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Hawaii County food self-sufficiency baseline released

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Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Stephanie Salazar Big Island Video News


The Hawaii County Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline 2012 was prepared to establish a baseline for measuring future progress in the area of County food self sufficiency.

The project collected a range of existing information to help inform Hawaii County residents and policy makers about the current status for local food production on the island.

It also mapped the current status of agricultural production island-wide utilizing the resources of the Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab at UHH. It is the first report of its kind in the State of Hawaii and offers some useful insight into the nature of local food production, where it takes place, what factors propel or constrain it and what actions can be taken to promote it.

Summary of Food Consumption Patterns

Roughly 95 percent of all fresh milk sold on Hawaii Island comes from the two local dairies. All raw Hawaii Island milk is sold to Meadow Gold and is packaged at its Railroad Avenue plant for multiple brands including Mountain Apple, Lucerne, Best Yet and others.

No organic milk is produced on the island and only a small portion of other dairy products, primarily half and half comes from local sources.

A portion of locally produced fresh milk is shipped to other islands for retail sales and bulk processing in Honolulu.

Seventeen percent of the fresh beef sold commercially on the island comes from local ranchers. Hawaii Island ranchers produce roughly twice the number of cattle needed to feed the island’s population but most are shipped to the mainland for fattening and market.

Additionally some of Hawaii Island’s beef is shipped to Oahu as hamburger and specialty cuts of grass fed beef.

Less than 5 percent of the pork and none of the chick or eggs consumed on the island come from local commercial sources.

Informal sources of local eggs are available in neighborhoods and at Farmers Markets. Wild pigs and other game animals account for an estimated 400,000 pounds of meat annually in the informal food supply.

Macadamia nuts represent roughly 5 percent of the total nut protein consumed on island. The Island produce more than 6 times the total average annual demand for this protein source but macadamia is just a small portion of our local nut consumption.

Fifty-one percent of the fish purchased commercially in the State of Hawaii comes from Hawaiian waters. This number comes from a 2012 CTAHR study that counted commercial and recreation catch numbers statewide.

Under reporting and non reported recreational fishing may increase this number on Hawaii Island. Some fish is exported to HNL and other markets as well.

Base on 2008 numbers, when the State stopped collecting most agricultural statistics, 34 percent of the State’s vegetables and 32 percent of its fruits consumption is produced locally. Hawaii Island also exports much of its fruit production and significant amounts of its vegetable and sweet potato production within the state and internationally.

There are significant amounts of both vegetables and fruits that are sold at Farmers Markets and other outlets that are no accounted for in these numbers.

Locally produced vegetable starches like taro, sweet potato, cassava and other crops amount to less than 10 percent of total starch consumption. Nearly 12 million pounds of sweet potato are exported to the West Coast annually

None of Hawaii’s grain consumption is produced locally. There is also a significant amount of consumption that comes from informal sources that cannot be tracked.

Farmers Markets, neighborhood sharing, back yard farming and ranching, recreational fishing and hunting all contribute an immeasurable amount of food to local families and are reflected in the scorecard as additional production that exceeds available statistics.

Crop Land Summary

The Baseline study provides detailed maps of the existing agricultural activity in each region on Hawaii Island.

In aggregate, there are approximately 42,700 acres in crop production (excluding commercial forestry), half of which is in macadamia nuts, the bulk of which is exported.

Only about 10,400 acres (24 percent) are in vegetable and fruit production and a significant portion of this production (papaya, tropical fruit, sweet potato and vegetables etc.) is grown for export elsewhere.

Pasture takes up roughly 600,000 acres on the island with productivity that varies by rainfall, location, management techniques etc. Building a grass fed beef industry to support local beef and other meat producers will require improvements to local slaughter facilities, committed local ranchers and strong support from consumers to select local grass fed beef at a price that can sustain its production.

Crop production varies from region to region and each district has its own set of unique forces and resources that help to define the kinds of agricultural production that takes place in each area.

The report provides a summary of regional production and discusses the context in which that production takes place and the contribution each area can make in terms of future food self sufficiency.

