Last week, I visited with Jesse Delaros and David Wong on his Waianae farm. The timing couldn't have been better to talk about natural farming, using the soil to grow fruits and vegetables, the way nature intended, as many of us had just shopped for our Thanksgiving feasts.
As I marveled at the nearly five-foot high okra on the farm, it reminded me that we often don't think about where the foods we buy come from -- a farm like David's or one in Georgia?
As an island state, we depend on imported foods and other products. With that dependency, comes risk. If for some reason we couldn't get these foods, what would happen?
It's why we need independent farmers like David and Jesse working on new and innovative ways to bring Hawaii closer to food self-sustainability. The practice of natural farming, for example, holds promise for higher yields that cost less and are done in a more environmentally friendly way.
We can help small farmers by buying local fruits and vegetables. We also need to make investments in rural communities. That's why I'm a cosponsor of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, so we can make investments that will support small farms, create jobs and give us more access to fresh, local produce.
Of course, buying local is more than just fresh produce--it is also supporting our local small businesses. This past Saturday was also Small Business Saturday, a day where consumers across the nation chose to do their holiday shopping at local stores. Supporting our local businesses has ripple effects and can help all of us in these difficult times.
This brings to mind the many small businesses in Kona that were particularly hard hit following the March 11 tsunami. The disaster caused property and product damages. Last week, I reconnected with one of these shop owners: Cindy Coats, owner of The Cindy Coats Gallery. Her determination to move past these setbacks was inspiring. She reopened her gallery in July, despite losing virtually all her merchandise--her own artwork.
Through my office's efforts to get victims connected with the appropriate organizations, Cindy received a small business disaster loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"I was the first person to apply for a loan following the tsunami [and] the first person to receive a disaster loan. I'm grateful as it really took the pressure off by knowing help truly was available," Cindy said.
Small businesses are at the heart of our local communities. This year, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii celebrated 100 years of service. I hope you will join me in extending warm congratulations to the Chamber and the thousands of businesses owned by Chinese Americans, on this centennial anniversary.
What do you think we can do to make Hawaii more sustainable? Please let me know -- visit my website www.hirono.house.gov to send an email, call my District Office at (808) 541-1986 or send me a tweet at @maziehirono to share your thoughts on this or any other issues. The direct (free) numbers to call my office from the neighbor islands are:
Hawaii Island -- 935-3756
Kauai & Niihau -- 245-1951
Lanai -- 565-7199
Maui -- 242-1818
Molokai -- 552-0160
Mazie K. Hirono
Member of Congress
2nd District of Hawaii
P.S. Reminder: Medicare open enrollment closes December 7th
A reminder to all Hawaii Medicare beneficiaries and the loved ones who assist them: Medicare Open Enrollment period ends on December 7 this year, earlier than usual.
During this Open Enrollment, you can change plans or shift from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare. Visit www.Medicare.gov for more information.