Hawaii Taro Farm, HFUU 2022 Convention

Aloha ‘Āina: Thoughts on the 2022 Convention

Aloha ʻāina!

The recently concluded Hawaii Farmers Union United convention was, for those of us fortunate enough to attend, pāhoehoe. That is to say, it was a powerful, Aina-driven eruption and also an ultimately smooth flow of energy.

Bobby Paia, our generous host, master kalo grower and steward of 850+ agricultural acres in central Maui, embodied his ongoing chant, “the hana is the mana” and set the tone for a weekend of revelations and inspirational energies.

Starting, from the finish of the convention, I have to first of all apologize to those present for regrettably having to leave the dynamic, and extremely encouraging policy debates taking place on Sunday, the third day of the convention, before they were finished. Thank you Saleh and team for all of your work throughout the weekend, sitting patiently, with aloha, listening and clarifying to the many that flocked to your table, and for running such an important, productive session, so smoothly and efficiently. Between Saleh and Hunter, our HFUU lobbyist, our policy portals inwardly to our membership and outwardly to our legislators feels increasingly stronger.

It is especially important to me personally, that our policies and actions increase our ability to be the leading voice for regenerative agricultural practices in the State of Hawaiʻi. Not only is public perception and support of regenerative farming practices blossoming, but significantly: Corporate America, Big Ag, local and federal governmental agencies, are actively promoting them. The current version of the incoming federal Farm Bill, with bi-partisan support, promotes regenerative agriculture.

This significant shift of understanding is fantastic news, and generates a lot of hope for what we can accomplish as well as for the support we can generate. For the ʻāina, for farmers, for our communities and for future generations, the moment is pregnant with possibility.

It is auspicious, that now, in this moment, just as the agricultural world has begun to open its eyes to the importance of regenerative, natural farming strategies, that we, the members of HFUU, celebrate and honor an internal change of leadership, a new president.

The momentum is tangible. Powerful change is in the winds. Within and surrounding HFUU.

We have a unique opportunity and the will to show our ourselves as the leading regenerative farming organization in the state, by focusing on our kuleana to the ʻāina and our devotion to our communities. Ultimately, that is the essence of regenerative agriculture, pursuing harmony with the living world, by using natural, beneficial strategies to protect, nurture and heal the living, giving ʻāina and all of her resources. In exchange, she protects, nurtures and heals us.

Make no mistake, if we continue to rise as activators, advocates and educators for regenerative practices, we will also attract funding that is promisingly flowing towards regenerative agriculture. Funding that can be used to empower and accelerate our mission towards aloha ʻāina and sustainable food systems.

It is our kuleana to lead the way in: transitioning conventional farms, advocating for beneficial farming practices, fighting for the protection of our water resources, educating each other and the coming generations on food production, nutrition and soil health, and in building cooperative networks, relationships, and food systems.

Significantly, I am convinced that HFUU can be a powerful, effective force in all this, largely because of the ʻOhana that I experienced at this recent convention. The plethora of individual members that brought their commitment, skills and vision, and united them with purpose and grace was formidable.

It all reached fruition with an invigorating and enlightening presidential election process. The first great revelation of the electoral process was that the membership was presented with two positive, promising choices. Unlike so many elections we may have experienced, this one was difficult, not because it was contentious, but because throughout the public debate, it became increasingly more clear that both candidates would make strong leaders at this powerful moment for the union.

Both Christian Zuckerman and Kaipo conducted themselves with grace, strength, humbleness, intelligence and a genuine devotion to serving the membership and the farming community. Clearly, both would lead by example. I am grateful, for the wise counsel of my own chapter, the members and board of Hamakua/Hilo, who were present. I was encouraged and inspired by their ability to calmly consider perspectives and share insights in an open non-biased, aware manner, that helped each of us navigate towards a wise and pono decision. Mahalo Rebekah, Michael, Drake, Suze and Carly for your presence and mindful perspectives.

Ultimately, Kaipo won a very tight, deserved victory.

As Bobby Paia and his farm embody “the hana is the mana,” Kaipo embodies words that he spoke to me in our first conversation, after the election. he ali’i ke ʻāina, he kauwā ka kanaka.

Kaipo admirably speaks from his heart, with strength, authenticity, clarity and awareness, and with roots planted deep in the ʻāina. He will be a powerful leader and spokesperson for the union, and a great champion of our missions, especially, if we, his united ohana, stand with and support him.

Exciting times! The seeds are planted, lots of work to be done.

The hana is the mana.

In gratitude and aloha, Odysseus