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Faith Chase, a 49-year resident of Maui, is a mother and grandmother who has testified at many Maui County and Hawaii State hearings. Her interest in island agriculture inspired her turn from graphic design to writing.

blog-style post for International Women’s Day

With all the nervousness in the air with new Maui sugar lands purchase and the constant national lure of despair, its taken some will power to stay positive. After careful observation of intergenerational farmers and the involvement of county, state and non profit organization support, I have to admit, I’ve felt discouraged and disappointed.

Having dove into understanding every aspect of local agricultural activities I continually lacked the witness of new intergenerational or Hawaiian farmers. While there are the steadfast and longstanding ones, new farmers in Hawai‘i has remained dismal.

Even with all the organization and non profit discussions, strategic planning, farming conventions and government legislation, nothing has seemed to position the Hawaiian farmer in the main frame. As the host culture with phenomenal generational knowledge of raising kalo (taro), I have been truly expecting more support from Hawai‘i’s agricultural leaders. Holistic appearance of organizations persuaded a fan base for a while but has overall proved to be a failure in truly supporting Hawaiian farmers.

I did my research, engaged well, worked very hard and was ready to give up on the same old, same old and run as fast as I could in another direction and then a truly thorough community outreach caught my attention.

O‘ahu Resource & Conservation Development offered scholarships to Hawai‘i Women to the National Farmers Union (NFU) Women’s conference. Four women from Hawai‘i, including myself, received a scholarship to attend the NFU Women’s Conference.

The first evening of the conference was a mixer night with scattered tables. It might have seemed appropriate for women from other states to take the initiative and cross connect but our table was made up of the islands of Hawai‘i and rightly so. Four of us seven had never met. We used the mixer time to get to know one another.

O‘ahu Resource & Conservation Development is a non profit that has been solely grant funded since losing national support funding in 2001. With impressive benchmark meets, the organization has an intrinsic ability to take the temperature of Hawai‘i’s agricultural communities and identify their needs. The non profit provides an amazing allegiance to Hawai‘is farming abilities. They push the envelope of creativity and look deep for effective yet unique solutions that are tucked in our agriculturally astute.

Some of the goals of the organization are stewarding natural resources and supporting agriculture as well as identifying farmers and the stewardship practices that benefit their production and Hawai‘i’s water and soil resources. Their work extends beyond that with also supporting agricultural entrepreneurs with agribusiness training and fiscal scholarships.

The list of services seems unrealistic but having witnessed the scope of educated talent the organization has gathered, my faith is restored in believing that new, beginning and young farmers have all they need with this organizations growing list of offerings. In addition, there is massive support for the returning farmer, the intergenerational farmer, those Hawaiian farmers that have been generally neglected to date.

For five years I have arm wrestled corrective change and drew attention to sometimes angry agricultural issues. I am grateful as I see O‘ahu Resource & Conservation Development committing to truly growing it forward. The organizations educated dedication is likened to natures balance in an uneasy agricultural landscape. Mahalo for recognizing the importance of the women’s perspective.

Mahalo O‘ahu Resource & Conservation Development for providing scholarships to the NFU Women’s Conference and the opportunity to meet some of Hawai‘i’s passionate wahine farmers. I am still smiling how I had to go 2,500 miles to feel at home and hopeful. Wahine Farmers Pohaku! Women Farmers Rock!

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