Hawaii State Agriculture Conference

On September 23rd and 24th, I attended the Hawaii State Agriculture Conference at the beautiful Ko’Olina Resort. For two days, I thoroughly enjoyed and took in as much of the information as possible, and here is my interpretation and summary of the issues for you:

  • We as a nation and world are in completely uncharted territory in terms of CO2 emissions and are in dire need of innovation and new ideas.
  • The most critical issues facing the islands seem to be the price and/or availability of energy, land, water, and the number of farmers. In addition, financing and transportation are important issues. ‘Energy’ and ‘Agriculture’ may see some big fights to come. The main recommendation is for everyone (conventional and organic farmers and ranchers) to try to “get along” and to communicate well regarding our shared issues.
  • UH’s College of Tropical Ag is working on aquaponics to meet some of the new sustainability standards set for 2050. Aquaponics helps solve problems of access to land. Some of the components of farming this way are expensive, so they are looking at ways to source items locally (e.g., fish food and fertilizers).
  • We currently have 90% of our energy shipped to the islands in the form of oil. There is a big push to move to biofuels (and I was sitting between someone from the Department of Energy and another person from the Navy who were both asking lots of questions and taking many notes), but farmers and ranchers are losing their land so that biofuels can be grown and produced. Although it was left unsaid, it was implied that the biofuels are GMO crops.
  • It’s critical that we all move to organic and sustainable methods of production. For health reasons in particular, organics were strongly recommended. We heard from ex-conventional farmers who have completely changed their methods and yielded some incredible crop results.
  • Consumers need to educate themselves that food doesn’t come from a store, it comes from the farmers. We all really need to stop shopping at places that offer “cheap” food and start prioritizing local producers. Buying “cheap” creates more long term systemic problems.
  • Ranchers and farmers are people on whom we all currently rely every day (so we really need to value and respect them).
  • Ranchers are moving toward grass fed beef. The cow is becoming a key part of the biofuel industry. It’s predicted that perhaps the ranchers will start building some bio-refineries and when this happens, they will be selling energy back to HECO. (Seems like we really ought to be nice to our farmers!)
  • Cows and worms are some pretty valuable creatures.
  • Korean Natural Farming Methods and biochar are a couple of things to seriously learn about and incorporate into current farming.

Although the mood was hopeful and optimistic, I came home concerned about our food and energy security.

Cooking for the Changing Seasons

Fall Cooking Style (From Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking)

During the late summer, energy begins to flow downward until it becomes very condensed by late autumn. The change from hot to cool weather is often sudden. To mitigate this change, we can begin to adjust our diet in late summer by including more early fall squashes and root vegetables in our meals. In autumn, food is more plentiful than at other seasons. Just as the trees produce a multitude of yellows, golds, oranges, reds, browns, and light greens, these beautiful colors are found in the cornucopia of grains, beans, squashes, root vegetables, and autumn greens, such as kale, turnip greens, daikon tops, and cabbages. Many of the foods harvested in the fall have natural preservative qualities and can be stored for several months to be used through the cold winter and into the spring. Millet and round vegetables, such as onions, turnips, cabbages, and squashes, may be served more frequently in the late autumn months. During the summer months, the kidneys and bladder are often overworked because of an excess intake of liquids, fruits, raw foods, and salty snack items in an attempt to balance the extreme heat. In autumn, the results of this imbalance are experienced in colds, coughs, and other sicknesses of adjustment. Stronger cooking in autumn, as well as the change in weather, starts to discharge this excess. At this season, we can begin to introduce more rich tastes and styles of cooking into our menus, such as bean stews, fried or deep fried foods, creamy grain stews, sweet rice and mochi, hot amasake, and pureed squash soup and squash pies. Dishes can be prepared with longer cooking times and styles, such as long, slow nishime-style boiling, long time sautéing, or kinpira style braising. Vegetables may be cut in larger slices and chunks for longer, more slowly cooked dishes. Sea vegetable dishes can become hardier and include tempeh, dried tofu, or soybeans. In autumn, foods may start to be seasoned with a little more sea salt and a little more oil. The amount of raw foods served can be substantially reduced and dried or cooked fruits used more in preparing desserts.