County Real Property Taxes

The report provides several maps and supporting data to summarize the state of current agriculture based on the real property tax records for Agricultural Use and Dedication Programs. These programs effect over 600,000 acres island-wide and result in $34 million dollars in tax saving to landowners.

Real Property Tax benefits for agricultural use is the single largest tool the county has to encourage local food production and the current system could be more clearly focused to accomplish that goal.

Irrigation Systems

The current state of the five dedicated agricultural water systems on the island is summarized in the report along with a map of properties that draw agricultural water from the domestic system operated by the County Department of Water Supply. DWS is currently the largest daily provider of irrigation water island-wide serving a disperse group of farm activities.

The largest single user of irrigation water on the island is the Natural Energy Laboratory at Keahole Point who provides fresh water to multiple aquacultural businesses.

Ocean Resources, Subsistence Hunting and Honey Bees

The report summarizes useful data related to ocean resource management and emphasizes the need for local actions to insure cooperative management for sustained use of the ocean commons that surround the island.

It also summarizes available hunting data and tries to define the volume of meat taken from the forest and mauka lands to support the food needs of local families. The role of commercial honey bees is discussed and their importance in the food system is also discussed.

Accessing the Baseline Study

A link to the Baseline study is available for public review at

The link will provide a viewable copy of the report and a full digital version for printing purposes. Individual maps and Figures from the report are available on the site as well.

Also on the website is an interactive ArcGIS Explorer Online version of the agricultural mapping database. This data is accessible to anyone with a computer and internet access. It will provide an interactive map of Hawaii Island that will display the location of active crop lands in 2012.

The Hawaii County Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline 2012 was prepared for the Hawaii County Department of Research and Development by the University of Hawaii at Hilo Geography and Environmental Studies Department and Island Planning. The principal authors were Jeffrey Melrose and Dr. Donna Delparte.

County Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline Report

100 Actions to Increase Food Self-sufficiency

The following is a list of ideas and actions that were collected during the process of preparing this baseline study. Collectively, they point to the fact that Food Self-sufficiency is everyone’s kuleana and not just a matter of increasing local commercial food productivity.

Food Self-sufficiency requires some fundamental rethinking about how we interact with the food that we eat and how we value the local economic and nutritional value of a locally produced diet.

This is an evolving list and one that should be added to by everyone who reads it and thinks about what role they play in the process of promoting food self-sufficiency on Hawaii Island.

Where are the sweet spots?
Which ones have a cascading effect on other actions?
Which small actions can lead to bigger outcomes?

These are areas where Hawaii Island needs to locate its collective investments and attention so as to move the bar upward towards enhanced food self-sufficiency.


  • Learn to eat the food products Hawaii already produces
  • Look for, and purchase, locally grown food products in the market place
  • Ask your retailers and restaurants to carry and clearly mark locally produced foods
  • Prioritize “local” over “looks”. It is what is inside the fruit that counts
  • Adjust buying habits to accommodate local crop seasons
  • Take personal responsibility for food safety; wash and handle food correctly, regardless of where it comes from
  • Learn more about the farmers and ranchers who produce the food you ea* Patronize restaurants that highlight the use of local food products and the creative use of Island resources
  • Shop at Farmers Markets for farm fresh produce and new food ideas
  • Increase purchasing of organic products to reduce the use of chemicals and imported fertilizers
  • Look for and support CSA (subscription farming)

Institutional Buyers

  • Adjust procurement methods to enable local purchasing
  • Adjust purchasing patterns to accommodate local seasonality and availability
  • Partner with local producers or groups of producers to help provide a consistent, seasonal supply of local meat and produce
  • Help to develop the market for local staple foods like sweet potato, taro, ulu, banana, and coconut
  • Promote “farm to fork” connections in advertising and on the menu


  • Utilize local produce and meats in food preparation
  • Continue efforts to promote Farm to Plate cuisine and to highlight the use of local ingredients on menus and in special programs
  • Work with farmers to let them know what kind of consistency and quality of supply that is required

