Monday, October 12, 2015

Organic farming in Islands up 60 percent since 2008

Organic farming in Hawai`i is going gangbusters, according to a new federal organic survey.

The 2014 Organic ProductionSurvey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that there are now 166 organic farms in the Islands, and that they’re tilling 3,505 acres.

Hawai`i State Statistician Kathy King has worked through the national numbers.

If you’ve been under the impression that most organic farmers are selling at farmers’ markets or directly to local consumers, you’d be wrong. It’s a much bigger business than that. 

Only about a third sell directly to consumers. Another third sells to retailers, and the third group to wholesalers. (The actual percentages are 28 consumer, 37 retail and 35 wholesale.)

It appears that if you like local food, organics are pretty significant players in that market. But they also have a big export role.

The survey shows that 49 percent of organic products are sold within 100 miles of the farm—which pretty much means on the same island as where they’re grown. Another 16 percent are sold within the state of Hawai`i. 

That said, a big proportion, 35 percent of organic crops, are shipped out of state. (The 35 percent breaks down to 30 percent shipped within the country and 5 percent internationally.)

Most of the value in organics is in vegetables, although more growers are producing organic fruits. Sixty-one farms produce $8.7 million in vegetables. One hundred twenty-six farms produce $3.4 million in organic fruits. That makes the industry worth $12.1 million.

And that’s a big increase since a survey in 2008, when the total was $7.6 million. That represents a 60 percent increase in organic farming value over six years.

In addition to crops sold fresh, 44 of the islands’ 166 farms made value added products, which had a total value of $1.8 million.

A release from the National Agricultural Statistics Service Hawaii Field Office reviews some of the production practices of the organic farmers of the Islands:

“The majority of organic farmers in Hawaii used the following production practices: organic mulch/compost, green or animal manures, no-till or minimum till, maintained buffer strips, and water management practices. 

“Other production practices utilized were biological pest management, maintaining beneficial insect or vertebrate habitat, selecting planting locations to avoid pests, releasing beneficial organisms, choosing pest resistant varieties, and planning plantings to avoid cross-contamination.”

An overview of Hawaii anagriculture as a whole finds that there are 7,000 farms in the Islands, covering 1.12 million acres. 

Coffee has the highest value at $54.3 million, followed by macadamia nuts at $40 million, bananas at $11.8 million and papayas at $11.3 million. 

Taro stands at $1.9 million and avocado at $1.6 million.
Perhaps the most significant numbers are about the primary operators of Hawaiian farms. Only 52 percent, 3,642 of 7,000 of Hawaiian farmers do it full-time. And of those farmers, 2,666 are 55 or older. Of those, 1,445 are 65 years old or older.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015

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