Win an Agricultural Lease and Farm Start-Up Money

The Mahi‘ai Match-Up 2016 is coming up. I was a judge for one of the Match-ups before. It’s a good program.

Here’s how Kamehameha explains it:

At Kamehameha Schools, we partner with the community to work toward a sustainable Hawaiʻi by supporting the local farm industry and increasing food production here on our islands. We are proud to once again team up with Pauahi Foundation to present the:

Mahi‘ai Match-Up 2016
Agricultural Business Plan Contest

Registration deadline: February 29, 2016

Submit your agricultural business plan by February 29, 2016 for a chance to win an agricultural lease* from Kamehameha Schools and start-up money from Pauahi Foundation. First place winner receives $20,000 and second place prize is $15,000. The competition is open to farmers, aspiring farmers and other agricultural producers including ranching, fishery and nursery proprietors.

To apply or for more information, visit www.pauahi.org/mahiaimatchup.

UH Hilo Offering New ‘Energy Science’ Certificate

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will begin offering a certificate in Energy Science in the Fall 2016 semester, pending official approval by the UH Hilo Curriculum Committee, which is expected.

“Energy science is a really critical component of our future,” says Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. “It’s tied right in with our local agriculture. Our energy is dependent on outside resources, and nutrients used as fertilizers are derived from outside energy, too. We are so dependent on imported fossil fuel – oil and coal. For us to become self-reliant is extremely critical.”

He says they hope to eventually offer a whole undergraduate degree in Energy Science; currently, there is no such undergraduate program in the U.S.

From the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo:

The conversion of energy to useful forms for humans, its distribution and its impact are among the most pressing issues of our time. They are at the same level as climate change, population growth and social justice. The Certificate in Energy Science provides students with extensive, integrated knowledge about this field – enough to access entry-level jobs. The courses take advantage of the Island of Hawaiʻi’s privileged opportunities in solar, wind, biofuel, tide and geothermal energies, with field trips planned according to the course subject matter.

The management and policy concentration has an emphasis on policy, yet it requires at least two courses with significant technical content. It is intended for students majoring in humanities, social sciences, business and similar fields. It can lead to potential careers in energy policy or management. The technical concentration is a more rigorous program consisting of year-long surveys of energy science and biofuels as well as a laboratory course. This concentration will prepare students for graduate work in the energy field. It is intended for students in the natural sciences or CAFNRM. It will lead to potential careers in technical areas.

The certificate program offers two tracks. The first is for non-science majors and focuses on energy policy.

Mathews talks about what he calls a gap between policy people and science. “If you can get some policy types more informed about energy science, it can better inform policy,” he says. “A lot of people in the college feel that many of our issues in society today come about because policy-trained political scientists and lawyers don’t have a deep enough breadth of knowledge in the sciences to be as effective as they could be when, as politicians, they are making decisions for our future.”

“There’s sort of a postmodern philosophy that has gone beyond the age of reason,” he says. “It’s the idea that ‘Whatever you believe is fine.’ And, ‘If I believe it, then it’s true.’ It’s about belief, rather than judgements that are based on the best evidence, and I think that will be a huge challenge to Hawai‘i as we move forward on energy. For instance, when people believe all geothermal is bad no matter how it’s done. How will be move forward on these resources if people think like that?

“That’s why we wanted to have that part of the curricula open to students who are not of a scientific nature,” he says.

The second Energy Science Certificate track, a more rigorous one, is for people with natural science backgrounds.

He says they are also working on offering Energy Science courses for non-credit through the university’s continuing education program, though that’s not available yet.

While the program officially starts in the fall, two Energy Science courses will be offered this summer.

Hilo Physics Professor Philippe Binder will teach in and has taken the lead on promoting the Energy Science program. Engineering professor Shigwu Sung, whose focus is biomass, was recently hired to teach in the new certificate program. Next, says Mathews, they will hire an assistant professor who focuses on managing energy grid systems and energy efficiency in rural areas.

He says his biggest worry is that students won’t sign up for the program because they are fearful of the science. “Students are coming to college inadequately prepared from high school and I see it all the time when I talk to high school students,” he says; “they have a huge fear of the physical sciences.”

