Common Ground: Advancing Agriculture in Hawai'i
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Agriculture in Hawai‘i is a major part of who we are. For many people, farming is a sacred connection to the ‘aina and their cultural roots. For everyone, Hawai‘i agriculture connects us to the past, present and future of our way of life. Local food and the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine are two important ways that Hawai‘i stands out for our visitors. Ag is also a source of energy, a way to preserve open space, and personal statement of how “green” we are.
But Hawai‘i spends $3.1 billion a year to import food, much of which could be grown here. Perhaps the most compelling reason to support local agriculture is to keep that money circulating in Hawai‘i.
This Hawaii Business special report is designed to provide a fact-based understanding of Hawai‘i agriculture and the challenges and opportunities ahead. Common Ground describes the entire local agricultural industry, including the farmers, scientists, suppliers, logistical support personnel, and local and international wholesalers and retailers. It also encompasses the range of agricultural practices in Hawai‘i, from organic and traditional agricultural practices, to the use of cutting-edge technology, forestry, large-scale farming and biofuels.
We hope this report provides factual understanding of the agricultural industry in Hawai‘i, and informs a spirited and inclusive discussion about how best to advance our farmers, this industry and the overall economy.
Me, involved in agriculture? I didn’t think so, when I started as project editor for this special section of Hawaii Business magazine. Agriculture means farmers, right? People growing heliconia on the Big Island, or seed corn scientists on Maui, or the lady with the fried green tomatoes at the North Shore market. Me? I don’t even have a garden. I’ve since learned that we all have a role in Hawai‘i agriculture, because we all eat, we all want jobs, we all need energy to run our homes and cars, and we all want to care for these special Islands so that the next generations will get a shot at living here, too. We share a responsibility.
This responsibility, however, does not translate to an agriculture community that is perfectly harmonious. Hawai‘i has thousands of people working in hundreds of roles in agriculture. Some share the same visions, some do not. And anyone who has worked in agriculture knows it can be just as costly and frustrating as it can be profitable and rewarding.
In this report, we look at some of the challenges and triumphs, the people and the technologies, the looming crises and bright opportunities that are transforming agriculture in Hawai‘i. I hope you’ll learn as much from reading this section as I did from working on it.
–Kathryn Drury Wagner
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