Hawai‘i is committed to doubling local food production for local consumption. To track progress on this statewide goal, it is important to understand what food is being produced in Hawai‘i, what is imported, and what is exported. Unfortunately, the "Statistics of Hawai‘i Agriculture” that included export and import data, compiled by the Hawai‘i Agricultural Statistics Service in cooperation with the National Agricultural Statistics Service, has not been published since 2009. Until Hawai‘i starts tracking import data for the state again, a proxy for starches will be tracked on this dashboard.
*Based on NASS Census data
Kalo, also known as taro, is integral to Hawaiian culture and subsistence. Kalo was the most significant dietary staple for Native Hawaiians, supplemented by other principal and traditional foods, including breadfruit (ulu), sweet potato ( ‘uala), fish (i‘a) and seaweed (limu). Kalo is central to the creation story, the Kumulipo, and is revered as the nurturing older brother. Kalo is traditionally grown through both wetland and dryland cultivation (lo‘i and mala), and developed into several hundred varieties depending on climatic zones, growing seasons, and desirable traits. Today, approximately 90% of the kalo produced is from one variety, Maui lehua. Commercial growers have transitioned a majority of kalo production from the traditional methods to commodity mono-crop methods. While traditional kalo production has decreased greatly over the past century, there are many communities across the state restoring and stewarding lo‘i kalo to ensure the continued abundance of this important crop.
‘Ulu is a high carbohydrate starch rich in nutrients that served as a food stable for Native Hawaiians. ‘Ulu can also be used for woodworking, medicinal purposes, and is a part of numerous Hawaiian mo‘olelo (stories), known as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. The National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hana, Maui contains the largest known collection of breadfruit cultivars in the world, and is working through the Breadfruit Institute to respond to global food security through ‘ulu cultivation in communities. Currently the State of Hawai‘i does not track production data on ‘ulu.
Numerous varieties of ‘uala, sweet potato, are grown in Hawai‘i due to ideal conditions for this crop to flourish. Sweet potatoes, along with taro, were a major food stable of Native Hawaiians. The stem and tips of sweet potato can be boiled or fried and served in soups and salads, and the roots and foliage can be grown as feed. The statistics on sweet potato production in Hawai‘i are not currently published and it is important to note that a large portion of sweet potatoes are exported every year.
Learn More and Make a Difference
- Hawaiian Breadfruit, Ethnobotany, Nutrition, and Human Ecology http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/breadfruit.pdf
- Explore kalo recipes: http://www.kaukaukitchen.com/pages/recipes-kalo.htm
- Hawaii Homegrown Food Network: http://www.hawaiihomegrown.net/
- Explore agroforestry: http://agroforestry.net/
- Explore National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute: http://ntbg.org/breadfruit/