Food Retailers

  • Continue efforts to deliver and clearly label local meats and produce
  • Highlight local farmers and ranchers in both in and out-of-store marketing
  • Provide stable markets for local producers and coach farmers and suppliers to enhance product quality and consistency
  • Apply responsible standards for local food quality and safety to help insure the reputation of local food in the marketplace
  • Carry locally produced organic produce
  • Support innovation and new products using local ingredients
  • Offering table/tastings in store for local products
  • Place local foods in a central, visible location
  • Provide recipe cards for locally available produce

State Government

  • Develop a Food Self-sufficiency Baseline for the State of Hawaii to help focus efforts and measure progress towards improved Food Self-Sufficiency statewide
  • Continue support of Buy Local campaigns
  • Develop institutional buying practices for State purchasing that encourage the use of fresh Island produce, meat, fish, and eggs
  • Ensure that State-owned agricultural lands are as productive as they can be, with an emphasis on food production where it is feasible.
  • Increase vigilance at harbors and airports to stem the flow of pests and invasive species that undercut local food production
  • Support Hawaii-based food safety initiatives and provide investment incentives and loan programs to help farmers fund best management practices
  • Support programs that mitigate high shipping costs for grains and other inputs that undercut the viability of local poultry, pork, and beef production
  • Develop new irrigation systems, where feasible, and support irrigation improvements on both State and private systems that will result in increased land available for local food production
  • Create a fund for strategic investments aimed at local poultry, dairy, meat, vegetable, and fruit production and processing, including food enterprise incubators, diversified agriculture processing facilities, and small farm improvement funding
  • Support the pursuit of alternative energies that will mitigate the cost of fossil fuels on local agriculture and consumers
  • Explore technologies to produce non-fossil fuel based fertilizers
  • Develop agricultural extension programs aimed at building Hawaii’s base of small, backyard food producers
  • Promote the use of local staple foods including sweet potato, taro, ulu, banana, and coconut

County Government

  • Continue financial support for Buy Local campaigns
  • Continue to support community-based initiatives that build local food system capacity
  • Practice Buy Local in County food purchasing
  • Revisit the County’s Real Property Tax policies related to
  • Agricultural land use to insure that public tax incentives for agricultural land use result in actual public benefits and promote local food production where possible
  • Expedite building permits for minor farm structures and water tanks
  • Support affordable housing on or near farms for farmers and farm workers
  • Support layering of agricultural and non-agricultural uses (like agrotourism) on agricultural lands to improve the economic viability of farms and ranches
  • Identify core food producing areas and develop programs to encourage the full utilization of these lands and agricultural resources
  • Enable the construction of commercial kitchens that will be available for value-added processing of agricultural products
  • Maintain an agricultural specialist on staff to interface with the agricultural community and to broker support to address local problems and opportunities
  • Research County initiatives and laws across the U.S. that have removed barriers and added incentives to redevelop local food systems
  • Support the pursuit of alternative energies that will mitigate the cost of fossil fuels on local agriculture and consumers
  • Support efforts by farmers, food brokers, wholesalers, and landowners to locate marshalling yards and food packing and processing facilities to serve regional farming needs
  • Create an integrated permitting system that will approve a whole farm plan at one time and allow several years to complete

Department of Education

  • Expand institutional buying for local fresh fruits and vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and snack programs
  • Continue to expand support for school gardens as a context for learning about local foods and the science of agriculture
  • Provide funds to coordinate and expand the role of school gardens and agriculture in the school system
  • Develop a track from high school to the community college that provides future farmers with business skills
  • Create, adopt, and implement the federal Wellness Policy mandate for local school goals that increase nutrition and physical activity
  • Create a pilot project in one school kitchen on Hawaii Island to pioneer the use of locally-sourced foods for school lunches and snacks

University of Hawaii

  • Conduct research focused on the practical issues of Hawaii food production and work closely with farmers to ensure that important information is shared
  • Develop farmer training curriculum to be delivered near farm communities and in multiple languages to support the important role that rural communities and immigrants play in local food production
  • Encourage the use of local foods in culinary training programs and publish recipes that support the use of local food products
  • Increase investment in cooperative extension and cooperative outreach throughout the system, including 4-H programs, to help initiate a new generation of producers
  • Develop an extension service marketing program to build the skills of agricultural producers in l how to commercially market their food products
  • Support local farms and ranches by incorporating local foods into cafeteria menus and highlighting the local producers whose food is being served
  • Set aside land for university community garden plots and utilize the UH Experimental Farm to educate students and community about innovations in home and commercial food production


