I am a farmer. I grow organic crops on a two-acre piece of land Upcountry Maui. I grow food because I love nutritious food for my family and I am good enough at growing it that I can grow enough to sell. I study traditional farming practices and I have learned to grow 300 different crops with a minimum of water, use no killing chemicals and I create all my own compost to feed the soil and the plants from materials I gather on our land. I am one of hundreds of small farmers in Hawaii that know what it takes to grow the food you want to eat.

I love fresh organic food but I have no love for HB 1947. Small farmers across the state oppose HB 1947. How do I know? Because small farmers like me have been writing and calling our elected officials, testifying and begging the Legislature to revise this bill so that it does not put small farmers like me out of business. HB 1947 is an anti-small farm bill supported by big agribusiness under the guise of ‘food safety’.

HB 1947 is written to codify that all sizes of agriculture, large and small, must use the same expensive and time consuming certification process. Large scale ag is generally meeting these standards and has built the cost of extra man power and reporting into their cost/price structure. Small scale growers like me do not have pathogen threats such as larger mono croppers and can not afford the time and cost to keep manini records about our day to day touching of each plant.

Advocates of HB 1947 defend it by explaining that it is “voluntary”. Sounds like: what’s the problem? Can’t local growers just opt out? In reality, it’s like a drivers license being voluntary … sure you can “opt out” of getting a drivers license, but think of the problems that creates. Ultimately markets and insurance will require this certification. The certification requirements that pass through the Legislature will set the model for certification throughout the state and then if small farmers “opt out” we will in effect be “opting out” of our markets as well. Small farmers developed two options for a statewide certification program that would work for all farmers, but these bills did not get hearings this session.

Governor Abercrombie has demonstrated that he understands local agriculture and it’s importance. Yet, many of us now feel that we are not represented in the Hawaii Legislature no matter how much we speak up, testify and explain how to make sustainable agriculture work in Hawaii. We need the Legislature to hear our voice and support a growing and much needed sector of farming – Local, small scale agriculture.

About the author: I have been farming in Makawao/Kula area for 7 years with my wife Marta. We sell our excess food to Mana Foods, Whole Foods Market, Market Fresh Bistro and 15 Maui residents who pick up a weekly box of farm fresh food. We came to Maui from New York in 2000. Before farming, my career was in golf – I am a PGA Master Professional. I love farming as much as I love my life in golf.