A Pilgrimage for On Farm Mentoring

On Tuesday, February 24th at the pre-crack of dawn three FAM apprentices, Georgia Pinsky, Rayden (Ola) Kekona and Deneane Hanby along with FAM mentor, Bobby Pahia, HFUF President, Simon Russell, and FAM Program Director, Phyllis Robinson took the first flight from Maui bound for the state capitol.

Our mission:  To meet with elected Senators and Representatives about the importance of Senate Bill 356 which would expand the FAM program state-wide.

Our first stop, the top floor of the State Capitol to meet with Governor David Ige.

We wanted Gov. Ige to know that we have heard and accept his challenge to increase local food production statewide. To meet this challenge, the Hawaii Farmers Union United FAM program on Maui is growing new farmers and SB 356 would be an important step to expand FAM statewide.  GoFarm Director, Steven Chaing (second from left) was there to support HFUU in its efforts and made it clear that GoFarm and FAM are partnering in this vision.  We felt listened to and appreciated.

Next stop was with Senator Kaiali’i Kahele’s (District 1-Hilo) staff member who welcomed us warmly and assured us that the Senator was in support of our efforts.  We then met with Senator Russell Ruderman (District 2 – Puna- Hawaii Island).  He is a member of the Hawaii Farmers Union  and the owner of a natural food store chain on Big Island called “Island Naturals”.  Sen. Ruderman has been a faithful supporter of our Farmers Union programs and we are very grateful to him.

From Left to Right: GoFarm Director, Steven Chaing, FAM Mentor Bobby Pahia, FAM Program Director, Phyllis Robinson, Senator Mike Gabbard, FAM apprentice, Georgia Pinsky, HFUU Haleakala President, Simon Russell, FAM Apprentices Dee Hamby and Rayden (Ola) Kekona.

The wagon train headed to Down to Earth (yup there is one in Honolulu) where we grabbed lunch for ourselves and Senator Mike Gabbard (he likes turkey rueben sandwiches and Kombucha). Another strong supporter of our HFUU FAM program, Sen. Gabbard traveled to Maui during our FAM orientation farm tours.  In fact, he instigated our trip to the capitol.  He told us over lunch that HB356 was in his top 5 priorities for the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

For the rest of the afternoon we met with: Senate Majority Leader, J. Kalani English (Maui District 7), Senate Floor Leader District 12 on Oahu, Brickwood Galuteria (who was Bobby Pahia’s Kapalama Kamehameha High School classmate 44 years ago – sorry Bobby for outing your age).  Sen. Galuteria wanted to share with us about his SB1313 relating to Hawaii food resiliency, food self-sufficiency strategies and was enthusiastic that our FAM program folded into to this broader reaching concept.

The following day our troupe was down to 4, as we trudged on to meet with Rep. Kyle Yamashita, Sen. Malie Shimabukuro from District 21 Leeward Coast.  She knew quite a lot about David Wong’s Waianae KNF pig farm and loved hearing about FAM Apprentice Rayden’s dream of duplication on Bobby Pahia’s land on Maui.  Next came the only two farmers in the capitol, Rep. from East Maui District 13 Lynn DeCoite and Rep. Richard Cregan.  Rep. DeCoite grows sweet potatoes on Moloka’i and Rep. Creagan (District 5 – Big Island Ka’u and HFUU Ka’u Chapter Vice President) grows mac-nuts and fruit orchards.

Our bill never made it onto the Senate Ways and Means committee agenda and thus did not cross over into the House.  SB356 may have died on the 2017 legislature’s vine, yet through these face to face meetings we have certainly spread the seeds of support for 2018.

Mahalo for supporting and investing in your agriculture future with your local chapter of the HFUU.

In service to Agriculture,






Simon Russell

Haleakalā Chapter President