  • Participate with other farmers and processors in cooperative efforts to assert farm interests, organize bulk purchasing programs and share marketing and distribution efforts
  • Explore new crops and traditional targeting import replacement and the expansion of local products in the marketplace, including staple foods, animal feed, fertilizer, and biofuel stock crops
  • Be creative – explore new markets for products; a diverse revenue stream increases business viability
  • Explore direct sales to consumers as a means to increase farm revenues and reduce costs to local consumers
  • Employ practical Best Management Practices (BMP’s) to insure that produce is safe and free of pathogens
  • Deploy alternative energy technologies in farm and processing facilities to reduce dependency on the rising cost of fossil fuels
  • Help to educate new farmers and farm laborers in the practical business of farming, marketing and processing food to help replace the current aging farmer population
  • Seek out financial and technical assistance in addition to farmland conservation programs available to farmers
  • Utilize hydroponics on the farm, where feasible


  • Sustain efforts to increase the availability of grass-fed beef and other meats in the local market place
  • Support local processors and invest in efforts to expand production for local sales of beef, lamb, mutton, and pork
  • Install pasture improvements to enhance forage production and management
  • Improve existing agricultural water sources and install significantly more reservoir water storage capacity
  • Seek out financial and technical assistance, in addition to farmland conservation programs available to ranchers


  • Fish Today for Fish Tomorrow. Practice conservation and teach it to your children
  • Consider fuel cooperative and/or alternative fuel options to reduce collective costs
  • Expand on-land fish production through aquaponics and hydroponics
  • Participate in issues related to resource protection such as tag and release, catch data collection, and other research to help better understand the opportunities of local ocean resource
  • Follow existing fishing regulations (DAR regulations:

Food Processors and Distributors

  • Develop sustained relationships with farmers to insure product quality, consistency, and competitive value for the foods produced
  • Brand local products clearly
  • Support efforts to process off-grade produce into new products
  • Work with USDA Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) Schools to source and deliver locally- grown fresh fruits and vegetables into snacks to local schools

Large Landowners

  • Make it a priority to have food produced on some portion of available land with sufficient lease term and rents to enable sustained farm investment
  • Encourage sustainable farming practices
  • Enable or assist farmers to provide appropriate structures and services to install security gates, secure storage, restrooms packing sheds, and weather shelters
  • Assist farmers and ranchers to solicit assistance from State, Federal, and other resources to support improved farming practices
  • Assist in the maintenance of water, roads, and housing infrastructure that may be required by lessees
  • Co-invest to provide infrastructure to support agriculture
  • Assist farmers to improve farm security and reduce farm theft

Small Landowners

  • Make it a priority to have some portion of your property planted in fruit trees and household gardens to supplement household consumption
  • Invite others to produce food on lands that are otherwise idle
  • Share surplus production with your neighbors, friends and safety net programs, including local churches and the Food Basket
  • Grow nitrogen-fixing tree and cover crops to nurture the soil
  • Process and preserve surplus foods through pickling, dehydrating, canning, smoking, freezing, or fermenting


  • Commit time regularly to produce some portion of your family’s food consumption through harvesting, gardening, fishing, or hunting, followed by processing and cooking the product with your children
  • Practice “Buy Local” and teach your children the value — cultural, nutritional, and economic — of fresh food
  • Prepare a family meal weekly using only locally produced foods; show them you like the taste and feelings of satisfaction of this kind of food
  • Get to know your local farmers
  • Encourage school fund raisers to promote local products and teach the kids why that’s important
  • Volunteer in or purchase food from your children’s school gardens
  • Increase the amount of food on hand for emergencies
  • Advertise local foods with bumper stickers and T-shirts, then Walk the Talk


  • Encourage your family and friends to eat more local, fresh foods
  • Choose local fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks
  • Learn to prepare local produce and share recipes with friends and family
  • Participate in School Garden programs or ask your school to start one
  • Encourage your family to start a vegetable garden, either in the ground or in pots, and plant fruit trees in your yard

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