How Important is Agriculture Today?

Posted on Jan 31, 2013 in Ag Resources

Agriculture has always had a special place in Hawaii history and continues to be an important industry, generating $2.9 billion to the state’s annual economy and directly and indirectly providing 42,000 jobs.

Historically, the ancient Polynesian voyagers traveled to Hawaii, bringing with them plants such as taro, bananas and other staples to sustain themselves. Hawaii agriculture began with small farms covering the islands, growing everything from sweet potato to rice. Fishponds were created along the coasts to raise fish and other seafood.

The plantation era witnessed the boom decades of the sugar and pineapple industries, expanding over thousands of acres of prime agricultural lands. Fields of green spread far and wide, contributing to the lush scenery that made the islands so attractive to visitors.

Now, with the decline of the sugar industry, these agricultural lands are returning to a new era of small farms growing diversified agricultural products. Crops such as specialty exotic fruits, coffee, macadamia nuts, flowers and foliage not only provide fresh produce and flowers to Hawaii’s markets, but also have become major exports to destinations around the world. The early fishponds have evolved into high-tech aquaculture ventures, farming from the sea sumptuous varieties of fish, shrimp, lobster, abalone, and seaweed.

“Grown in Hawaii” exports have gained recognition in foreign and domestic markets and have become synonymous with premium quality delicacies. The lure of Hawaii and the reputation of our products have led to the exportation of a host of fresh and manufactured products to markets and stores abroad, especially in Canada and Japan.

Increased efforts to expand the market for Hawaii’s agricultural products are also progressing in unique ways. The development of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a blending of the flavors of East and West, utilizes fresh island products, including fresh fish and seafood, tropical fruits and vegetables in new combinations.

How important is Hawaii’s agriculture today? Aside from the obvious benefits of providing food and jobs, agriculture also plays a major role in preserving Hawaii’s precious green space. As urban sprawl encroaches onto rural areas, Hawaii agriculture keeps our islands lush and vibrant.

Hawaii’s leading industry, tourism, also depends on agriculture. Each year, millions of visitors from around the globe travel to our state with the great expectation of viewing spectacular landscapes of green vegetation. Trends in the travel industry also show an increasing interest in eco-tourism, farm tours and cultural experiences; attractions that are all agriculturally based.

Agriculture in Hawaii is evolving as economic and social factors change here and globally. The future of local agriculture remains full of economic potential. Therefore, support for Hawaii agriculture has never been more important than at present.