decision-support systems in which we simulate conditions; integrated pest management; and a transformative approach in which large, interdisciplinary teams use their collective efforts on site-specific areas.
She also talked about work based on an ancient Hawaiian concept in agriculture called “ahupua’a.” “The practice was to look at the whole tract of land, from the mountain to the ocean, and pay attention to the interplay of all the factors—soil, climatic conditions, vegetation, wildlife—and how each part interacts with the others and contributes to the whole. We don’t necessarily do that in modern times. Our unit of analysis has been the farm or a single-use geographic area. When you focus that way, the interplay of all of these variables, including the human dimension, gets lost. So perhaps it would be useful to bring back some proven concepts from yesterday to combine with our best science today.”
Dr. Yuen concluded with the thought that “this is a very exciting period to be an agriculturalist, to be engaged in the research and the very hard work of putting what we learn in the lab into practice. Where else can you use your talents and your intellect and all of your skills to feed the world, protect the environment, and improve people’s quality of life?”
Teena Rasmussen, a member of the UH Board of Regents, proposed the flower farm she has run jointly with her husband for 32 years as one model for agricultural development. The 50-acre farm, Paradise Flower Farm, is located in the Kula Agriculture Park on Maui and inhabited by several dozen employee farmers. At the end of the 1970s the county had determined that the park was an appropriate place for agriculture and had put in water lines and roads, leaving farmers to develop the land with the benefit of 50-year leases. The Rasmussens cleared the lots, purchased water meters, and brought in power. The farm has been a success, she said, not only providing fresh flowers and lei in Hawaii and on the mainland, but also offering an enlightened working environment for its employees and farmers. As the farmers grew older, the Rasmussens changed the ordinance so leases could be assigned and sold. This means that if farmers build a building or greenhouse on the land, they can recoup their investment in the building. Now the farms are turning over, and new owners are coming in to continue the farming. The land has been designated for farming in perpetuity. She encouraged the state and counties to promote more such developments on what are termed Important Agricultural Lands (IALs) to preserve Hawaii’s agricultural capacity and way of life.
Dr. Yuen affirmed the value of this agricultural model. She said that the model addresses two key challenges faced by farmers: affordable land and adequate water. These and other challenges are more difficult than the work done in the laboratory, she said, because they’re being resolved in the arena of the real world of politics, competing values and interests, and trying to convince people