Category Archives: History

10,000 Hours and a Mountain

Editor Rory Flynn wrote a really interesting editorial in the June 2015 edition of Farmers and Friends.

He talks about Malcolm Gladwell’s theory (from his book Outliers) that 10,000 hours of practice, plus determination, helps some people develop excellence in their field. He cites concert violinists, the Beatles, Bill Gates, and Hawai‘i’s Kolten Wong.

And then Flynn adds to the equation the importance of place.

He takes us through a really interesting look at what the Hawaiian islands’ geography has meant in the past – to Polynesian explorers, 18th-century British explorers, Americans, Chinese, and others, and what opportunities and livelihoods have been generated here from all those interactions.

And he writes about what advantage geography offers Hawai‘i today, Mauna Kea being one incredible advantage.

“It beckons to a fascinating cohort of 10,000-hour people – accomplished astronomers from around the world. This is where the natural resource of a mountain summit 2-1⁄2 miles high intersects with the excellence of people at the top of their game.”

There’s a lot more. Really good article; I recommend it.

It’s easy to forget all the people and opportunities and livelihoods that were here before. Like the people who came before us, we have amazing resources and we should use them in the smartest way we can.

Read Rory Flynn’s article.

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Maku’u Stories, Part 5: What Uncle Sonny Kamahele Taught Me About Business

Let me tell you something really interesting I learned from my Uncle Sonny Kamahele. He had 20 acres in Maku‘u, in Puna on the Big Island. There was a rare kipuka there with soil that was 10 feet deep, no rocks or anything. There was a spring in one corner of his property.

I was just out of college with an accounting degree and lots of ideas about business. So I looked at his land and wondered if he would lease me 10 acres to grow bananas. I scratched my chin and thought about how I could grow 35,000 pounds per acre on those 10 acres. Maybe 300,000 pounds a year if I took into account turn around space.

And yet on the other 10 acres, Uncle Sonny was making his living with just 10 or 20 hills of watermelons, with maybe four plants on each hill. People would come from miles around to buy his watermelons. It provided him with enough income to support himself and to send money to his wife and son in the Philippines.

Here’s the lesson I learned from him: It’s not about how big your farm is. Your business is successful if it supports your situation. I learned a lot from Uncle Sonny, but I think that’s the most important thing I learned from him.

That’s what I always look at when I visit a farm. Not how big it is, or how much money it makes, but how it operates, and whether it solves the problem it is trying to solve.

Here’s why I’m telling you this right now. We have a real energy problem looming. I think the situation with oil is very serious, and there are definitely going to be winners and losers in the world. We need to position ourselves to be winners, and it’s going to take all of us, big and small.

How are we going to feed Hawai‘i?

Every one of us is going to play a role in it – from the largest farmers to the small folks growing food in their backyard. Do you remember in the plantation camps, especially the Filipino camps, how the yards were always planted with food? Beans, eggplants, the whole thing. I don’t see it so much anymore, but we can do it again.

We are lucky on the Big Island. We’re not crowded and everybody has room to grow food. You know how you can tell we have plenty space? Everybody’s yard is too big to mow! We have the ability to do this.

It’s going to take all of us. It’s not just about any one of us, it’s about all of us, from the biggest to the smallest.

I’m lucky to have had my Uncle Sonny Kamahele to learn from when I was younger. I spent a lot of time with him and I got a real feeling for how he made decisions, which was old style.

His lifestyle was a real connection to the past, too. His lawn and the whole area were always immaculate, practically manicured. He lived pretty close to the old ways with a lot of remnants from the past. His red and green house had stones from down the beach under the pillars, and lumber over the dirt floors. He built beds on those floors and then had five or six lauhala mats on the beds instead of mattresses; old style. There was a redwood water tank.

He listened to the County extension folks, and I learned from that, too – to pay attention to the people who know something.

But one of the most important things I learned was that your business, big or small, is a success if it supports your particular situation.

