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Back to the Future

Agricultural condos may be the solution to our growing problems.

November 19, 2009
Commentary contributed by Norm Franco · Wailuku

My heart goes out to young families. How can they afford to provide the basics of shelter, food and clothing for their children with this ever-increasing cost of living?

Then I remember my childhood. My parents were working-class people. They only had a grade-school education and earned minimum wage, but they were able to provide not only a home, food and clothing for their three children, but also a college education, because they were also able to grow food on the family acreage.

Can this be done today? The answer to that question is yes—and here is how:

The major landowners on Maui must be willing to work with our public officials in creating agriculture condos—five acres surrounded by five homes. Each cluster of homes will have the right to farm their five acres to provide subsistence for themselves, with whatever they have leftover to be sold to a farmers’ market co-op.

Each cluster of five homes will be run like a condo project: They will have an agreement to provide labor for farming and share the cost of maintaining the common areas.

Then we will get more affordable homes built, and get better utilization of the acres of unused and unproductive land. We would enable people to have more control of their financial destinies. The non-farming populace of Maui would have the opportunity to buy better quality produce directly from the producers, and save money.

This concept of ag condos is not new. The kibbutz system (Hebrew for “communal settlement”) has been around for 40 years in Israel. In Israel, a kibbutz is a group of people dedicated to mutual aid, social justice and education of their children based on the principle of joint ownership and the fulfillment of their mission statement: “from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs.”

About 2.5 percent of Israel’s people live in kibbutz, yet they are responsible for 33 percent of that country’s agriculture production. They have now ventured out to kibbutzs for manufacturing and high-tech computer services.

As Proverbs 13:23 states: A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.



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