Three day event on Maui features many presentations and enthusiastic crowd
Hawaii Farmers Union United (HFFU) hosted the 2015 convention at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. The three day event ran from Friday, Nov. 13 through Sunday, Nov. 15 and drew a large and enthusiastic crowd consisting of HFUU members, elected officials, would-be candidates, representatives of a variety of agricultural companies and sponsors, as well as interested members of the public.
The gathering was the fifth annual convention of the rapidly growing statewide organization started on Maui in 2009. HFUU now has nine chapters (four on Big Island, three on Maui, one on Kauai and one on Oahu). Total membership statewide is estimated at 845, with much of the growth coming in the past year. Nationally it is affiliated with the National Farmers Union (NFU). The event was underwritten by 23 sponsors with volunteer labor and contributions. No public funds were involved in presenting the convention.
Day 1, Conference Opening Ceremony Dinner Reception
The three day event kicked off on Friday night. It drew a crowd estimated at well over 200 who gathered to hear keynote remarks by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D) 2nd Congressional district Hawaii – Neighbor Islands and rural Oahu) and her father State Sen. Mike Gabbard (D) (20th Senatorial district – Oahu) who heads the Hawaii senate’s Water, Land & Agriculture (WLA) Committee. The Gabbards, a high visibility daughter and father duo of Democrats, were warmly received. Both spoke in support of sustainable agricultural practices and a new era in local farming.
The turnout exceeded expectations and was significantly larger than last year’s event on Oahu. Along with HFUU members and their families and friends, local politicos were out in force: those attending included Maui County Council members Elle Cochran and Don Guzman, as well as Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa who spoke briefly. Also on hand from the state legislature were Rep. Kaniela Ing, Rep. Lynn DeCoit, and Sen. Kalani English (all of Maui), as well state Sen. Russell Ruderman of the island of Hawaii. Prospective candidates for office attending included Deidre Tegarden and Terez Amato.
A highlight of opening night was a “Locavore” dinner prepared from locally grown produce by Jeff Scheer who was named 2015 chef of the year by Maui No Ka Oi magazine.
“Microbes R Us” Costume Contest
Soil health was front and center on Friday night with slide presentation on microbes followed by an imaginative “Microbes R Us” a costume parade and contest in honor of the 2015 International Year of the Soil. The parade featured imaginatively costumed young people from the Haiku chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America. Creativite contributions were made by Seabury Hearts of Arts group. The march was accompanied by warm applause and shouts of “hana hou” (Encore- More).
First place winner was, Mica Vanderwoerd “Moss Piglet”, winning 2nd place was, Wolf Pell “Rotifer”. Extravagant and other notable entries were Farrah Belliger “Diatom”, Lilli Evans, “Purple Bacteria”, Ruby Jensen “Rotifer”, Maiya Howe “Purple Bacteria”, Denise LaBarre “Pseudomnas Fluorascens”, Naya Lund “Diatom”, Taylin Pule “Rotifer” and Naia Troeshworrell “Psychedelic Diatom”.
Day 2, Convention HFUU Official Business
Starting off business of the day was election for HFUU Vice President. Simon Russell was unanimously re-elected. Policy was the agenda for day two of the convention. The entire day was devoted to reviewing and refining language in the preamble and the 14 different categories of policy that govern the HFUU. Participation again was enthusiastic with about 60 HFUU members taking part in the discussion, part of which carried over to the following day.
Acting as parliamentarian for the policy portion of the convention was Dave Velde, of Washington, DC where he is chief counsel and vice president for international affairs for the National Farmers Union (NFU). The NFU is the parent organization for the nine HFUU chapters in Hawaii. In additional comments prior to the policy agenda Velde explained he is active with the World Farm Organization based in Rome. He added that over 60 nations and their farm organizations are members of this group. He stressed the importance of viewing agriculture as a global concern, not just from a local or national perspective.
Velde said that the NFU, established in 1902, is one of the oldest and largest farming organizations in the country and was oriented toward the interests of family farmers. The national farming executive was impressed by the growth and participation of the Hawaii chapters and commented that he and Hawaii state president Vince Mina of Maui, keep in touch through personal meetings three times a year in Washington and phone and email as needed. Also present from NFU was membership strategist Harley Danielson.
Day 3, Presidential Speeches & Farm Apprentice Mentoring Graduates
State President Report: Vince Mina
Vince Mina, HFFU state president gave the lead off presentation titled a “A Sense of Humus.” His slide show was taken from his own family Kahanu ‘Aina Greens in Wailuku which produces about 400 pounds of greens weekly, including sunflower, pea, radish and wheatgrass varieties all on just 2,000 square feet. Though small in size it has had a long run and is now has a compost pile that is 21 years old.
Mina gave a detailed description of his operation with an emphasis on soil health and how it can be achieved through a combination of charcoal, cover crops, indigenous microorganisms (IMO) and various adaptations of Korean natural farming techniques.