See also:
Maku‘u Stories, Part 1: My Kamahele Family in Maku’u
Maku‘u Stories, Part 2: Cousin Frank Kamahele
Maku‘u Stories, Part 3: Uncle Sonny
Maku‘u Stories, Part 4: Tutu Meleana & The Puhi

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Law of the Splintered Paddle & Today

Richard Ha writes:

Kamehameha's Law of the Splintered Paddle has modern-day application. To those who aspire to be ali’i as they point their fingers in the air and pronounce what we must do to preserve the past: do not forget the rubbah slippah folks. 

You who want to be our ali‘i, our leaders – I don't see you leading us forward, but only back. You want to keep everything the way it used to be, while we are marching into crisis.

The rubbah slippah folks have the right to disagree with the (self-proclaimed) ali’i if those "ali‘i" do not take care of the people.

Read this historical note, from Wikipedia about the "removal of chiefs" due to the mistreatment of common people intolerant of bad government:

It has been noted that Kānāwai Māmalahoe [the Law of the Splintered Paddle] was not an invention of Kamehameha I, but rather an articulation of concepts regarding governmental legitimacy that have been held in Hawaiʻi for many prior generations. Countless stories abound in Hawaiian folklore of the removal of chiefs – generally, but not always, through popular execution – as a result of mistreatment of the common people, who have traditionally been intolerant of bad government. As a shrewd politician and leader as well as a skilled warrior, Kamehameha used these concepts to turn what could have been a point of major popular criticism to his political advantage, while protecting the human rights of his people for future generations.

The price of oil is four times higher than it was ten years ago and the price of everything is through the roof (and still going up). More and people people cannot afford to live here; in fact, more Hawaiians live outside Hawai‘i than on these islands. Isn't that the same as losing our land?

How are you addressing that? How is trying to shut down our geothermal resource (which will substantially reduce our electricity costs), trying to outlaw our biotech options (which will substantially reduce our food costs), and trying to keep out the TMT (which will open up all sorts of new options), helping our people?

The world is changing. There is more and more homelessness. More than half of all Hawaiians no longer live in Hawai‘i. Young folks cannot find jobs. Farmers are getting older and older, because young people are not going into farming.

What will happen to the rubbah slippah folks in the face of finite resources? Those who aspire to be ali‘i, remember this: "You cannot be ali’i if you cannot feed the people."

  • Geothermal is a gift from Pele that will protect us from electricity and other costs that are spiraling out of control. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i want to take away this gift in the face of declining resources?
  • The Thirty Meter Telescope brings our young people great opportunity and inspiration, and it brings the island economic gain, jobs, and more than $50 million in cash to a fund for the education of our keiki. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take these opportunities away from our future generations?
  • Biotechnology is a tool that will safely feed our people. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take  this tool away from farmers trying to feed the people? Farmers representing ninety percent of the farm sales on the Big Island favor using biotech tools. Why look to outsiders for advice when Big Island farmers are telling you what you need to know?

If it wasn't used in pre-contact time, it's bad? Is that really your thinking? Would Kamehameha agree?

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What I Learned From My Uncle Sonny Kamahele

Richard Ha writes:

I reread some of my posts about my Uncle Sonny Kamahele recently. The most important things I learned about farming, I learned from him down at Maku‘u. I thought I’d revisit some of that here.

***

Science is great, but there are kids now that go to the supermarket and think that’s where food comes from.

For me, it all goes back to Uncle Sonny and all the layers of technology that have cropped up since then. Wheelbarrow

When I first thought about farming, I spent hours and hours talking to Uncle Sonny Kamahele down the beach at Maku‘u.

I’ve written about Uncle Sonny here and here. He was my Pop’s cousin, and I learned the basic principles of farming from him.

I had just graduated from UH Manoa with an accounting degree. I had cost benefit volume analysis and market share on my mind.

Uncle Sonny drove to town once a week. He did not have electricity or running water, but he always had a stack of U.S. News & World Reports with the current copy on top. He made his living farming watermelon by himself.

One day he told me that he needed to open up a new plot of land because he could not stay at the same place for too long; he didn’t want to get a virus or a wilt of some sort.

