Chop and Drop

If you think you are going to haul fish guts 20 miles from town up to your farm, you are probably going to spend more in fuel than you could possibly produce on the farm. Assuming you had to grow and produce your own ethanol. Or, in almost any scenario utilizing ethanol, there is a farmer, a truck, and hauling, and the process of distribution eats up almost all the energy created in production.

I am talking about the future of farming. Not twenty years in the future, not ten years in the future, more likely in less than five years, we are already seeing radical shifts in the price of energy. Gas at $10, “no” you say, but the writings on the wall. Think of the thousands of miles that gas travels to make it into your gas tank. Can you afford to carry it that far?

We will be forced to turn to domestic production, but how far will that go? We have a number of things against us before we even begin, such as having to import heavy materials to build infrastructure capable of ethanol production. Going for us, we have a large geothermal resource, which if used intelligently, can bolster ethanol production.

Think of the energy it takes to run this monstrous supply line! Big diesel tractors moving this and that. A huge interconnected web relying on just in time delivery. Back when gas was $2 a gallon this seemed like a pretty good idea, living the Fed-ex lifestyle was affordable. Imports did not threaten our ability to make a living as it does today with absolutely no reliable or proven domestic production within 5,000 miles within the last 50 years. Hawai’i’s simply forgotten how to do it. Matson will always come…

Without fuel affordable for general transportation use a daily commute from Hilo to Puna is out of the question. I rode my bike 5 miles from Hilo to Pana’ewa to work in a field, and let me tell you, it’s not cheap or easy. The work you do when you provide the energy for transportation takes on a whole new level of effort. By the time I get to work, I’ve worked, now I must work a full day, then I must work again to get home.

How are you going to make a living in a “no fuel” scenario?

Now, think of the farmer growing your food. Where does he live? Your rice, your pasta, your Pizza Hut, how much do you think that will cost when fuel is $10? The staple food that keeps you and your family alive. Our diets today are so foreign that an average high school graduate would starve to death if KTA ran out of Doritos, in plain sight of avocados mind you!

We don’t eat what we grow and we don’t grow what we eat! It’s a scary double edge sword that will sink our island if there is any interruption to our thousand mile long supply lines. Sure we grow lettuce and some vegis locally, but think of the staple foods, the ones that really fill you up. It won’t take more than a dock strike or hurricane for it to become impossible to get Costco goods at any cost. Speaking of hurricanes, our governor looted our hurricane fund, we now have NO emergency monetary reserves.

Are you going to horde or are we going to make it a island wide objective to grow what we need right here? We can produce year round, but you know what’s missing? You.

With America almost broke, what happens if uncle’s EBT isn’t renewed. He’s standing there in line at Sack n’ Save, four hungry kids looking at him and the balance is $0. “What you mean $0! Scan em again”. Every month before, on the 3rd, there was $750 to keep his kids alive with food on the table.

Now what’s uncle gonna do?

No kalo in the ground, cause brah, football is on. Only the ha’ole’s grow kalo anymore. Sweet potato takes 3 months to have edible tubers. The kids start crying after a few days. What, you gonna rob and steal from somebody who was more prepared? You gonna start to learn how to farm in this chaos. Cause not just you, over 40% of Hawai’i is employed by the government and all the people relying on food stamps, oh, America is broke, no more money. Pau!

You going be pau with them? or you gonna be Hawai’ian and live? You going respect the ‘aina and plant food? You going make sure the keiki have enough food that if Matson stops, they not going notice?

It’s time we wean our citizens off of handouts. Payments of money only encourage the disenfranchised to further depress our economy because of the nature of the process. EBT money goes to a person who shops for the cheapest food, which is typically government subsidized corn products imported from the mainland. The person eating this gets health problems and further drains the economy. The money instantly vanishes from the local economy only serving the store employees and the owner.

If instead of money, Hawai’i’s land is opened up, a person can grow enough food to sustain themselves and have enough left over to sell for some extra money. In Hawai’i we can grow year round, so there is no excuse for not directly providing for sustenance. The state can take the role of sponsoring master gardeners that advise and coordinate production instead of feigning support as they do now.

How to design a successful system in a Chop and Drop economy? Relax, everything is at your feet already. With this familiar way of looking at things any one any where can be prosperous. Nature favors practitioners of chop and drop.

Distance and weight will become the two principle factors dominating price again. Scarcity will become scarce as things are so localized that unknowns are quite unknown as desires switch from ipods and makeup to common basics such as food and water.

Think close to home. If it’s heavy and you have to move it, that requires energy. The further away you get things before you use them, the more energy system consumes and the less that can be extracted from it as a usable product.

It’s time to think seriously about local food production. Natural Farming allows a farmer to grow immaculately nutritious food using all local inputs. No need to ship in fertilizer or go further than your front yard to become a provider. The Big Island could potentially feed Oahu’s hordes… but what value do they have to trade us in return?

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now.

Aloha ea ‘ai!

Webcam of Garden Project in Hilo

Freshly installed webcam
Kamana in December 2010

I’ve began farming at Kamana Gardens in October 2010. 10/10 you might say. Chester, the owner of the property, and I installed a webcam in December to visually document the process. The camera uploads one picture a minute from 5am until 7pm every day. I wrote some software to turn the pictures into time lapse videos.

Check out the live feed here

Plant Food Every Day

Hey Farmer! “Work harder and grow more food with less chemicals because I want to be sustainable and eat local”; or “Hey, what can I plant to become a significant producer in the food supply”.

We can talk all we want about sustainability and food security, but until we take personal responsibility and put the seeds in the ground and learn the agriculture methods that are pono with the earth, then we may as well bury our heads in the sand.

Eating local and eating healthy are major factors in our lifestyle. It is important that we know our farmers who produce the food in our daily lives. The easiest farmer to know is ourselves.

Take responsibility. Plant food.