Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflections on the visit to Hawaii

John Anderson of DeSmet, Class 4:
“I found the diversity of the crops to be interesting given the size of Hawaii. The thing I found most interesting was the lettuce/tilapia farm where they grew both crops using recycled water and the rainwater. To me, being able to integrate the growing of multiple crops together is being very efficient and will need to be done in the future in all countries.

The variation of rain within the island surprised me. What also surprised me was the shipping of feeder cattle to the mainland vs feeding the cattle in Hawaii. I know they don’t have a grain feed supply but the shipping cost of cattle is substantial.

Overall, the trip was very interesting. My take away from the trip regarding agriculture is that every part of the world has issues regarding agriculture. There is no perfect place to be in production agriculture. Hawaii doesn’t have the cold weather and has great climate for the most part but that can cause other issues. Maybe we don’t have it so bad in South Dakota except for the cold winters.”

Terry Jaspers of Sisseton, Class 3:
“The most interesting and fascinating is how producers adapted to the climate and the economics of growing a specific crop in a specific location.  From a big picture standpoint the overall conversion from sugar cane and pineapple plantations to intensively grazed grassland, vegetable, fruits and seed corn was very interesting.  We had seen similar conversions in New Zealand from sheep to dairy, Argentina, grass and cattle to soybeans, corn. I wish we could have spent more time at the Queen Bee business but we got a quick overview of what they were doing. It would be nice to know more about the economics of bee keeping and the major issues facing the honey business.”

Marshall Edelman of Willow Lake, Class 2
The best stop for me was Ponoholo Ranch. Being a cowman 24/7 probably influenced that somewhat. It was very interesting to see the differences in rainfall, etc. I believe I read somewhere that almost all the different climates in the world are represented on the big island except for two. That is amazing.
The ability to raise GMO seed in Hawaii is very important to us here on the mainland as we strive to feed the world. If we lose the ability to produce GMO seeds in Hawaii this will have a devastating effect on our industry.

Bill Slovek of Phillip Class 4
This was the first time for me in Hawaii and all of it was exciting. The most interesting thing is that the volcanoes that formed the islands are still active. Being able to see that was great. 
I never realized there were so many vegetables and fruits, some that I’d never heard of in my life. It was amazing, the different things they have and there are some that are pretty good. Many don't make it to the central United States and a lot of what they produce goes to Asian markets.

As far as cows, it would be fun to ranch in Hawaii and not have to have a hydro swing, a rake and a baler. I wouldn’t have to work all summer to put up hay and then feed the cows all winter.  

After visiting with the cattle ranchers who send their cattle on boats or planes to California to finish, I ran some of the numbers. I figure that what it costs them to ship the critters to the mainline is about the same that I spend on machinery, fuel and labor to put up hay and haul it. I think it could be fun!

To me, it was really interesting to see people trying to grow food without any land. The aquaculture operation raising fish and lettuce floating on Styrofoam in a tank was fascinating. They can be more sustainable with a limited amount of land. It was really neat to see how creative they can be.

Gary Cammack of Union Center, Class 1
The Ponoholo Ranch was the best visit for me as I guess I could most readily identify with the operation. There were a lot of similarities and a lot of differences, really more similarities than differences.

Flying the cattle to the mainland was interesting. It would add a freight charge on top of the bill to go to market. It uses a different mode of transportation. It’s not unlike some of the struggles we deal with each year.

The most diverse ag enterprise and the one I had the hardest time wrapping my head around, was the abalone farm, where it takes 3 years to raise 3.7 million abalone in tanks. That was the most different endeavor.

Connie Sieh Groop of Frederick, Class 6:
In Hawaii, soil, or what is referred to as soil, all originates with the volcano, either millions of years ago or 200 years ago. On the Big Island of Hawaii, land near the road on the west side looked like a barren wasteland while other areas were green and lush with foliage.
Near the Kilauea Volcano, we visited a winery. The manager told me that in order to plant the vines, they used jackhammers to carve out a 2-foot wide trench in the volcanic rock. They put in compost, then added some dirt and the vine cuttings. The jackhammer cracks the rock so the roots can take hold. They are near enough to the volcano that sometimes, when the winds are from the wrong direction, the blossoms on the vines are affected from the sulfur gasses from the volcano. They also grow are able to grow white, green and black tea in that area.