Over the days and weeks, I watched him cut grass in the new plot with a sickle and pull it into a roll, and then cart the grass out of his plot in a wheelbarrow. When he wasn’t doing that, he would take a hoe and remove the roots of the grass, because he knew that otherwise it would regrow.

The other types of weed were dormant seeds of broad-leaved weeds that would germinate and pop up. Uncle Sonny would remove these with a hoe, only on dry days, without disturbing too much of the soil. After awhile the seeds would stop germinating.

Uncle Sonny knew that certain weeds could continuously regrow if the roots were not removed, and that others only grew from seed. I noticed that, after awhile, hardly any weeds grew in the new plot, and I thought about how amazing that was.

The lessons I learned from Uncle Sonny? Know what your problem is. Also: no waste time.

My grandma Leihulu lived with us for several years as I was growing up in Waiakea Uka. She grew taro and made poi, and she did the same things as Uncle Sonny. She always had a stack of California grass smoldering, even when it was raining – they were weeds she’d removed the same way he did. It was second nature to her. It was just her lifestyle.

Whenever I see a plot of ground that’s clean like that, it’s pretty obvious to me that they did that with a hoe, and that that is somebody that knows what they’re doing.

As Uncle Sonny got older, he started using pesticides, but because they cost money he was very very careful with them. It saves that part where you have to go and hoe the weeds out and go and pull the seeds out. It saved him a lot of time. It wasn’t very many years later that he started to use Roundup.

When I started farming, we were using skull & crossbones types of poisons like Paraquat. When we switched to Roundup, we didn’t have to use that anymore. It made spraying herbicides so much safer for the farmer.

When you use a chemical like Roundup in conjunction with a 100-hp tractor, you can do 1000 times more than one human can do. That means you can produce that much more food.  But now that herbicides kill everything, you start losing that knowledge; you don’t have to know what the old guys knew.

When Uncle Sonny used herbicides, he always stuck the leaf into it and saw if it worked. If not, he’d add a little more.

He followed the instructions, but he never relied on the instructions for the final result. He knew the formula, but he checked to make sure the result was what he wanted. It showed me that he knew what he was doing. He knew why that particular spreader was in there, and checked the proportions for sure. Not that he doubted, but if he wanted it to work very well, he’d check it himself.

I haven’t seen anybody, not anybody, do that. But I think it was common knowledge with the old folks.

We are so far removed from our food now that we don’t really have a connection with why we’re doing what we’re doing. But we need the basic knowledge. You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you are doing.

More about Uncle Sonny:

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Amazing Video Clip on the Mountain!

Richard Ha writes:

One day when I was on the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board’s Thirty Meter Telescope committee, along with Roberta Chu and Bob Saunders, Bob asked me what my father’s name was. I told him, and he said, “I want to show you something.”

He had a CD of the PBS Hawaii video called First Light, which was about the building of the first telescope atop Mauna Kea. He played it for me and then stopped it and said, “Look at that! What is that?”

I was stunned. It was a video clip of my pop operating his bulldozer on the summit.

(Used here with permission of Leslie Wilcox/PBS Hawai‘i)

Back in 1964 or so, Pop had a contract to help build the road to the top of Mauna Kea. I was away at school then, so I don’t know all the details.

Here’s a clip from the video. Look at the name across the top of the TD 30 there: “Richard Ha.” That was my pop. I’m Junior.

Richard ha sr bulldozer

Life really has a way of coming full circle, doesn’t it!

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Around The World on a Wa’a

Richard Ha writes:

The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule‘a and Hikianalia departed Hilo a couple days ago, headed for Tahiti on the first leg of an around-the-world voyage. Kalepa Babayan is captain of the Hokule‘a, and he melds ancient ways with modern technology and education. He is one of the most solidly grounded person I know. 

