This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
When America’s farmers and ranchers traveled from the U.S. mainland to the Aloha state for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in early January, they had the opportunity to taste the joys of Hawaiian agriculture – some of the most diverse and specialized in our nation.
When Americans think of U.S. agriculture, they may visualize a picturesque Midwestern farm or expansive green or golden fields of corn, wheat and soybeans. But some 2,000 miles southwest from the continental United States lies the newest of the 50 states with its many different agricultural products.
I first discovered Hawaii’s agricultural diversity 7 years ago when I moved from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) New Jersey Field Office to the Hawaii Field Office. As NASS’s many reports show, Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers raise and grow not just the usual cattle, hogs, milk and eggs but also specialized products such as sugarcane, Macadamia nuts, papayas and coffee. In fact, did you know Hawaii is the only U.S. state where coffee is grown?
Hawaii’s tropical climate and rich soil provide excellent conditions for growing coffee. In 2010, farmers in Hawaii harvested 6,300 acres of coffee. Production totaled 8.8 million pounds of coffee, valued at $33.4 million. The weather and growing conditions also allow taro, a crop deeply engrained in Hawaiian cultural and agricultural traditions, to flourish. In 2010, Hawaiian farmers harvested 475 acres of taro, producing 3.9 million pounds (fresh and processed) of the root vegetable valued at $2.5 million.
The lush agricultural fields in Hawaii hold another distinction, as they provide an extensive network of solar panels and wind turbines. According to USDA’s On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, Hawaii ranks third in the United States for the number of agricultural operations producing on-farm renewable energy. This is a tremendous accomplishment for our state that Hawaiian producers take pride in as they strive to be stewards of the land and our natural resources. In 2009, a total of 43 farms reported using wind turbines on their operations and 520 farms reported using solar panels. Farmers reported saving an average $2,125 on their utility bill in 2009 as a result of such on-farm renewable energy measures.
This information highlighting on-farm renewable energy production was gathered for the first time as a follow-on survey to the last Census of Agriculture. We hope the next Census of Agriculture – which we will mail out in late 2012 – will provide even more exciting insights into Hawaii’s agricultural diversity and community.
To learn more about Hawaiian agriculture, subscribe to NASS Hawaii agriculture statistics reports online. Aloha!
Top 10 Hawaii Agricultural Commodities
|Commodity (2010 Crop Year)||Value of Production ($1,000)|
|2. Sugarcane (unprocessed)||$69,800|
|5. Macadamia nuts||$30,000|