Farming

There are few annual crops where the farmer can recover costs of high fertilizer and soil amendment inputs required for desired yields coupled with disease and pests in this environment.

By Bruce Mathews.

Bruce Mathews

On January 9, the Hawaiʻi Island Food Alliance Food Access Working Group, together with The Food Basket, The Kohala Center, and the state Department of Health, hosted a presentation in Hilo by Ken Meter (president of the Cross-roads Resource Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota) that was entitled “Growing Secure Food Systems in Hawaiʻi”. The presentation focused on how the pre-European contact native Hawaiians were completely food independent and that the 1900s resulted in a downward spiral in food production in Hawaiʻi, which was particularly rapid from the 1940s onward. The mid 1960s was the last time that about half the food consumed in Hawaiʻi was produced here. The stated goal was to instigate change that results in greatly improved food independence on the Big Island. There was even quite a bit of discussion regarding community-based food systems and avoiding the cash-based economy, and doing food barter.

The course explores how Hawai‘i can move forward by integrating the rise in tourism, the interest of farmers to diversify, new markets, and the wildly popular foodie movements.

Brooke Hansen holding young coconut sprout.
Brooke Hansen

Brooke Hansen, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is piloting a new agriculture course this semester geared toward the rapidly growing field of agritourism: Agricultural and Food Tourism (AG 194). The course explores how Hawai‘i can move forward by tapping into and integrating the rise in tourism, the interest by farmers to diversify and explore new markets and the wildly popular foodie movements (farm-to-table, locavore, Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, food festivals, etc.).

The anthurium is a native of Colombia first brought to Hawai‘i from London in 1889. It is highly sought for its vibrant colors and its ability to maintain its flowers for an extended period throughout the year.

By Damon Adamson.

Anthruiums

Admired for their beautiful coloration, intricate and petite or bold and substantial appearance, as well as their incredible diversity expressed in form, the anthurium (Araceae andraeanum) is often overlooked as a crop or commercially viable alternative to traditional fruit or vegetable production models. The anthurium boasts over 100 genera and about 1,500 separate species common names include tail flower and flamingo flower.

SNAPSHOTS: Featuring faculty and students of the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management and their hands-on activities. Photos by Risa Kabua Myazoe.

Group of students and faculty standing in greenhouse.
Classmates in course on circulating and non-circulating hydroponic methods (HORT 263) pose for a photo at UH Hilo Farm Laboratory with Prof. of Horticulture Bill Sakai (far right).

It was a good trip that left me with lots to consider with respect challenges and opportunities for our future.

By Bruce Mathews.

Group of people gathered for photo, background is beautiful landscape with sloping cliffs dropping off into water.
(l-r) With my wife Grenia, Monica (an Indonesian graduate student), Sylvia (the wife of Dr. Ardi), Dr. Ardi (Dean of Agriculture at Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia), and Thao Nguyen (a Vietnamese graduate student who is studying weed management options in upland rice farming systems). More photos of the trip.

Indonesia

Bruce Mathews
Bruce Mathews

After presentation of an invited talk entitled, “Phosphorus, Sustainability, and Advancing Nutrient Management,” at the 3rd International Seminar on the Sciences in Precision and Sustainable Agriculture in Bogor, Indonesia (near Jakarta on the Island of Java), I visited Bogor Agricultural University, and toured their facilities and field stations. This included visiting their climate smart agriculture program in the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, visiting with their faculty and some local ag industry leaders, and presenting a talk on the chemistry of phosphorus in agricultural systems to their chemistry department which was followed by an overview of agriculture in Hawai‘i. Their climate smart agriculture program is connected to several remote real-time rainforest monitoring stations throughout the country with several more under construction.

Prof. Tsang’s passion of hands-on education has permeated through UH Hilo curricula with a lasting effect on agricultural development in Hawai‘i.

By Christopher Lu.

Marcel Tsang
Marcel Tsang. Photo by Norman Arancon.

Long time faculty Marcel Tsang is retiring after decades of exemplary service at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. A native of Mauritius, Dr. Tsang built a professional career and a family in Hawai‘i. He moved up through the ranks to full professor at UH Hilo.

Dr. Tsang, a trained agricultural engineer by Louisiana State University, has taught a number of core courses at the college including Farm Power, Farm Structures, Introduction to Agricultural Mechanization, Irrigation Principles and Practices, and Microcomputer Applications in Agriculture.

Students and fellow faculty members perceive him as a dedicated, sincere and caring professor. Dr. Tsang served as the curriculum committee chair for many years and assured the curriculum structure to be consistent with the mission of the college. His passion of hands-on education has permeated through the curricula with a lasting effect on agricultural development in Hawai‘i. He has advised, guided and excelled many students throughout their academic careers.

In order to be competitive one needs to be farming at an economy of scale and price point differentials that work, particularly when the competition is imported from continent based mega-farms.

By Bruce Mathews.

Bruce Mathews
Bruce Mathews

While there have been calls for at least 50 years for the state of Hawaiʻi to improve its food self-sufficiency and hence food security, the progress to reduce dependence on imports has been painfully slow. This being said, community interest in increasing locally grown food is rapidly expanding. However, interest alone will not be sufficient to turn the dial substantially without major changes in consumer behavior or extreme market distortions.

Economies of scale

In order to be competitive one needs to be farming at an economy of scale and price point differentials that work, particularly when the competition is imported from continent based mega-farms. Even in Hawaiʻi the entrepreneurial produce farmer success stories that are most often mentioned tend to be on the larger side. It takes a unique mix of entrepreneurial skills, hard work, and capital access to make a decent middle class living let alone a small fortune as a family farmer. Locally grown produce may become more competitive as continental growers deal with increasing water costs and climate change.

The agreement supports cooperative research activities and the exchange of researchers and students.

By Christoher Lu.

Upon invitation, I visited the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine at Guizhou Academy of Agricultural Sciences during the summer of 2016. I presented an invited paper entitled “Overview of Global Meat Goat Industry.”

There are approximately one billion goats in the world, mostly for meat purposes. The top ten countries with the largest goat populations are China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iran, and Mali. There are about three million goats in the United States with a continued increasing trend since 1980s.

William H. Purvis, the young manager of the Pacific Sugar Mill at Kukuihaele on Hawaiʻi Island, planted the first mac nuts in 1882 at Kapulena.

By Damon Adamson.

Rows of trees in mac nut orchard.
Macadamia Nut Orchard (Macadamia integrifolia) ssp. Makai 800. Photo by Damon Adamson, click to enlarge.

Hailing from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales on the continent of Australia and belonging to the Proteaceae family, the macadamia nut (Macadamia integrifolia) was first imported into Hawaiʻi in 1882 by William H. Purvis. Purvis, the young manager of the Pacific Sugar Mill at Kukuihaele on the Big Island, planted seeds that year at Kapulena.