Hokule‘a crew member Na‘alehu Anthony blogged about leaving Hilo in It Takes a Community to Launch a Canoe:

Literally thousands of members of our ʻohana waʻa (canoe family) have come to see the canoes.  School groups by the busloads have come to share mele (songs) and hoʻokupu (offerings) to the canoes and crew. But if one looks a little closer, they can start to really notice how well this community still understands the sense of aloha. Every day for the past 10 days this community has come out to feed the crew three meals a day.  Cars have been dropped off to help with last minute runs to the store. People have come without any expectation of personal gain to give of their time to just help us prepare for this 47,000 mile journey. Just this morning after sunrise, one of the uncles from nearby came to drop off a dozen or so lei, that he personally strung together with flowers from his yard, just to “Aloha” the canoes.  He didn’t even ask to come aboard, rather, he left them in the care of one of our watch captains to bless the canoes with the sweet fragrance that reminds us all of Hilo.

We did our small part by supplying bananas and tomatoes, and feel very privileged to be able to support Hawai‘i's voyagers, along with hundreds of others. We learned, early on, that the voyaging crews like fresh fruit, especially longer into the trip, so we do this as much as we can on the voyages out of Hilo. We do our best to stage the ripening at different times, and try to see how far into the voyage we can get the bananas to last. We once got a batch to last until the crew reached the equator. 

Keaukaha was the host community for the wa‘a and their crews, and its president, Patrick Kahawaiola'a, was in charge of coordinating. June and I went to Palekai to see the canoes the other day.

As we walked down to the water, we ran into Bruce Blankenfeld, the captain of Hikianalia. I knew he had lots on his mind, so I introduced myself by saying we had supplied bananas on previous trips, and that they should "try keep the bananas separated so they no all go off at one time." He knew exactly what I meant. I gave him the thumbs up and we kept on going. 

To me, the voyage of the Hokule‘a and the Hikianalia represents hope for mankind. It is about the spirit of aloha. It is about using the resources available, modern and ancient, in a smart way. But mostly it's about attitude. There are a thousand reasons why no can. We need just one reason why, CAN.

From www.hokulea.com:

Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, our Polynesian voyaging canoes, are sailing across Earth’s oceans to join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world. Covering 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, and 26 countries, the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage will highlight diverse cultural and natural treasures and the importance of working together to protect them. The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage began in 2013 with a Mālama Hawaiʻi sail around our archipelago, and will continue through 2017 when our new generation of navigators take the helm and guide Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia back to Polynesia after circumnavigating the globe.

The Hawaiian name for this voyage, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our Earth.” Living on an island chain teaches us that our natural world is a gift with limits and that we must carefully steward this gift if we are to survive together. As we work to protect cultural and environmental resources for our children’s future, our Pacific voyaging traditions teach us to venture beyond the horizon to connect and learn with others. The Worldwide Voyage is a means by which we now engage all of Island Earth—practicing how to live sustainably, while sharing, learning, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we all call home.

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Hawaii: A Microcosm Of The 1914 World

Richard Ha writes:

Christine Lagarde, director of the International Monetary Fund, just gave a very significant speech about where the world is at right now, and—very interesting—how similar it is to where the world was at exactly one hundred years ago, in 1914.

I was struck by how, right now, right here in Hawai‘i, we are a microcosm of what was happening in the world a hundred years ago.

From Christine Lagarde’s speech:

I invite you to cast your minds back to the early months of 1914, exactly a century ago. Much of the world had enjoyed long years of peace, and giant leaps in scientific and technological innovation had led to path-breaking advances in living standards and communications. There were few barriers to trade, travel, or the movement of capital. The future was full of potential.

Yet, 1914 was the gateway to thirty years of disaster—marked by two world wars and the Great Depression. It was the year when everything started to go wrong. What happened?

What happened was that the birth of the modern industrial society brought about massive dislocation. The world was rife with tension—rivalry between nations, upsetting the traditional balance of power, and inequality between the haves and have-nots, whether in the form of colonialism or the sunken prospects of the uneducated working classes.

By 1914, these imbalances had toppled over into outright conflict. In the years to follow, nationalist and ideological thinking led to an unprecedented denigration of human dignity. Technology, instead of uplifting the human spirit, was deployed for destruction and terror. Early attempts at international cooperation, such as the League of Nations, fell flat. By the end of the Second World War, large parts of the world lay in ruins.

