. Many of the crops covered in this program are ones we grow here in Hawaii. Coffee and bananas are covered as well as papayas, macnuts and livestock with premium discounts available for beginning farmers and ranchers. A new Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program is being launched as well through the latest Farm Bill and will cover most crops including fruits, vegetables, animals and aquaculture with highly diversified growers receiving additional subsidies. The US Congress updates the nation’s Farm Bill every five years. The Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that covers federal government policies related to agriculture and includes many assistance programs for farmers. The latest version offers special benefits to new farmers as well as those with limited resources. The many programs offered through Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency and its Risk Management Agency as well as the Agricultural Mediation Program are all part of the Farm Bill and designed to help farmers succeed. The programs serve the interest of USDA to make farming a sustainable occupation in this country. Though many small farmers feel the programs only benefit large corporate farms; that is not the intention of the USDA or the actual fact. Many of their programs can be very helpful to small and organic farms and growers here in Hawaii. We only need better access to information about these programs and their coverage dates. Sign up dates are especially important when insuring your crops against damage of any kind. Call an agent to determine the application deadlines. Trees of coffee, banana, papaya and macnuts as well as coffee and macnut fruit can all be insured. A new Whole Farm Revenue Protection policy covers most crops and may have a different deadline. Nursery crops can be insured at any time with policies taking effect 30 days after paper work has been filed, and livestock risk protection price coverage can be locked in anytime for growers that have an application on file with a carrier. Insurance Agent, Bonnie Lind represents two of USDA’s most experienced Approved Insurance Providers in our area: Rural Community Insurance Service and ProAg Insurance Services. To learn ways to protect your farm income from crop and revenue losses and to get an overview of programs that can help manage your farming risks, be sure to check with an agent. To contact Bonnie Lind directly call 888-276-7728 or e-mail

 If you are growing and selling crops, be sure to consider crop insurance as a way to responsibly manage natural and marketing risks that can cause crop and revenue losses to your business.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living on an organic farm in Captain Cook. Tropical Gardening Helpline E-mail plant questions to for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.  

Steve asks: My lime tree is producing limes this year that seem especially hard and have little to no juice. Do you know of a cause and cure for this problem? Tropical Gardener

Answer: Several conditions can produce citrus fruit that lack juice. Your elevation and the location of your tree can be factors. Juiciness can be affected by weather conditions as well as soil type, irrigation frequency and nutritional contents in the soil as well as pest issues. Your sample did not seem to have any pest problems. Citrus trees do best with a good consistent moisture level. One way to be sure that they get sufficient moisture is to install a drip irrigation system around the root zone of the tree. Several mineral elements can affect juice content of the fruit. For example, nitrogen can help increase juice content and acid concentration, but it can also increase the thickness of the peel and it needs to be balanced with other nutrients as well. A proper balance of major nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium is necessary to produce quality fruit. It is recommended that you do a soil test before adding any fertilizers, however, so that you can add what is needed without risking toxic doses. Citrus fertilizers usually contain all the ingredients necessary for production of quality fruit. Though citrus trees can tolerate the heat at lower elevations in Kona, they may be adversely affected by salt spray at properties near the ocean. They also will do well at upper elevations in West Hawaii. Good soil drainage is important at any elevation. Another way to help citrus produce juicy fruit is to help keep their roots cool and moist and the soil in the root zone healthy by applying a thick layer of mulch to the area.

 Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™

The Organic Effect: What Happens When You Switch to Organic Food

by Robyn O'Brien

Want to know what happens in your body when you switch from eating conventional food to organic? Watch this powerful 90 second video.
The study was conducted by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL, and the full report is available here:
A family that doesn’t buy organic because of the cost eats only organic for two weeks.  In this 90 second video, the impact will astound you. 

We need to refinance and restructure our food system. Instead of using taxpayer resources to finance a food system that has been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of herbicides, insecticides and pesticides, let’s refinance and structure a food system that makes organic food affordable to all who want it. 

Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

                FarmWorks  Hawaii             
        making  farming work for you

We are sponsoring a FREE dessert meeting
Wednesday, May 13 at 7 pm - UC CTAHR meeting room in Kainaliu

With Special Guests
Carole Jett - former Deputy Chief of Staff at USDA in Washington DC
where she helped craft and implement the NRCS EQIP Program
Jeff Knowles - former NRCS District Conservationist in Kona
and current Vice Chair of Kona Soil and Water Conservation District

Come learn how USDA, KSWC and FarmWorks Hawaii can help you
We offer consultations on starting your new farm or improving your old one.  
We can help with:  effective communication with Kamehameha Schools,
& funded NRCS conservation practices that can help you on your farm.
   We can help you get low interest FSA loans and low cost crop insurance through USDA.
We have crop lists with advice on what plants will work best for you in your location.
We have a special livestock advisor that can help you add fish or animals to increase profit.
We can help you develop a business plan to use to get a loan or get a new KS lease.
AND we can do the paperwork for you.

We are here to help….contact us to see how we can best serve you.
Diana Duff, Kathy Fleming, Angelica Stevens & Sara Moore
Contact us at
Or call us at 328-2441 in South Kona

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Farmers Union Supports Local FamilyFarms

by Diana Duff

Farmer’s organizations have a tough time. Farmers are an independent breed and, like cats, are hard to herd. The National Farmers Union is one organization that has stood the test of time at getting farmers united around agricultural concerns,however. The Union was founded in 1902,at a time when farmers were living very isolated lives on large pieces of land far from towns and other farms probably without all the connecting conveniences we have today. The Farmers Grange, the Farmers Union and the Farm Bureau all served as uniting forces for farmers in the early 1900s.

Though many granges have had to go online to keep farmers involved, the Farm Bureau and Farmer’s Union still survive. Each has a Washington bureau that lobbies for agricultural interests in Congress. Each has somewhat different agendas, however. The motto of the Farmers Union is “united to grow family agriculture”. They are committed to the family farm and have policies that differ from other agricultural organizations especially concerning genetically modified crops. You can read their policies regarding biotechnology at They recently have come out to support informative labeling of all products containing genetically modified crops. Here in Hawaii where concern over the proliferation of genetically modified crops is rising, an organization with policies limiting GMOs was bound to attract local farmers, especially those with small, organic farms.

The Hawaii branch of the Farmer’s Union began holding meetings on Maui a few years ago. Oahu and Kauai now have active chapters and three chapters are getting going on the Big Island including ones in East Hawaii, Ka’u and Kona. The statewide organization has enjoyed a good year working with our state congress men and women to inform them of agricultural concerns and encourage their support for important bills.

This weekend members of the Hawaii Farmers Union United will meet on Maui to do some strategic planning for the organization’s future statewide. Harley Danielson, strategic planning expert from the National Farmers Union, will be on hand to help with the process. Scott Enright from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is expected to attend as well. One part of their strategic plan will certainly be increasing membership. The Hawaii chapters have shown a seven fold increase in membership this last year and are hoping to keep that momentum going.

The localKona chapter is certainly part of that membership enthusiasm. President Steve Sakala is making sure to plan meetings that will interest farmers and attract new members. Currently the organization’s membership includes members from other key local agricultural groups including the Tropical Fruit Growers, the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, the Kona County Farm Bureau and the Kohala Center. Steve and his board are hoping to attract more local chefs as well as foodies and those interested in food security to join the Union as well.

Thecurrent board members have planned an excellent program for their upcoming meeting on Wednesday, April 29 to be held at Yano Hall in Captain Cook, across from the Manago Hotel. Knowing how farmers love a good meal, this meeting will begin at 5:30 with dinner. Member Howie Simon and owner of the Lotus Café will be providing the main dish. Attendees are encouraged to bring a side dish to share. To add to the encouragement, those who arrive empty handed will be charged a fee for dinner.

The program for this meeting is an additional attraction. Anna Lisa from the Kohala Center will be the
featured speaker. She will be explaining the farm to school grant that offers farmers the opportunity
to sell their produce to schools for student consumption. Several other HFUU members will speak on a
variety of topics. A new consulting company called FarmWorks Hawaii will share information on financial
support available to farmers. West Hawaii Master Gardeners will update attendees on their latest information
while others will give legislative updates and information about upcoming events of interest to farmers.
Included in almost every gathering of farmers is a produce exchange. This meeting is no exception.
Bring your excess and take home what you need.

If you haven’t checked out the Farmers Union, this is a good opportunity to find out what they are all about.
If you cannot attend this meeting, check out the information about the organization online at and consider going to” membership” to join.

DianaDuff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living on an organic farm in Captain Cook.
Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™