Kohala Chapter of Hawaii Farmers Union United Established and Working

Here’s a sneak preview of an article I submitted to the Kohala Mountain News.  You heard it here first!

Kohala has recently formed a chapter of the National Farmers Union, an organization established in 1902 to unite farmers and others interested in food in cooperative efforts of education and legislation.

The National Farmers Union mission is to advocate for the economic and social well-being, and quality of life of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and consumers and their communities through education, cooperation and legislation. National Farmers Union advocates sustainable production of food, fiber, feed and fuel.  The Vision of the National Farmers Union is to continue to be the respected, influential and independent national voice and coalition leader that bridges family producers and consumers on behalf of a vibrant and growing grassroots membership.  See more at: http://nfu.org .  Follow the drop-down tabs to get to the Hawaii section.

Our local chapter joins seven other chapters in Hawaii, falling under the umbrella of the Hawaii Farmers Union United.

On December 9th, elections were held and a board established.  Dash Kuhr is serving as president, Nate Hayward as vice president, Jim Land as secretary, and Andrea Clipson as treasurer.  Other board members include Clarence A. “Cab” Baber, Gail Byrne Baber, Jana Bogs, and Peter deVries.

Cab Baber with Senator Thielen and her hempcrete building block

Cab Baber with Senator Thielen and her hempcrete building block

Our board has been busy attending influential, legislation-related events on Oahu and the Big Island.  Some items on the legislative agendas include industrial hemp production, an on-farm mentoring bill, direct farm to school food sales, legalizing cottage industry sales (items made in home kitchens), and cow share and raw milk legalization.  Our board members found our elected legislators very interested in the needs of small farmers.

Our last meeting, on January 8th, hosted Ed Boteilho Jr. of Cloverleaf Dairy here in Hawi.   After his family’s more than 50 years of milk production, he is forced to sell due to price controls by Meadow Gold, Hawaii’s only milk processor.  Boteilho is hoping that Ulupono, a Hawaii-based investment company, will take over operations.

To address concerns about the dairy expressed by some of our members, the Kohala HFUU passed a resolution which recognized Mr. Boteilho’s history of avoiding rBST (genetically-engineered hormone injections) and GMO (genetically-modified organism) practices (which are common to the dairy industry) as examples of good management essential for the future sustainability of the ‘aina.  The resolution supports the operation of a local non-GMO dairy in North Kohala; and supports all regenerative practices related to dairy farming and farming in general.

Our Farmers Union chapter meets once a month, at 6pm on the Thursday nearest the new moon at the Kohala Hub in downtown Hawi.  We have a yummy potluck dinner featuring locally-produced foods, interesting speakers, and just plain fun.  Our next meeting will be on Thursday, February 12th at 6pm.  Please come join us!  Our membership goal for 2015 is to have 200 members.  The nearest chapter is in Kona, so we expect to welcome members from the Waimea area too.  Come help us improve our local food production and “Keep Kohala, Kohala” by sharing your mana`o.

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