Right now, in 2014, we are heading into difficult times, which in fact have already started. We already see how the skyrocketing price of oil has impacted all our costs. Everything is, noticeably, much more expensive: electricity, plane tickets, gasoline, retail goods that have to be transported here, food that needs fertilizer and has to be cooled enroute here. Everything—and it’s only going up.

The story of 1914 is the story of what’s happening in Hawai‘i right now. We have serious divisions, and people yelling at each other about important issues. I don’t see people trying to come together to solve the many problems we are facing. Are we going to go the same way?

They’re doing it right in Iceland. A few years ago, Iceland had the biggest financial meltdown in history, and they’ve turned it around very successfully. They looked at their resources, and used them very well. It’s working.

We are not doing this. Right now, everyone is running around trying to force solutions that benefit themselves. But individual solutions aren’t going to work. We need a big picture solution. We have to come together to seek answers for all of us.

As in Iceland, what we have going for us here is our geothermal potential. I’ve said this so many times now that it sounds like I have an agenda, but I don’t. I don’t gain anything from our increased use of geothermal energy except for what we all will gain: stable energy costs, stable food costs, stable everything costs. The ability to better afford living in Hawai‘i. The pleasure of knowing our kids and grandkids will be able to afford to stay and establish their career and family here, instead of taking off for a cheaper location on the mainland.

An increased use of our geothermal resource will make a big difference in the quality of our lifestyle.

Some people say solar energy is the answer, but that’s not it. Hawai‘i had the highest number of solar installations ever last year. Twenty years from now, when those people have to put on a new roof and redo the solar panels, what will the economy look like then? If oil spikes, they might not have the financing to pay for it. Will they be able to afford it?

The geothermal plant I toured in Iceland could last 60 years. My hydroelectric pipe will last 100 years. Solar is a temporary answer, and maybe it’s a bridge, but it’s not the solution.

Back to Lagarde: What happened to end those 30 years of war and economic disaster was that in 1944, leading economists from around the world came together in New Hampshire.

In her speech, Christine Lagarde said:

The 44 nations gathering at Bretton Woods were determined to set a new course—based on mutual trust and cooperation, on the principle that peace and prosperity flow from the font of cooperation, on the belief that the broad global interest trumps narrow self-interest.

This was the original multilateral moment—70 years ago. It gave birth to the United Nations, the World Bank, and the IMF—the institution that I am proud to lead.

The world we inherited was forged by these visionary gentlemen—Lord Keynes and his generation. They raised the phoenix of peace and prosperity from the ashes of anguish and antagonism. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Because of their work, we have seen unprecedented economic and financial stability over the past seven decades. We have seen diseases eradicated, conflict diminished, child mortality reduced, life expectancy increased, and hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty.

Now, in 2014, which direction are we going to take? The path they went down in 1914, which led to crisis and disaster? Or the 1944 coming together, which changed the disastrous path they/we were on, and from which we are still benefitting?

Let’s not go through 30 or more years of crisis and disaster. Let’s learn from the past, and from what others are doing around us. Let’s all pull together and think on a bigger scale.

Lagarde’s speech was titled, “A New Multilateralism for the 21st Century: the Richard Dimbleby Lecture.” You can read it here. Or watch the video here.

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A Journey Back

Richard Ha writes:

We had no idea there was a stream running under the green sugar cane in the foreground of this picture. This is near our new hydroelectric plant. 

Cane

Here’s what we saw after we cleared some of the cane. Amazing!

Another great natural resource!

Awhile back I was asked to speak to students in the Hawai‘i Life Styles program at Hawai‘i Community College. The program has three tracks: hula, fishing and farming. Since then, I’ve kept in touch, and recently Keone Chin and Keali‘i Lilly came and helped clear the cane away. Keone is outreach specialist and Keali‘i is mahi‘ai (farming) support for I Ola Haloa, the Hawai‘i Life Styles program.

