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To be certified by the USDA, not only do you need to follow a certain set of growing practices, you also need to complete a series of record-keeping processes to be able to prove to a 3rd party auditor that you are properly following the organic guidelines established by the USDA. This also involves paying annual fees and can be time consuming, leading many small, local farms in Hawaii to grow with organic practices but rather than going through or continuing their USDA Organic certification. Only a handful of farms, especially on Oahu, are certified organic, such as MA’O Farms or Small Kine Farms.
Other farms do use petro-chemical fertilizers or insecticides depending on the need. Part of the challenge of farming in Hawaii is there is no frost season as you have in the continental US that kills off most of the growing pest population, allowing your fields to get a natural break. The benefit is having a year round growing season, however pest problems are growing year round as well! Certain crops are highly susceptible to pest problems including tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons. Farms such as Ho Farms, do use fertilizers and sprays as needed. Interestingly enough, as of May 2016, the farm is trying a new line of certified organic products. According to Shin, the farm’s Operations Manager, they need to determine if they are able to make money before they transition completely to organic, which to any business, is extremely important.
By having our focus on local farms, we work with a variety of farms using different growing practices. The one common connector is that the farms we work with are using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) which applies to both certified organic and conventional growers. GAP controls the practices of the farm by regulating planting methods, following all guidelines for any fertilizers or pesticides (organic & conventional) used as well as treatment of farm workers.
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