His talk also included the need for public awareness sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Mina stressed the importance of having a voice for agriculture that was strong at the local, state and national level.
Website of related interest: https://www.facebook.com/kahanuainagreens
Nine Chapters Report Statewide
The final day of the 2015 HFUU state convention focused on reports from each of the nine chapters throughout the state. The presidents of each chapter were asked to give reports on activities on their own farms and of their respective chapters.
ISLAND OF MAUI
Haleakala Chapter: Phyllis Robinson
Haleakala Chapter president Phyllis Robinson said that the watchword for this unit is: “If it is to be it’s up to me.” She stressed the fun and fellowship that were typical of the group’s monthly meetings and mentioned that attendance and participation were robust and that the potluck feasts that went with them are legendary. Assisting her was Susan Teton and Jenny Pell, directors of this chapter, the first and largest of the HFUU branches throughout the state.
Haleakala Chapter Meetings: 4th Tuesday each month Haiku Community Center – Free and open to the public (6-8 pm)
Mauna Kahalawai Chapter (West Maui ): Alika Atay
“If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu,” said Alika Atay, president of the West Maui Mauana Kahalawai chapter. Atay focused on the changes that have already been seen and those that might be expected in Hawaii agriculture.
His presentation touched on the coming medical marijuana dispensary licenses which are expected to be issued soon and are limited in number. He stressed that marijuana used in this context should be free of chemicals and pesticides. He remarks put an emphasis on setting of goals — “It’s as important to know what you don’t want as what you do want,” he said, adding, “It’s not enough to know what is the problem, you have to go beyond that to what is the solution.”
Atay pointed out that while state money earmarked for farming totaled only one half of one percent of the state budget, public funds for health and education — put together comprised more than 75% of all state spending. Funds for food purchasing in education and health are substantial. He urged those listening to turn their attention to these areas.
Mauna Kahalawai Meetings: 3rd Thursday monthly at Maui Tropical Plantation (Doors open at 5:30 pm)
Website of interest: hfuuhi.org/maunakahalawai
Hana Chapter: Mikala Minn
Mikala Minn president of the Hana chapter gave a report on the newest outpost of the HFUU in East Maui. Minn showed photos of Mahele Farm and gave numerous examples of its work with youth and visitors. He said that though Hana is well known as a rural area there are not a lot of farms there. He urged people in his area to focus on traditional crops like taro and breadfruit. His operation is a non-profit organization with ties to education.
ISLAND OF HAWAI‘I
Kona Chapter: Steve Sakala
“It’s important to have a voice at the legislature,” observed Steve Sakala who heads the Kona chapter of the HFUU. Coffee is big – as might be expected in Kona – but so are invasive fire ants.
Sakala runs an eco retreat Honaunau Farm, but does not see it as a commercial undertaking. “It’s more about growing people and relationships,” he said reiterating the buzzwords of the day: “regenerate, restore and renew.” Like many others he is hosting visiting school children. He has an eye on the state food procurement process, particularly as they relate healthy school lunches. He also commented, “You can get good results from a bad piece of land with permaculture.”
For information on Kona Chapter Meetings email: email@example.com
Kohala Chapter: Dash Kuhr
Dash Kuhr reported for Kohala on the northernmost tip of the Hawai‘i island. He spoke about one year of building the local chapter. Kuhr is a working farmer with 14 acres in row, orchard and livestock. He is closely associated with the Hawai‘i Institute of Pacific Agriculture. He is also interested in ag related youth activities workshops and festivals. He was enthusiastic about the 6th annual festival in Kohala coming up in December with education, speakers and music on the agenda. He said in his area there is strong interest from consumers, gardeners, activists and youth.
For information on Kohala Chapter Meetings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ka‘u: Greg Smith and Maria Miranda
At the other end of the Big Island, way down south, Greg Smith & Maria Miranda reported for Ka‘u. Smith spoke as the HFUU chapter president Ka’u where he has three acres with 50 different vegetables. The Ka‘u duo had praise for displaced former sugar workers who had found new ag skills leading to “new partners and new friendships” with others in the area.
Miranda, Miss Ka‘u Coffee, commenting on her heels and a dress attire, “Donʻt let the stilettos fool you, I can pick me some coffee.” Her concerns were about about land holding difficulties among the Ka’u coffee growers and a sale and subdivision of lands that may displace them.
For information on Ka‘u Chapter Meetings email: email@example.com
East Hawaii: Kyle Studer
Kyle Studer reported his chapter in East Hawaii is filled with “fantastic people” many of whom are fascinated by Korean Natural Farming techniques. His own place consisting of 18 acres had an unusually rainy year with downpour totaling 107 inches. Normal he said is “more like 16.” Personally Studer said he went from “having a hobby to making a living at Paauilo Forest Farm based in Honokaa. His current interests include cover crops, buckwheat and millet. Though he is working on leased land, he commented that he was fortunate to have opportunity to take over a larger lease.
