“It’s too late for sustainability,” said NewEra Agriculture founder Timothy LaSalle, the keynote speaker at the 2010 Hawaii Ag Conference, the state’s largest gathering of agricultural professionals. “We’ve overshot the chance for sustainability.”
“We did not want to make a foodie event or put on a party, that was never our intent,” says Milton Yamasaki, manager of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Mealani Research Station in Waimea. “We put on a show…but the whole thing, I cannot emphasize enough, is about education.”
At its inception in 1995, Taste of the Hawaiian Range (TOHR) was part of an educational program to promote Hawaii-raised, grass-finished beef to ranchers, chefs and consumers. “Grass-finished” is a more precise term for beef that has been raised its whole life on grass; technically, all cattle, even those destined for feedlots, start out grass-fed.
Fifteen years later, TOHR now showcases Big Island agriculture and a variety of range-fed meats. Inevitably, the combination of food, ranchers, chefs and eaters make for quite a fete, a “foodie event” even.
Beyond the bumpersticker, is Hawai‘i’s ag industry committed to local food production? Should it be?
In a University of Hawaii lab, researchers are isolating and studying papaya genes. In central Maui, fields of sugarcane are cultivated, the stalks harvested, processed for sugar and exported. In a Hilo nursery, anthuriums and orchids are packed into gift boxes for shipment to the neighbor islands, the continental United States and Japan. On pastureland on Big Island, ranchers are herding grazing cattle, some destined for feedlots on the continental United States, some kept back for the local market. All this falls under the big, perhaps unwieldy, umbrella of “local agriculture.” While they’re probably not the images that come to mind when we shop at farmers’ markets or pick up our community-supported agriculture boxes, these examples are a significant part of Hawaii’s agricultural landscape.
Read the rest here: http://honoluluweekly.com/cover/2010/08/everyone-supports-local-ag/