Success in agricultural farming is making its way back into Hawaii, with the island of Oahu being home to the majority of the state’s farms.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture farm census, Hawaii farmers added 8,000 more acres into production for agriculture between 2007 and 2012. The new growth was found primarily on Oahu, with 8,700 additional acres being farmed, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Over the past 30 years, there has been a decline in the amount of land farmed in the state due to the decline in plantation agriculture.
Farming is not only important to the economy of Hawaii, but also to the local community. Farmers form relationships with the land and their customers. Clyde Fukuyama, co-owner of Kahuku Farms Inc. and Kahuku farm grill, says on their website, “I think because we grew up on a farm and because we actually did all the harvesting and fertilizing and now we’re becoming owners and managers of our own operation, we can relate to our workers. So I think we have more compassion and appreciate them more, because we know what it’s like to be out there in the hot sun harvesting the crop.”
Levi Avans, a sophomore in marine biology from Utah, spent time working on farms around the North Shore. “I think that farming is a great thing. It not only helps promote healthy and organic foods, but it also helps to stimulate the local economy. The less that is imported to the island, the less we have to worry about providing for ourselves during a natural disaster. I feel like being in the garden helps to keep people grounded and focused on the simple basics of life, food, water, and shelter.”
Farming isn’t just a job for most that claim it as such. It’s a lifelong commitment. According to the farm census, half the farms in the state of Hawaii are not the primary occupation of the principal operator.
Souk Haong of Pit Farm in Mililani, said, “Hawaii is very challenging… it’s really hard to grow in Hawaii because of the bugs.” Mark Hudson, statistician for the state Department of Agriculture, explains, “The number of farms can be prone to significant changes because most farms are small operations run by individuals or families that can more easily start up or shut down compared with big company farms.”
Despite the disadvantages, Hawaii farmers have found a way to keep their farms in business. Ken Milner of North Shore Produce Value Wagon said, “I think the customers are what keep it going. The customers are the ones that are the most loyal participants of the whole thing.”