He says, though, that Dr. Binder realizes this and is willing to help. “As long as a student is motivated,” says Mathews, “he’s willing to tutor students and will open up office hours to do this. For this program to be successful, it’s going to take encouragement and intervention. We will also make courses as engaging as possible, with exciting field trips and laboratories. Places like the Natural Energy Lab, HELCO, Pacific Biodiesel, and people in the solar sector have said they will do anything they can to help us with these courses. There’s a lot of support in the Hilo community for this program. We welcome other support from industry, too, in terms of interaction with students, and hiring students as interns.”

“All universities are increasingly having to operate like businesses and try to generate revenue,” he says, “but there are some things the state needs to realize are important to our future. These sorts of programs have to be supported and go forward. When problems arise, it will be more costly if we don’t have people in the state who are trained about our food and energy problems. The nexus of food, water and energy is the core. We need a lot of energy to grow our food, and we can’t grow the food without water. It’s all connected to the future of humanity, and so these are areas that need to be critically protected.”

“We will also miss out on federal grants and such if we don’t have a program in place for them,” he says. “It’s critical for us in securing research money down the road.”

Mathews says an Energy Sciences certificate, which will take two to three semesters to complete, will give a student a leg up in terms of entering the energy sector after college.

“Companies like HELCO and those in the solar industry, for instance, will appreciate someone who has training in energy sciences. It’s a starting point.”

***

Richard says he couldn’t be happier that UH Hilo is moving toward a degree in Energy Science, something that is not currently offered anywhere else in the U.S.

“I’m especially interested in this because a group of us are promoting the benefits of an energy utility co-op. Doing work that is effective as well as affordable is most important. It’s all about doing work and it takes energy to do work.”

“I am very pleased to have enabled Nate Hagens to be the program’s first guest speaker,” he says. “I am going to see if we can bring in more world class speakers in the months and years to come.”

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Back in 2002, which was a long time ago, we were doing just fine.

That’s the year we were a finalist in the Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture, given by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE).

SARE’s mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education.

SARE’s Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture recognizes farmers or farm families who advance sustainable agriculture through innovation, leadership and good stewardship. The award is named for SARE’s first director, Patrick Madden, who was a pioneer in the movement toward a strong, independent agriculture.

I believe the rise in oil prices starting around 2005. It had a lot more impact than is easily identified.

From the Patrick Madden Award page of SARE:

Finalist:

Kea’au Banana Plantation, Hilo, Hawaii

  • 800 acres of bananas on two plantations
  • Long-term view, minimizing agri-chemicals, erosion and water use
  • “Eco-friendly” labels; crew of 70 workers enjoy profit-sharing

“I had a philosophy that we should take a long-term view of how we affect our workers, our community and the environment. So far, this also has meant profitability for our company.”

Richard Ha

Coping With Our Agriculture and Energy Problems

There was a good article about agriculture and energy in today’s Civil Beat. Eric Pape interviewed me and also Kyle Datta of the Ulupono Initiative for this article:

Living Hawaii: What Is Sapping The Energy Of Our Farmers?
Even with low oil prices, the deck is stacked against farmers like Richard Ha on the Big Island. But some argue new strategies can turn things around.

One solution to the problems we are having with energy and farming on this island is to do more cooperative buying and selling, where people join together and help each other.

We are an island of small farmers, and if big farms don’t work here, the only way to approximate being big is to join together. It’s cooperation. It’s really our only option, because otherwise we cannot compete on a large scale.

Tonight is UH Talk on Energy, Economy & Environment

Nate Hagens speaks at UH Hilo tonight. He calls his talk, ‘A Bird’s Eye View of the Future: Energy, Economy and Environment’

Richard HaHe will speak about our need to adapt for the changes happening around us. He feels strongly that it’s today’s young people who should be concerned, because it’s their time coming up, and he will discuss what we need to do to make their world a better place.

Click to hear a short preview of what Nate will discuss. He’s a good speaker and I recommend his talk highly.

He speaks tonight at 6:30 p.m. at UH Hilo’s UCB 100.

Only 2 Days to ‘A Bird’s Eye View of the Future’

Would you like to see ‘A Bird’s Eye View of the Future: Energy, Economy and Environment’?

Nate Hagens is speaking the day after tomorrow – Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. – at UH Hilo in UCB 100.

Richard HaHe will speak about our need to adapt for the changes happening around us. He feels strongly that it’s today’s young people who should be concerned, because it’s their time coming up, and he will discuss what we need to do to make their world a better place. Bring a young person or two with you if you can!

Click to hear a short preview of what Nate will discuss. This will be a very good talk and I highly recommend you attend. Mark your calendar!