For information on East Hawai‘I Chapter Meetings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISLAND OF O‘AHU
O‘ahu Chapter: Pamela Boyar
O‘ahu chapter president Pamela Boyar is best known as the organizer and presenter of many farmers markets on O‘ahu. She gave a short and effective slide presentation on marketing with the emphasis on having an abundant display, giving samples and keeping the traffic moving with persuasive and colorful signage. Boyar credited many volunteers and friends met along the way in the past 40 years with the success the markets have experienced in O‘ahu. Her slides gave multiple examples of local produce and value added ag products including bakery, specialty salts, fresh produce, liliko‘i, mangoes and tomatoes, fresh green smoothies. “Go for color,” she advised. Personally she likes it best “if it’s all grown in Hawai‘i … and uses no dyes, no artificial flavors, avoid deep fry.”
For information on O‘ahu Chapter Meetings email: email@example.com
Website of related interest: http://www.farmloversmarkets.com/
Facebook page: Hawaii Farmers Union United: Oahu Chapter
ISLAND OF KAUA‘I
Kaua‘i Chapter: Ray Maki
Kaua‘i Chapter President Ray Maki from Kauai was another permaculture enthusiast producing on three acres and with a hundred species. He is a permaculture instructor interested in IMOs, Korean Natural Farming, creation of food forests.
Maki shared his recent farming of Hibiscus Cannibas, Indian Hemp, better known a Kanaf. He explained that while it is grown as a food crop with the seed oil benefits of Omega 3, 6 & 9, it also is beneficial in environmental damage control. The core fiber material is hydrophobic and is able to absorb hydrocarbons in oil spill disasters. He further explained that one pound of fiber material can absorb seven pounds of oil. Maki is farming on five acres.
For information on Kaua‘i Chapter Meetings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website of related interest: http://permaculturekauai.com
Other Convention Guest Speakers
The Teas of the United States (TOTUS)
Hawai‘i island HFUU member and tea farmer, Eva Lee presented a slide show of the recent first national tea competition held at Volcano House The Teas of the United States (TOTUS). President Mina and Vice President Russell were able to join in the event. The event was a culmination of Eva Leeʻs personal tea faring and legislative work for origin protection. Lee enthusiastically shared the growing popularity and feasibility of tea farming in Hawaii.
Websites of related interest:
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Maui island community steward Penny Levin announced the Indigenous Crop Biodiversity Festival will be in island August 24-30 of this year. This event will being together participants from Hawai‘i and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who have early September Oahu World Conservation Congress planned. Levin is eager to work with Hawaii farmers in preparing for this event with the wish to serve a taste of our islands harvests.
Website of related interest: 2016wcchawaii.com
Farm Apprenticeship Mentoring Graduation
Haleakala Chapter board member Elan Goldbart presented Certificates of graduation and Phyllis Robinson presented leis to FAM program graduates.
Three of the seven graduates proudly announced their participation with the Climate Summit in Paris. An active site gofundme.com/mauitocop is helping with costs of educational trip.
Other Convention Events and Activities
Sunday also featured a variety of events and activities open to the public including a farmers market, 2015 Seed and Plant Exchange by Maui Seed Savers, compost contest hosted by Grow Some Good & Maui School Garden Network, exhibit of Kubota tractors and farm all terrain vehicles by Bacon Universal. There were also many information tables hosted by Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai‘i Ant Lab, Maui Invasive Species Committee, Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, College of Tropical Agriculture Cooperative Extension, Sustainable Living Institute of Maui, Maui College Ag Program, Maui Master Gardener Program, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Sustainable Organic Agriculture Program, and International Certification Service.
Event entertainment was provided by Marty Dread & Friends.
The dance floor was surrounded by Seed Saving tables, a Farmers Market, and Grow Some Good & Maui School Garden Network compost contest.
The three day convention was made possible by the generous donations of the following Diamond Sponsors: The Mill House at the Maui Tropical Plantation, Maui Tropical Plantation and HAPI; Silver Sponsor: Ulupono Initiative; Platinum Sponsor: Platinum Tours of Maui; Bronze Sponsors: Mana Foods, AgriDynamics, Acres USA, Kula Produce, Living Aloha, Oasis Maui, Down to Earth, Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety, Hoku Nui Maui, Choice Health Bar, Hale Akua Garden Farm, Maui Breadfruit Company, Bacon Universal Co., Local Harvest, NAPA, Marmac Ace Hardware, Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine, Kubota farm equipment and Secrets Hawaii.
The HFUU extends the warmest Mahalo (gratitude) to the individuals, farmers, families, merchants and suppliers who generously donated their time, equipment, products and expertise to make this event a success. Statewide updates can be found at hfuuhi.org
HFUU 2016 Convention held on the island of Hawai‘i