For the Love of Family
by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmers Daughter, September 13, 2016
Today was an absolutely crazy day. Somedays go as planned and some days are plain old crazy. I had been hoping for a light day at my day job so I could get to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture discussion and then head out to take my kids to the dentist. Well, part of those events happened but not all of it.
I had been hoping to get off of work early and leisurely head down to the luncheon to transport the 150 lbs of fresh papaya for the guests. Well, I got caught up at work and had to hustle to get downtown to the event. As I got parked and unloaded the papayas onto my wheeling cart, I discovered that the elevators were down two ramps and down about 10 stairs and behind a door. One by one, I had to carry each 25 lb case down the step and pull the door open and drop it in the lobby. Thankfully, a fellow farmers, Josh Uehara, came by and helped me to carry down the remaining 75 lbs to the lobby. Then it was time to wheel those cases down the parking garage elevator and up yet another elevator. By the time I got in, I was sweating and felt like I had a workout.
The Chamber of Commerce event was really great in that this year, it was about how can we grow agriculture in Hawaii. The hot topic debate on GMOs had subsided and now we could get to the real goal of saving farms here and maybe even growing more. I was fortunate to be a panel member with Paul Brewbaker, Dean Okimoto, Josh Uehara, and Shin Ho. These folks were great advocates for agriculture and long time farmers in our community. We all got to tell our stories of what’s happening on our farms.
I did get to meet up with lots of long time friends and allies after and then needed to head back to work. After finishing up work, I had to run around picking up my kids to get them to the dentist on the other side of the island. There was no way for me to make it to Kahala from Kaneohe so I had to cancel and just head home to feed my gang.
When I got home, my brother gave me a call asking me how it went. He was initially asked to be a panel member but decided he was too busy to take it on. He was super excited on the phone stating that he had heard me talk on the local Hawaii Pacific Radio station a few minutes ago. I had mentioned on the panel that people think nothing of dropping $5.99 for cherries but when locally grown papayas are sold for $0.10 more at $1.89, they complain! That attitude doesn’t help our local farmers stay in business while costs rise, we can’t raise our costs to cover expenses.
To hear that glimmer of happiness that his frustration on running a farming business had been told to the public gave me a sense of inner peace for him. My brother, who has no formal education in agriculture and armed with a business degree, jumped into this field to continue our family’s legacy. It’s been a tough learning curve for him and I hear it in his voice when he needs someone to vent to. Our family and workers provide thousands of papayas for people every single week for the last 40 plus years already. The amount of sweat, pain, and energy needed to do this deserves respect. If it weren’t for farmers, we’d have no local foods and we’d better start changing our views on them or we lose them forever.
After getting off the phone with him, I decided to call my dad to talk story with him. Although he’s hitting 75 years old this year, he still dreams of a Hawaii with more farmers and really wants to see Governor Ige’s goal of doubling food production happen. He’s toured the world to see what works and what doesn’t and learned where we need to go to make this happen here. He wants more research and development, more university support on these endeavors, more education, a better business environment, and a freedom to farm the way he chooses.
Farming families have dreams that we can preserve this way of life here in Hawaii. We love the open spaces of the country and seeing the land produce something that nourishes people. We are stewards of the land that provides us with it’s fruits and we want to continue that way of life. We also care for our community members who rely on our work to have food on their tables reliably year after year. If we are to be sustained, we need the public to learn our stories and help us become a respected figure. I think it’s time that we honor our farmers again as that is the reason why we have the freedoms to do more than toil in fields. If you’re hands aren’t dirty from the farm, be sure to thank that farmer every single day.