Written by Lauren Easley, committee clerk
Last week Representative Tom Brower joined fellow House and Senate members in a two-day, on-site, agricultural field trips across the island.
For Rep. Brower, the highlights were learning about natural farming and aquaponics. Both are techniques which are very similar to the ways early Hawaiians grew and cultivated their crops. Science has recently validated the success of food grown this way, which has proven to be more nutritious and of higher quality.
At the site visit to Mountain View Dairy in Waianae, Rep. Brower learned about "natural farming." In this context, "natural farming" comes from Han Kyu Cho ("Dr. Cho") of South Korea. He works with the organization, Natural Farming Hawaii, to educate backyard farmers and commercial farmers alike on the many benefits of switching to self- sufficient farming.
To fully utilize the concept of self-sufficient farming, you must use only resources found within the farm. In this way, you benefit by cutting down extra expenditures on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. What replaces them? The use of natural fertilizers such as eggshells and fish bones contains minerals amino acids which lend support to enrich the soil. Indigenous microorganisms in the dirt also help to keep the crops nourished; bacteria, fungi, and protozoa can go a long way. Ultimately, a more rich and saturated soil can reduce the amount of water spent on the crops.
Beyond natural farming in the agricultural aspect, livestock can also partake in the process. Cho has also found ways to reduce the smell, flies, and cleaning requirements in pig farms. A dry litter is used to soak up the waste left by the pigs, and the waste is then left to break down the manure. Microorganisms which are cultivated in the soil aid in the manure break down process. The pigs are also fed with self-sufficient goods; agricultural waste such as sweet potatoes, macadamia nuts, and bananas are used.
At the site visit to the Marine Agrifuture in Kahuku, Rep. Brower learned how the ponds, which are used to cultivate sea asparagus and ogo, create a symbiotic relationship which essentially fertilizes each other crop on their own. The micro algae generated by the sea asparagus helps the ogo to grow in cleaner water, and in turn, the ogo increases the oxygen needed for the sea asparagus to grow.
Self- sufficient farming is a way that Hawaii can learn to grow, and to minimize costs spent on cultivating agricultural goods. As the Chair of the committee on Tourism, Representative Brower hopes to raise interest in a new form of tourism that is taking off, agritourism. Agtourism draws visitors to tours, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, fairs, and festivals that are centered on local agricultural businesses.