Though on the one hand we are using our property at the farm in a modern way, as in with the hydroelectric system, on the other hand, we are looking back at how the land was used in the past.

We have decided to plant canoe plants around the hydro area, to get a feel for how Hawaiian sustained themselves and what they used. I’ve also been talking to Gary Eoff, who’s a well-known expert in making traditional cordage, and we’re talking about planting some of those plants. Eventually we’d like to make plant materials available for others who want to use them.

Gary also grows gourds. You know what I think of when I think about gourds and cordage? I think Tupperware. You can use them to carry things around, and store food. Imagine – Hawaiians even had Tupperware back then. They really didn’t lack for much.

Everything comes down to net energy minus the cost of your food. What’s left over determines your lifestyle. It’s a little more complex than that, but it’s valuable in that it gives us a way to compare how people lived in the old days compared to now. If you use your energy efficiently, maybe you can sit around and go surfing a lot.

So we are just starting the process of figuring out how to use the land around the hydro plant, and going through the exercise with the folks from the HCC Hawai‘i Life Styles program. We are going on this journey together. It’s truly exciting.

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The New Ahupuaa, Revisited

Richard Ha writes:

This is a post I wrote back in 2007. I recently reread it and realized it's the same story as what's happening today. It's six years later, and people still don't realize we don't have time to fool around.

I'm going to rerun the post here.

***

October 10, 2007

I spoke at the Hawai‘i Island Food Summit this past weekend, which was attended by Hawaiian cultural people, policy makers, university researchers, farmers, ranchers, and others.

The two-day conference asked the question, “How Can Hawai‘i Feed Itself?”

I felt like a small kid in class with his hand raised: “Call me! Call me!”

I sat on one of the panels, and said that our sustainability philosophy has to do with taking a long-term view of things. We are always moving so we’ll be in the proper position for the environment we anticipate five, 10 and 20 years from now.

I told them I had a nightmare that there would be a big meeting down by the pier one day, where they announce that food supplies were short because the oil supply was short and so we would have to send thousands of people out to discover new land.

I was afraid that they would send all the people with white hair out on the boats to find new land—all the Grandmas and Grandpas and me, but maybe not June.

Grandmas and Grandpas hobbled onto the boats with their canes and their wheelchairs, clutching all their medicines, and everybody gave all of us flower leis, and everyone was saying, “Aloha, Aloha, call us when you find land! Aloha!”

I spoke about where we want to be in five, 10 or 20 years. We know that energy-related costs will be high then. And that we need to provide food for Hawai‘i’s people.

We call our plan “The New Ahupua‘a.”

In old Hawai‘i, the ahupua‘a was a land division that stretched from the uplands to the sea, and it contained the resources necessary to support its human population—from fish and salt to fertile land for farming and, high up, wood for building, as well as much more.

Our “New Ahupua‘a” uses old knowledge along with modern technology to make the best use of our own land system and resources. We will move forward by looking backward.

• We plan to decouple ourselves from fossil fuel costs by developing a hydroelectric plant, which will allow us to grow various crops not normally grown at our location.

• We are moving toward a “village” concept of farming, and starting to include farmers from the area, who grow things we don’t, to farm with us. This way, the people who work on our farm come from the area around our farm. We will help them with food safety, pest control issues and distribution.

• We are developing a farmers market at our property on the highway, where the farmers who work with us can market their products.

• We will utilize as much of our own resources for fertilizer as possible, by developing a system of aquaponics, etc.

This “New Ahupua‘a” is our general framework for the future. It will allow us to produce more food than we can produce by ourselves. It is a safe strategy, in case the worst scenario happens; if it doesn’t, this plan will not hurt us.

It is a simple strategy. And we are committed to it.

My assessment of how we came to be here and where we need to be in the future is this: In the beginning, one hundred percent of the energy for food came from the sun. The mastodons ate leaves, the saber tooth tiger ate the mastodon and we ate the tiger and everything else.

The earth’s population was related to the amount of food we could gather or catch. And sometimes the food caught and ate us. So there were only so many of us roaming around.

