Reclamation on the farm and ranch is mainstay. We replace handles of shovels and weed tools, we glue a cracked bucket from time to time, we upcycle where we can. There are times though, that retiring a tool is inevitable. A broken ladder, because its purely unsafe, is taken to metals recycling; a rusty bent saw is finally hung on an wall with other old tools.
The wheelbarrows wheel had been replaced several times, the wooden handle was splintered and then was wrapped with rope. It’s carried some loads this wheelbarrow and could tell some stories. This time, the axle took with it the rusty bottom of the wheelbarrow basin. Repair is too expensive to warrant consideration.
In recent months, the Maui built Hawaii Farmers Union United has struggled with administrative fluidity. While any business relating to farming is a lot of work, running an organization that supports farmers is especially a lot of work. It takes a constant pool of dedicated volunteers and well thought expenditures to grow responsibly.
A great divide was made seven years ago during Maui’s rally cry to end Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seed and chemical company Monsanto business operations in Kihei. HFUU failed to support each and every measure to support the ballot initiative which the majority of voting Maui residents voted yes. To add fuel to the fire, HFUU produced only one eblast asking for support of East Maui taro farmers water fight and it was an arm wrestle to even have that sent out to membership.
It can be a bit hypnotizing upon first look. Farmers Union chapters gather monthly with meetings that serve farm fresh food dinner. It’s a pleasant social affair. Some used to only come for the food until an Aunty began making a strong statement at the opening of a meeting, “Let those who brought food, eat first”.
The behind-the-scenes going ons in board meetings and executive board meetings is an entirely different thing.
There are a dozen formal complaints from both local chapter and executive chapter members, crying of membership discrimination and injustice and the unreasonable attitude of proprietary the president carries. In addition, there are a few, much stronger allegations of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. All involved took resolution onto themselves but it is in the written record of the organization. It has been legally advantageous for HFUU that a retired lawyer has periodically been the Secretary and assisted in writing several legal responses to all sorts of complaints.
The only glimmer in the past six years is the partnership with Farm Apprentice Mentoring, pleasantly called FAM. Th FAM program was independently sponsored by the infamous, now closed, fiscal sponsor Tri-Isle Resource & Development. The FAM program founders have always strongly supported and counseled how best to evolve through the changes and budgetary concerns. Though this has been as asset to the FAM program leaders, many other mentors have been lost. The opinion that HFUU did not align with their respective morals lent them to leave the organization, in big numbers. Any constant or gain with membership counts was, for the most part, new recruits.
This organization is experiencing what was found in a 2014 Maui County study of island non-profits; they need administrative support. Substantial grant monies were offered at one time to create a foundation that would oversee the organization and provide stability in administrative tasks and assist in making these positions, paid positions. A refreshing evolution for the growing organization where the volunteer hours were in excess of what was reasonable for committee chairs and leaders.
The grant was turned down for the reason that the control of the organization would be shifting away from the president. At the 2017 HFFU annual convention on O‘ahu, every attempt was made to convince the president otherwise. He ultimately had to exercise his power, with a National Farmers Union parliamentarian in attendance, to “Call for Question”. This is a formal Robert’s Rules of Order tool that is used when subject matters are discussed at laborious rebounding length. The president had stacked the decks of this executive board and the board voted against accepting the large grant, despite the numerous active members, non-voting, who made the trip to Oahu to see the grant acceptance measure through. [Large audio file of entire proceedings is available upon request]
Present day situations are the same if not worse. The three executive organization board members are also the executive board members of the foundation. Zero democracy. Policies regarding such mechanisms were also shifted by choice of the president. He disregarded formal recommendation for Policy Chair and replaced with a new member who had no historical command to the organization or adopted policies. Hence, the policies are written in favor of the President’s wishes and his alone.
The lack of administrative control has resulted in the organization not being able to pul itself together to adequately serve the only employees. Failure to comply with employment laws have been brushed up against and discrimination to a pregnant woman was next had the woman not been fired. The FAM program coordinators have recently been fired and Farmers Union members, new and old, are up in arms.
It is the breaking point, it is the unacceptable consequence that is too loud to ignore. Those who have been quietly objecting have been sharing their whole-hearted truths on social media platforms. At least, the woman with child can find some solace in reading the volumes of supporting commentary.
Returning to the ranch farm. The wheelbarrow carried some loads and could tell some stories. It has some character, it has some history and I has some continued purpose. The puka (hole) in the basin is a convenient drainage. The wheelbarrow is going in a corner of the ranch and its going to be filled with organic soil and organic seeds. Can’t wait to see the colors of completely new growth.
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INTERNAL COMMUNICATION WITH ACTION STEPS:
We encourage you to send a letter to Kay Fukumoto Office of Economic Development (OED).
••••••> THE ASK: You are specifically asking for the FAM LINE ITEM to be SEPARATED from the HFUU line item. This is a KEY PIECE for rescuing FAM FUNDING from HFUU.
Kay Fukumoto’s Email:
••••••> Please cc: your written testimony by email to The Economic Development and Budget Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
APRIL 9th Testimony Needed: https://wp.me/p6Z1AM-J3
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