Archive for December, 2010

The most useful blog in my world is Hawaii Agriculture. They keep current, and really cover the field (and sometimes stray into the ocean and forest.)  A recent post alerted me to potential perils in the produce section: http://hawaii-agriculture.com/hawaii-agriculture-blog/west-hawaii-today-features-food-sustainability-a-kona-vores-dilemma, right here in Kona.  The issue is produce that isn’t local, being sold as such,  sometimes mixed into the same bin with local produce.  Talk about a hot topic for local farmers!

But I was just thinking about what to cook for dinner while shopping the next day at my favorite local natural food store, Island Naturals Market & Deli.  I like them so much I kind of felt bad about writing  this post, but hey, as ye show, so shall ye reap.   I found some gorgeous organic courgettes.  No price, no problem, friendly Produce Man is 6 feet away.  He dug around and put up the tag.   The price for not going to the Farmer’s market, $2.99 a lb, but they are deep green, and gorgeous, and . . . they’re from MEXICO???

Trying to stay off my soap-box, I  said to Produce Man as innocently as I could, “the tag says ‘Mainland,’ but the labels say they’re from Mexico (organic at least).”   He stuttered a bit and said something about only having “local” and “mainland” tags, and admitted there was a problem with about four of their products.  I couldn’t help saying, “Hawaii’ is my mainland, by the way, but the point is Mexico is a foreign country with different standards for organic.”

“I’m from Sweden,”  he smiled, ”  I see your point, and I hope by the next time you come in we’ll have that fixed.”  He could have argued that there are more Kona area residents native to Mexico, than are native to any other of the “States” not on the West Coast.  Like I said,  Produce Man is a nice guy. Now that I’ve done some research, it looks like Mexico’s standards are ok.  STILL!   I had to go back the next day as it turns out, and the signs remained the same– but that’s not much of a grace period for corporate policy changes.

A few days later I’m at my favorite conventional supermarket, KTA.  The same cute Mexican courgettes with the yellow label (my phone camera doesn’t have a flash) are in the organic produce section.

the pretty courgettes from Mexico

The nearest origin tags say “product of USA.”   KTA has tracks on the shelf edges to put the tags on, and they don’t specifically reference the item they refer to.   So, I just turned the “product of USA”  label over.

Back to the Hawaii Agriculture blog.  What about local-not-necessarily-organic  vs organic imports? The BBC writes in a great little article, “Local food is usually more “green” than organic food, according to a report published in the journal Food Policy.”


Safeway’s label takes the cake for localwannabe:

product of Kenya

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‘Ewa Sugar Plantation (ca 1890-1970) as mentioned in a previous blog,  was my childhood home.  One day a friend and I were heading out to that side.  It is painful to see what that simple, charming community has degenerated into, I don’t go often.

First thing, since we were coming from Kapolei side, I got lost.  A testament to the City and County’s aggressive development of the ‘Ewa plain agriculture lands. We approached from the old Barber’s Point (Kalaeloa) gate along the old Oahu Land & Railway tracks, past the Hawaiian Railway Society. (Extra)

Varona is the first of the ‘Ewa Villages.  Seriously dilapidated, both physically and by scandal, but still inhabited. One of the things Varona was famous for is cockfighting.  Although, the only one I ever saw was in Fernandez Village.

We drove past the mill that isn’t there anymore.  Past the park with magnificent old royal palms, the only way to identify the town from the surrounding area.  Then into the driveway, which used to be lined with royal palms as well. My friend Joe grew up in Waimanalo, but like most people, including locals, had never been to Ewa Plantation, and was shocked at the extent of  deterioration.   The once spectacular landscaping reduced to dead grass and dirt.  A few of the old trees have survived.

We followed the driveway around the house, now occupied by a church and community association.  No one was there.  Outside the courtyard with dry fishpond, was a splendid pile of the old shutters!  They were there a couple of years ago on my last visit.  A combination of nostalgia and my commitment to sustainability kicked in.  Several of the wood louvers were no longer attached to the frames.  Frames. The wood remained miraculously unmolested by bugs.  Probably because of the lead based paint. The forest green slats were attractively time worn, fabulously faded by natural processes.   Picture frames. (!)

My wonderful brother-in-law, Dennis, who lives in Wisconsin, was a picture framer in his early days.  He’s moved on to more exotic projects, like weaving shuttles and looms, but he might be convinced to make some for his wife and her siblings.   Would that be stealing? Is it a crime to steal discarded items for non-commercial reuse?

I remember picking some thimble berries from our neighbor’s hedge once. My Mother insisted I go knock on their door, apologize, and ask for permission.  I did, wracked with shame, sniffling out my repentance.  The guilt induced was far more effective than the alternative of spanking. Fortunately Mrs. Cushnie was gracious, and invited me to take as many as I wished, anytime.  Lingering guilt prevented any future gathering forays.  Strange how 40 years later I my opu still contracts.  There was no one to ask for permission. Would anyone notice?  Ok, that’s hardly an acceptable moral standard.



As far as I’m concerned, there are no publicly accessible structures of historical charm between Waipahu and Ka’ena Point, you have to go to Wahiawa or Haleiwa.  Some of us appreciate the kuleana of Honouli’uli, but it’s no place for sightseeing.  The years of  labor and resources my parents invested in creating and maintaining this little plantation jewel were utterly destroyed.

Would Messrs. Jacques Pryor and William Messer,  high school European Studies teachers at Punahou, find my sentimental/environmental  arguments valid conclusions of moral discourse?   We put the wood pieces in the trunk and continued through town.

Isamu Murakami, who also grew up on ‘Ewa Plantation, has posted over 600 historical images on his Picasa site: http://picasaweb.google.com/waipahu46/MYHOMETOWNEWA#

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