• What should sustainable agriculture look like in Hawaii?

    Senate bill 1313 seeks to require an additional 10 percent of our food be locally sourced.  It's the brainchild of Senator Brickwood Galuteria, whom argues that our state's reliance on food imports imperils residents' safety in times of need.  Granted, with more than 50 percent of our produce and 90 percent of our beef coming from outside the state, we are unique in our reliance of food imports.

    But, is this the solution for a real-estate-poor metropolis?  Hawaii's population density consistently ranks in the top quartile of states, and kamaaina's biggest complaint is that children can't stay here after college because there is no affordable housing.

    Hawaii Kai prides itself on having farms smack dab in the middle of the suburb.  Me, I'm not a fan.  Then again, I live right in front of one of the farms.  While I enjoy fertile topsoil, I enjoy it much less thrown by tractors onto my windowpanes on a frequent basis.  Truth is, even those farmers are struggling.  They lease their land from Bishop Estate, which is in turn unable to do anything else with the land because of a public perception of "sustainability."  The farmers also have difficulty finding workers to plow and harvest.  A few innovative ones have turned to "farm tours" to extract voluntary help.

    Farms in the suburb are all around just a bad idea: a bad fit and an ill use of space.

    No one likes a negative view without a positive alternative.  That is why I would propose that Hawaii make a plan for microfarms.  They really are the wave of the future.  They can be placed in garages, rooftops and wherever there is available room.  Granted, you can't raise cows there.  (Given that the Hawaii Farm Bureau has only given its blessing to this bill if all agriculture is included -- like flowers -- I seriously doubt this bill is truly serious about food sustainability anyhow.) But you can raise the most expensive types of greens: those that are easy and quick to grow but have limited shelf life once picked.

    Aquaponics lettuceAs it turns out, I've been experimenting with produce sustainability and I think I've reached a pretty good balance.  To get a good idea of what can be accomplished, visit The Aquaponics Place in Waimanalo.  They have an incredible selection of both components and turnkey systems -- and at a good price too.  Hawaii Kai residents only need to drive 10 minutes to get there.  It's on Lukanela Street right behind the feed store off of Mekia Street and Kalanianaole Highway.

    So far, I've purchased rockwool and large tubs from them.  They were even kind enough to drill a hole in one of the tubs for me.  I'll post an article about it and my low-maintenance low-cost hydroponic system in the near future.

    It seems to me that suburbanites really aren't into gardening. Truthfully, it's a heartbreaking experience.  You toil and till and once the seedlings are looking good, the slugs and snails eat them.  Hydroponics and indoor gardening take the pain out of the gardening.  It also removes the weeding.  And, even in tight spaces, we can find room.  So, Senator Galuteria, if you're listening, I'm not disagreeing that sustainability is a good asset.  I'm just questioning whether a quota on growing and a reliance on old farming methods is the solution.  I also think the Hawaii Farm Bureau's stance on including all agriculture detracts from the overall purpose of the bill.  As a matter of fact, if I were starving, a vaseful of proteas wouldn't console me.

    For more on the subject and the inspiration for this post, reference this 2/27 Pacific News article.