Under the Sun
No dairy, no egg farm, but we got retail chains
IF you like fresh, local milk, lucky you live Hawaii island. If you like fresh, local eggs, lucky you live Oahu. If you like "cheap chic," then both islands are soon to have what you want.
Trendy consumers salivating ever since Target announced it would open here saw their retail dreams draw closer to reality last week when a chorus line of official types pushed polished 'o''o' into a loose drift of red dirt overlaid on the dun-colored hardpan of Kapolei.
On the same day of celebratory reports about the first store came the news that the last dairy on Oahu will be shutting down in mid-February.
Putting these businesses side by side is kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Better to equate Isaac Mizrahi slacks and a quart of milk. Or mirrored photo frames against a poached egg because while retail thrives in Kona where Target is aiming another store, up the coast and mauka in Kamuela, egg farming doesn't. Hawaii island's last egg farm will be gone by year's end and with it a product residents there eagerly bought despite the higher price.
In a global economy, the loss of a couple of farms doesn't amount to much. Unlike tourism, eggs and milk don't ripple up and down the revenue stream. Neither were big employers. It's not like when sugar and pineapple called it quits, sending thousands of workers to find other jobs.
But it is a continuation of the exit of agriculture in Hawaii.
Despite visions of big ag being replaced by smaller operations growing niche products as well as basic fruits and vegetables, despite sustainability being the au courant buzz word, despite a lot of jawboning about the state's "food security," or rather insecurity, nobody seems to do much to help the people and businesses that grow or produce the stuff we eat.
With just a tickle of prompting, any legislator or council member, any government administrator will lament dwindling agriculture. Still, they let land that once cultivated melons, onions and tomatoes grow houses and shopping malls instead.
It's called priorities. Housing is one, preferably affordable, but not necessarily when property tax collections weigh in. Retail is another because consumer spending is the feedstock of economic energy. Besides, retailers love Hawaii not only for its resident shoppers but because tourism pumps a steady flow of here-today, gone-to-Maui new customers.
Egg and dairy farms can't possibly match the glamour of having your own private Target store. The ooh-ooh excitement springs from deprivation and mainland-envy -- not having one when they are all over the contiguous United States -- curiosity, and from a need for a different dose of retail therapy.
Eventually, the high profile of the new will settle into the flats of the consumer landscape, as did Wal-Mart and Kmart, Pier 1 and the cream puff shop whose name I can't recall immediately.
Eventually, people in Hilo and Waimea will get used to buying mainland eggs just as people in Aina Haina and Pearl City buy milk without considering its source.
The leased pastures where the last Oahu dairy was located eventually will be put to non-farm use and it's possible that eventually no eggs or milk will wear the local tag.
It won't matter much, until and unless shipping to the islands is disrupted. Then we'll see mainland-envy in full.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org