Then some of us started to use horses and mules to help us grow food. As well as the sun, now animals provided some of the energy for cultivating food. We were able to grow more food, and so there were more of us.

About 150 years ago, we discovered oil. With oil we could utilize millions of horsepower to grow food—and we didn’t even need horses. Oil was plentiful and cheap; only about $3/barrel. We used oil to manufacture fertilizer, chemicals and for packaging and transportation.

Food became very, very plentiful and we started going to supermarkets to harvest and hunt for our food. Hunting for our food at the supermarkets was very good—the food did not eat us and now there are many, many, many of us.

But now we are approaching another change to the status quo—a situation being called “Peak Oil.” That’s when half of all the oil in existence is used up. Half the oil will still be left, but it will be increasingly hard to tap. At some point, the demand for oil—by billions and billions of people who cannot wait to get in their car and drive to McDonalds—will exceed the ability to pump that oil.

Food was cheap in the past because oil was cheap. Five years ago, oil was $30/barrel but now it’s over $80/barrel. Now that oil is becoming more and more expensive, food is also going to become much more expensive.

In the beginning the sun provided a hundred percent of the energy and it was free. Today oil is becoming very expensive, but sun energy is still free.  The wind, the waves, the water—they are all free here in Hawaii. It’s the oil that is expensive.

For Hamakua Springs, the situation is not complicated at all. We need to use an alternate form of energy to help us grow food!

With alternate energy, we should be able to continue growing food—and maybe local food can be grown cheaper than food that is shipped here from far away.

I told the Food Summit attendees that we farmers need to grow plenty of food so that others can do what they do and so we continue to have a vibrant society. If we don’t plan ahead to provide enough food, and as a consequence every family has to return to farming to feed themselves, it would be a much more limited society. People would not be able to pursue the arts, write books, explore space. We would have way fewer choices – maybe only, “What color malo should I wear today?”

There was a feeling going through the Food Summit’s crowd that we were a part of something very important and very special. What I found different about this conference is that people left feeling that this was just the beginning.

We are going to take action.

***

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Time Travel: Looking Back At Our Land

Richard Ha writes:

We’re planning to landscape the area around our new hydroelectric system with canoe plants, the plants that the first Polynesian settlers brought with them from their previous island homes to help them survive and thrive in their new land.

They were the original organic farmers. They had no oil back
then, of course, so no oil technologies.

And they did not just survive in their oil-free lives, but thrived and supported a large population here well (research suggests it was a
population as large as we have now).

So as we reach the age of Peak Oil, the end of easy and cheap oil and all that came with that, I want to explore how they did it. I
want to learn from them and see what, from those times, we can focus on again to improve our lives now. Our hydroelectric system is another example of what we are doing in these regards.

There are still people, of course, who have always lived
with the old ways, and who continue to do so. I met some people at the Hawai‘i Community College who are perpetuating this culture and who have offered to help me. I’ll write more about that soon.

For now I thought I’d revisit what we know happened on this
land before we started farming it. A lot of this information comes from the Cultural Resources Review of our poperty done by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Our farm encompasses three ahupua‘a in the district of South Hilo:

1. Ka‘upakuea at the north (bordered at the south by Makea Stream).

We don’t know much about what went on in Ka‘upakuea before the mid-19th century. In the mid-1800s, both Ka‘upakuea and Kahua were government lands, which were lands Kamehameha III gave “to the chiefs and people.” Ka‘upakuea was part of Grant 872. (Read the 1882 document A Brief History of Land Titles in the Hawaiian Kingdom for more on Hawai‘i’s historical land system.)

The area was later part of a sugar plantation, and has unpaved roadways and a west-east flume. Kaupakuea Camp was within the area of what’s presently our farm.

2. Kahua (which is between Makea and Alia Streams).

Kahua is a very narrow ahupua‘a, approximately 600 feet wide. It extends from the coast to about Makea Spring, which is at about the 980 foot elevation.

Kahonu (an ali‘i who was descended from both the I and Mahi
lines of chiefs, and who was in charge of the Fort at Punchbowl ca. 1833-34) was awarded either the whole of Kahua ahupua‘a or just the northern mauka half of it (references differ) as LCA 5663.

