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Buying locally grown ag products good for you and your community


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POSTED: Friday, November 06, 2009

As we struggle to stretch the value of our dollars during these difficult economic times, and begin to make holiday purchasing decisions, here are some seeds for thought. We ask the Hawaii community — retailers, wholesalers, distributors as well as consumers — to, whenever possible, buy local. It matters!

A newly formed partnership, called “;4 Ag Hawaii,”; is being spearheaded by the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii, the state Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources. This partnership is committed to raising the awareness of the importance of agriculture and to expanding the agricultural industry in Hawaii.

Buying local keeps the money flowing through our community and directly and indirectly supports our island families, friends and neighbors. For instance, when you purchase items over the Internet from companies outside the state, your money is sent directly out of Hawaii. So if you have a choice, choose to purchase items that were grown or produced here in our islands.

In many instances, this means just a little change in your buying habits and may even save you money. For example, instead of purchasing expensive boxes of mainland fruits to send as gifts, send local fruits that have been pre-inspected for export, such as pineapple, papaya and even apple bananas. Send jams and jellies that were made from local fruits rather than those that were imported from elsewhere. Hawaii-grown coffees and macadamia nuts are always a special gift appreciated by anyone, anywhere.

Instead of sending a bouquet made of roses from South America, ask your florist to send a tropical holiday bouquet made of local flowers and foliage. Or, instead of purchasing a pine wreath that was imported from the mainland, look for holiday wreaths that feature Hawaii protea, anthuriums and other tropicals, and look for local poinsettia or chrysanthemum plants.

When planning holiday get-togethers, prepare meals using locally grown beef, eggs, fruits and vegetables. If you're making a fruit salad for a potluck, choose to use sweet and fresher local fruits. If you have a favorite holiday recipes, think about substituting ingredients with local produce when possible.

These are just some examples of what all of us can do to help support Hawaii's agriculture and economy. It may seem like small contributions, but if we all did a little, it would have a significant impact on our economy.

Supporting Hawaii agriculture supports our hard-working farmers and helps preserve agricultural jobs. It is estimated that our state imports 85 percent of all consumer goods. In recent history, Hawaii has been fortunate that transportation disruptions have been either averted or of short duration. Still, it is important that we increase our self-sufficiency, especially regarding perishable foods. Raising our level of self-sufficiency increases our food security.

There are other significant reasons to buy local. Reducing the amount of imported foods also reduces the risk of imported plant pests and diseases, which cost our state millions every year to control. Agriculture helps to keep our landscape green and vibrant and recharges our aquifers. In addition, sustainable agriculture practices also improve stewardship of the land and the environment.

A study released earlier this year indicated that if Hawaii replaced just 10 percent of foods we import with locally grown and manufactured foods, it would:

» Generate approximately $94 million for local farmers;

» Have an economy-wide impact of $188 million in sales;

» Create $47 million in earnings and $6 million in state taxes;

» Generate 2,300 jobs.

Let's create our own economic stimulus and help keep our farmers on the job. Whenever possible, buy local — it matters!

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The leaders of 4 Ag Hawaii are Vice Adm. Robert Kihune USN (Ret.), chairman, Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii; Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairwoman, Hawaii Department of Agriculture; Dean Okimoto, president, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation; and Andrew Hashimoto, dean, UH College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources.