BY Melissa Chang

For almost 40 years, the Hawai`i State Farm Fair has been the best way to promote awareness and support for
Hawaii’s agriculture community, especially to people who live in the city. Urbanites flock to the event to learn about locally grown products, from fresh produce to farm animals.

Over time, it grew to include carnival rides, games, and retail booths in an effort to attract a larger crowd and
appeal to different audiences. It moved to various venues around Oahu; the time frame was adjusted to accommodate
consumer traffic.

This year, the Farm Fair is evolving into a new concept: It’s simply going to focus on Hawai`i agriculture.

{loadposition articleads}

The new Hawai`i State Farm Fair will take place on July 26 and 27 on the Bishop Museum grounds. It will
cost $3 for children from 4 to 12 years of age, and $5 for adults; HFBF members plus three guests can get in free.
Parking is free at the Bishop Museum, Kapalama Elementary School, and Damien High School.

“We stepped back and evaluated the whole event and decided it was time to streamline it and go back to its original focus—educating the public on agriculture, especially those that live in the urban core,” says HFBF Executive Director Alan Takemoto. “We looked at various locations, and then BishopMuseum suddenly came up as a willing entity to host us.”

Tim Johns, Bishop Museum’s president and CEO, added: “The museum’s long history of educating families about Hawaii’s unique natural resources fits well with the Farm Fair’s message of sustainability, and the need to support those who care for and work with these precious resources.”

Indeed, as the event has evolved, Hawaii’s agriculture has seen a big shift. In the 1960s, local farmers provided about 60 percent of the produce consumed in the state; today, that number is about 15 percent. According to Matthew Loke, the Administrator for the Agricultural Development Division of the State Department of Agriculture, Hawai`i only produces 20 percent of all milk sold and import 80 percent; 10 percent of beef; 32 percent of fresh fruits; and
just 35 percent of fresh vegetables.

“When you buy local products, it keeps the local economy going,” says Loke. “The money is circulated within the state, so the economic ‘leakage’ is much less. Agriculture products in general have a fairly high economic multiplier. A lot of the inputs are from Hawaii—land, water, soil, and labor.”

“The Food Network has really educated the public on buying local products, as well as trying different things,” says former HFBF president Grant Hamachi. “It’s good for the industry. In order to keep up with consumer demands, the farmers need to then decide if they want to stay small, or go the next step with their businesses.”

Current HFBF President Dean Okimoto, of Nalo Farms, agrees:
“We’ll have farmers from the neighbor islands participating, so we hope they may bring crops that don’t even make it to Oahu, such as local broccoli and celery. The field-to-table freshness really makes a difference in taste, and consumers can learn why it benefits them to buy local.”

The HFBF is still looking for volunteers to help with this year’s Farm Fair. For more information, visit www.hfbf.org or call (808) 874-2074.

“For members, it’s more than just an event; it’s about quality time spent, which is priceless. It’s a great time to catch up with each other, and an even better time to bond with their families, who often join them for the event,” said Hamachi, reflecting on time spent with his family while volunteering.

By the way, the farm fair also serves a good cause. It serves as a fundraiser for the Hawai`i Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF).

“The funds raised are needed to run the organization statewide, pay its employees, and enable support for legislative issues, events, and other things that benefit our members,” explained Katsumi Higa, who had worked on the fair for many years. “It’s very labor intensive, but it supports the organization that benefits us.”

Attractions and exhibits that will be part of the Fair include:
• Agricultural displays and activities
• 4-H Livestock Show and Auction
• Farmers’ Market
• Made In Hawai`i Products
• Orchid & Plant Sale
• Petting Zoo & Pony Rides
• Inflatable Bouncers
• Live Entertainment
• Food Booths

Local businesses and community organizations will present educational demonstrations and presentations such as:

Floral arrangements using local plants, cooking with local products, aquaculture, composting, invasive agricultural products. In keeping with consumer trends, people can learn about organic produce, how to pick the right produce and pork, and new agriculture products in Hawai`i.