When he died in 1851, his relative Abner Paki (father of
Bernice Pauahi and hanai father of Lili‘uokalani) held the lands “under a verbal will from Kahonu” (Barrère 1994:138). When Paki died in 1855, the lands were listed as Bishop Estate lands.

3. Makahanaloa at its southern edge (bordered by Alia and Wai‘a‘ama Streams).

The ahupua‘a of Makahanaloa (Maka-hana-loa) runs from the coast about 3.5 miles up to the 6600-foot elevation. Kapue Stream flows from the base of Pu‘u Kahinahina down through Makahanaloa. Magnetic Hill is at the southwestern corner at the top of the ahupua‘a, which is a little over a mile wide and meets the North Hilo district boundary.

In the Great Mahele of 1848, 7600 acres of Makahanaloa and
Pepe‘ekeo were awarded to William Charles Lunalilo (an ali‘i who later became king, from 1873 until his death in 1874). Upon his death, his personal property went to his father Charles Kana‘ina.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about Makahanaloa
ahupua‘a: Somewhere within this area, though the exact location is unknown, there was (is?) an “ancient leaping place for souls.”

And according to historian Mary Kawena Pūku‘i, a sacred bamboo grove called Hōmaika‘ohe was planted at Makahanaloa by the god Kane. “Bamboo knifes used for circumcision came from this grove,” she wrote.

Sugar Plantation History

Sugar cane was one of the canoe plants; it came with the early Polynesians to Hawai‘i and they used it as food and sweetener, and chewed it to strengthen their teeth and gums.

The farm sits on land that was formerly part of a sugar plantation that had its origins in 1857, when Theophilus Metcalf started Metcalf Plantation. After his death in 1874, the 1500-acre plantation was purchased by Mr. Afong and Mr. Achuck and its name changed to Pepeekeo Sugar Company. In 1879, they also acquired the 7600-acre Makahaula Plantation. By 1882, both were combined as Pepeekeo Sugar Mill & Plantation. In 1889, Afong returned to China, leaving the plantation in the hands of his friend Samuel M. Damon.

Over the years, it changed hands several more times. C. Brewer
& Co. bought the plantation in 1904, added a plantation hospital and improved housing. By 1910, plantation fields were connected by good dirt roads and harvested cane was delivered to the mill by railroad cars and stationary flumes.

Post-1923, the plantation improved its soil every year by adding coral sand (from Wai‘anae), bone meal and guano. “The sand was bagged and hauled into the fields by mules to be spread” (Dorrance & Morgan 2000:101). Eucalyptus trees were planted as windbreaks, protecting the fields near the ‘ōhi‘a forests.

Water came from Wai‘a‘ama Stream and Kauku Hill.
 Plowing was
done to 18 to 20 inches. After 1932, tractors with caterpillar tracks were used for plowing. From 1941, trucks hauled harvested cane to the mill.

In the early 1950s, lots and houses on the plantation were sold to residents.

Under C. Brewer, there were several mergers: Honomu Sugar Company in 1946; Hakalau Sugar Company in 1963; consolidation of Wainaku, Hakalau, Pepeekeo, and Papaikou sugar companies in 1971, and a final merger in 1973 with Mauna Kea Sugar (once 5 separate plantations: Honomu, Hakalau, Pepeekeo, Onomea and Hilo Sugar Company) to form Mauna Kea Sugar Company, the state’s largest with 18,000 acres of cane (Dorrance & Morgan 2000:104).

Prior to the final merger, Mauna Kea Sugar Company had formed
a non-profit corporation with the United Cane Planters’ Cooperative, the Hilo Coast Processing Company, to harvest and grind sugarcane.

The Hilo Coast Processing Company and the Mauna Kea Sugar
Company (at that point called Mauna Kea Agribusiness Company) mill shut down in 1994.

We started farming on this land in 1994.

I’m very interested in knowing more history about this place. If you or your family know old stories about this area, I would love to hear them.

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