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My heart is with Hawaii

by Jessy Beckett Parr |

Photo by State Farm, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

My heart is with Hawaii.   

While processing the news of destruction and loss, I can’t help but think about the long-term agricultural land use of West Maui that led to the deadliest fire in recent US history.   

A decade ago, I traveled to visit a friend farming on Maui. Committed to farmer-organizing, he had joined the Hawaii Farmers Union and through their regular community gatherings he’d met farmers across the island. Together, we visited a small organic vegetable farm just up the road from Lahaina. This farmer was rehabilitating the land after two centuries of soil degradation brought on by monocultural sugar and pineapple farming. I remember standing on the steeply sloped land, noting the absence of topsoil, water, and trees. It was hot, dry, windy, and surrounded by grass. Perfect fire conditions. His farm and home were destroyed by the flames.   

Agricultural land-use patterns engendered by colonization and plantation-style conventional agriculture result in ecosystem failure like we’ve witnessed in Hawaii. While I encourage people to donate directly to immediate relief efforts like Feeding Maui and the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, we at CCOF are answering the long-term call to support the ecosystem health of the Hawaiian Islands. Being an agricultural organization, our call to action is to support Hawaiian organizations to rebuild their soil and community through organic farming and traditional Hawaiian stewardship practices.    

With funding from the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), we are supporting Hawaii Farmers Union United, MA’O Organic Farms, and the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources at the University of Hawaii (CTARH) as they build out farmer-centered organic transition programs. With each of these organizations, we are learning about our kuleana (responsibility & privilege) to properly manage the resources and gifts of the ʻāina (land).   

With laulima (many hands working together) we can work to heal the soil, land, water, and air, and return to a right relationship with the earth.   

In community,   

Jessy Beckett Parr  

CCOF Chief Programs Officer  

PS. If you know Hawaiian organic farmers impacted by the fires, please pass on our Hardship Assistance Grant information.