I am on vacation on the island of Kaua’i at the moment, but phosphorus and agricultural production are never far from my mind. Because the Hawaian islands are so far from the mainland (it was a 6 hour flight from Vancouver to Lihue), imported things are expensive, and that includes food. The up-side from being far and south is that they have a tropical climate where things can grow delicious tropical fruits and veggies year-round. I would also assume that fertilizers are not cheap, and waste management needs to be good as to not contaminate the beautiful natural wildlife (and thus could perhaps explain some of the composting and mulching recycling P on farms).
I stayed at a little cottage on the North shore of the island for 3 days on an organic farm where instead of a B&B where you get breakfast you get to pick all the fresh produce you want while you are there. This time of year there is a lot of citrus, but we also got fresh avocado, bananas, kale, swiss chard, lettuces, cilantro, beets, bok choi, and thai basil. There were also chickens, ducks, and rabbits on site and lots of compost!
I visited a coffee plantation where all the waste was reused on the fields after processing of the coffee beans for export and composted. I also visited a small cacao farm (the highlight of my trip so far!) called Steelgrass where they also grew their own vanilla (which they sell but also use in making their chocolate), had lovely bees that made award winning honey from mostly palm flowers, and had many fruit trees on the property. On that farm all the unused parts of the plants were also left on the soil as fertilizing mulch as well as a key part of the chocolate-making process as cacao flowers are pollinated by nats that need decomposing material.
I visited two farmers’ markets, one in Hanalei and the other in Kapa’a, and it was amazing to see how many people come to buy their produce. The one in Kapa’a especially, where the vendors (which seem to be both farmers and people who have big gardens) sell directly from the back of their trucks and there was actually a traffic jam 15 minutes after the market started because of so many people coming and going. I got to buy some local tasty treats I had never had including fresh coconut (where you drink out of it directly), soursop, jackfruit, longons, rambutan, and passionfruit. It was lovely to see a the popularity of the market!