Four Days to ‘A Bird’s Eye View of the Future’

Only four days now to Nate Hagen’s talk. He calls it ‘A Bird’s Eye View of the Future: Energy, Economy and Environment.’ He also sees it as an invitation for students to participate in Hawaii’s future.

Richard HaHe will speak about how we need to adapt for the changes happening around us. He feels strongly that it’s today’s young people who should be concerned, because it’s their time coming up, and he will discuss what we need to do to make their world a better place. Bring a young person or two with you if you can!

He’s speaking on Tuesday night. That’s January 12th at 6:30 p.m. in UCB 100.

Click to hear a short preview of what Nate will discuss. This will be a very good talk and I highly recommend you attend. Mark your calendar!

Digital Bananas

A short look at our bananas:

And part of our hydro system:

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald had an article this morning about the farm closing. The reporter did a good job.

By IVY ASHE Hawaii Tribune-Herald
 

All things considered, farming was easy when Richard Ha first started growing bananas in Kapoho nearly 40 years ago.

“You just had to work hard and you could be OK,” Ha, 71, told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday, a day after announcing on his Hamakua Springs Country Farm blog that the banana operation — the largest on the island — would be closing down.

“The last bananas will be the ones we are bagging now, which will be ready around the end of March, and then that will be it,” Ha wrote on the blog.

The past decades have seen the banana farm grow from 25 acres in Kapoho to 150 acres in its current Pepeekeo location.

The farm survived a Kapoho windstorm that forced a move to Keaau. It survived nematodes in Keaau. It was brought back to life in Pepeekeo after banana bunchy top virus decimated the Keaau crop in 2005.

And it weathered the 2008 oil price peak — an event that imposed extraordinary costs on the farm and would have shuttered the business if Ha’s employees hadn’t proposed a solution: switch from cultivating both apple bananas and Williams (a Cavendish cultivar) to exclusively Williams.

The proposal bought the farm time….

Read the rest

What I Learned About My Employees

Yesterday, when I told my employees we have to shut down the farm, I said to let their supervisor know if they want to submit their name to work for the medical marijuana group that may lease some of our land (should they win a license).

This morning I learned that all of my workers are interested in working there.

We were already working on shutting down the farm when this medical marijuana group approached me, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first.

But knowing now that my workers all want to work there is significant to me. One of the workers has worked for us for 38 years, and another for 23 years. This isn’t just about me, it’s about all of us, and we don’t leave our friends behind. It’s sort of like when I was in Vietnam and the unspoken rule was that we all came home or no one came home.

I had told the medical marijuana group I would only consider leasing to them if they agreed to consider my workers for jobs first.

There’s no guarantee , of course, that any of this will happen. They would have to be granted a license from the state to grow and distribute medical marijuana. The application process is currently underway.

Now that I know all my employees want to work there, I’m going to do whatever I can to help them win that license, because that means I’m helping my workers get jobs.

Hawaii News Now just came out and interviewed me about our closure. There’s both an article and video at the link:

After 4 decades, Hawaii Island banana farm shutting down

Posted: Jan 07, 2016 5:19 PM HST Updated: Jan 07, 2016 6:38 PM HST

By Mileka Lincoln
HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow)

After nearly 40 years in business, Maunakea Banana Company and Hamakua Springs Country Farms is shutting down. President and owner Richard Ha informed his employees Wednesday.

“Every single person said they would like to stay until the end — and that kind of floored me, because I was very much willing to adapt and do whatever they wanted to do, because it’s after all them that’s being affected most,” Ha said.

Ha’s decision is the second major agriculture closure in as many days. On Wednesday, Alexander and Baldwin announced it would end its sugar plantation operations on Maui.

Farmers say rising production costs are cutting into already minimal profit margins, making it tougher to stay in business. Ha says the biggest culprit is oil prices….

Read the rest

Five Days to ‘Reality 101’

Have you marked this coming Tuesday night on your calendar? Only five more days until the ‘Reality 101’ talk at UH Hilo, and it will be worth hearing.
Richard Ha

Nate Hagen will speak about how we need to adapt for the changes happening around us. He feels strongly that it’s today’s young people who should be concerned, because it’s their time coming up, and he will discuss what we need to do to make their world a better place. Bring a young person or two with you if you can!

He’s speaking on January 12th at 6:30 p.m. in UCB 100.

Click to hear a short preview of what Nate will discuss. This will be a very good talk and I highly recommend you attend. Mark your calendar!