I am attaching a post I wrote a few years ago while visiting Kaua’i. I recently found it and it contains some interesting items for discussion about food sustainability in general and the future of agriculture in a state like Florida specifically which shares many characteristics with an island system. Enjoy!
BEEF, MILK AND EGGS
Kaua’i is not immune to the high food prices we all feel these days. Those of us who eat high on the food chain with our organic health food habits would be very much at home here. The island is abundant with organic markets, health food stores and local fruit markets so it isn’t that difficult to find diverse offerings of some of the same products offered on the mainland.
It is an Island though and while we were here the supplier was out of organic 1% and 2% milk. No organic mid-fat milk on the island for three days. Hardly torture. Whole milk is better in my coffee anyway and my waistline, well, no guilt, no calories I always say. Anyway, food prices are affected two fold here by the issues that hit all of us at the grocery store plus the “Island Factor”. Organic milk is $5.75 a half gallon instead of $4.75 on the mainland. Organic eggs are $6.25 instead of $4.95. Now if I lived here I would never pay for an organic eggs because Kaua’i is overrun with wild chickens. Being the nature/farm girl I am, I would have my own flock of trained hens laying fresh eggs for me everyday just like at home but at a fraction of the cost. Chickens on Kaua’i have no predators so that $800 hen house I built last year would be subtracted from my overall poultry management budget.
Now let’s get back to the milk. Kaua’i raises beef. Kaua’i grazed beef naturally raised can be seen roaming the wide open spaces and conveniently frozen in a grocery store near you. So why not Kaua’i dairy cows too. Great idea but no one is doing it because current non-sustainable infrastructures makes it easier to just get milk from the mainland dairies. What are the food miles on that milk? About the same as the organic milk I buy for my home in Florida. Need I mention that Florida is also the third largest producer of beef and I have yet to eat a Florida grass fed cow in my 25 years living in the sunshine state that has not been shipped out of Florida to a feed lot somewhere and then shipped to a slaughter house somewhere else to be shipped to a packing house and then back to my area grocery store butcher. Somewhere in this tangled web of wasted energy is some better way.
Where does one find some sanity to all this? Indigenous knowledge. The ancient Hawaiians had a system of dividing up land called ahupua’a. This system divided the island into pie shaped sections giving each division a mixture of forest, agricultural land, mountains and sea coast. The boundaries extended to the ocean and included deep sea fishing rights and the rights to harvest the bounty of the reefs. Because of the variety of the land the ahupua’a were self-sufficient. Wow! How’d they think of that?
To move forward we must move our thinking back. Back to a time where meeting the basic needs of a community were more important than the branding image of the cute little cow by the red barn in the meadow on the organic whole milk I poured in my coffee this morning.