A Completely Different Culture: Video Transcript

Audrey Lipps [junior major in Individualized Studies with a focus on environmental and social justice studies, Class of 2019]: When I was a senior in high school, right after I graduated, I went to the big island of Hawaii to do farming work, and then I was farming there for only 3 months. All of the farms that were organic in my area, it was a huge farming area, were run by white people. And at the farmer's market, most of the booths were also ran by white people who had farms. So that was the first time I started thinking about me being an outsider in the United States, technically.

Hawaiians and Hawaiian ancestors and their deep, deep, beautiful connection to the land really relies on ancestors and the ocean and the valleys and all of these incredible resources that we've taken. There's this 'white savior' complex of farmers who will come into Hawaii, and they will start to buy up all of the land because they can afford it, and there are a lot of reasons why Hawaiians can't afford as much land, and that's what I went into in my ethnography.

But I thought it was strange how a mango was $4 a pound, and the Hawaiians who were coming to the market weren't able to buy this organic or 'haole,' which means 'white people' or 'hippie' food because it was too expensive. Ironically, we're taking the land and growing it, and then they aren't able to buy or eat it.

I'm extremely interested in food justice and food sovereignty, and especially in a place like Hawaii, while still having American citizenship, you know, while being a tropical island. So I connected with Western when I came back, and I thought I really want to go back to Hawaii and figure out what's going on. And so I created my syllabus and my reading list for eight months of ethnographic research in Hawaii. I could have done 5 years, it could have been a thesis there. I wish I'd had more time.

I interviewed 15 people, and my research question was, "What motivates native Hawaiians and Hawaiians to grow or consume organic agriculture?" In a nutshell. And I was just asking people why are Hawaiians not in the organic food movement, or where are they, and why aren't they as visible as white farmers, and just trying to get down into that question.

I was able to really experience a completely different culture than my own. And to be in a place where, I mean, I lived in a tent for 8 months! And I didn't have electricity or wifi a lot of the time, and I had a generator that I had to figure out, and I didn't have a car for a really long time, and, you know, I watched the sunset every day. Just all these different experiences that I would never have had, I think. And to just experience people's stories, which have always been so inspiring to me. And to be able to tell people's stories in a different light, I think, than they would have ever thought.

[November 2017]