Farmers work hard. They make sure they provide their children with extensive education to improve their future lives. Then they grow old hoping that their children will continue the farming business. Most children have seen how hard a life their parents had to keep the farm going. They realize that plants and fields need tending on a daily basis, and a farmer’s work is never done. There is no time to take a vacation or rest when you desire. Upon leaving the nest, it is easy to choose to work in other careers after earning a college degree or learning a different vocation.
Can we preserve our farmlands when farmers’ heirs decide to leave for other lifestyles? It is very tempting to opt out of farming when buyers approach them and offer attractive prices for their land. Besides that, there is always the temptation to build rental homes for tenants who are employed on the farm. The question is whether the tenants really do work on the farms or not. The roles and functions of these tenants should be validated as necessary to the farming process, and these rules should be clarified by law. It certainly is easier for owners to collect rent money than to plough the fields. Presently, there are issues concerning illegal housing on farmland in Kunia, but that practice may have started decades ago and survived because of poor government oversight.
Presently there is much unused agriculture land on Oahu. Housing developers want these lands because population has exploded in Hawaii which promises great profits for them. Their persistence in obtaining waivers, rule exceptions, and special permits from the government to build on agriculture land is remarkable. Because Hawaii stands to lose if farmland is lost, the city and state governments must encourage families to continue farming ventures. Available grants and subsidies should be advertised, and first-time farmers should be led and assisted by government agriculture experts. Moreover, the state should consider more ways to discourage the increase in our population by instituting restrictions and requirements for newcomers to the islands. When they can slow population growth, there will be less demand for new housing.
If farm owners do not wish to labor in the fields, it is possible to continue farming ventures more creatively. No longer is the standard vegetable farm a must. We think of sugar cane, pineapple, macadamia nuts, and vegetables as the only important crops in Hawaii, but that is no longer the case. Flowers, mangoes, avocados, noni, and other fruits are potential winners in the production show. In addition, organic farms are gaining popularity and are backed by outstanding restaurants. Secondly, there are various business activities tied to tourism that have increased diversified types of farming investments: walking tours of coffee, macadamia nut and flower farms, cattle and horse operations, linking produce to popular restaurants, agricultural fairs and festivals, and living history farms.
The outlook is bright for continued farming in Hawaii, but farmers would feel more secure in their vocation if the state and city governments would cast a more watchful eye on criminals who prey on farm equipment and vandalize the crops and property on these agriculture lands. We should encourage farmers by lending a helping hand in protecting their way of life and by easing the financial strain of farming costs.