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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting kicks on the farm

When the vandals who destroyed half of Jerry Punzal's papaya crop are caught, they will inevitably be a group of teenage boys who will stand before a judge, wearing clean shirts and doleful expressions. With downcast eyes, they will mumble their apologies to the farmer, to their familes and to the community, and will solemnly accept the sentence that's already been worked out with the prosecutor.

Just like the ones who drive drunk, or race on the freeway, or beat up helpless people, or break into homes, these vandals will express remorse, ask for forgiveness and wish somehow they could take it all back.

An obvious provision of the sentence would be to pay for 200 papaya seedlings to replace the ones they destroyed at his Mililani farm. And since this hearty crew apparently had no difficulty with the work of chopping the trees and damaging Punzal's irrigation system, they should be ordered to show up at the 35-acre farm on weekends and holidays and offer themselves up for whatever labor is needed, say, for the next year or so.

Or maybe Jerry Punzal is just so sickened by the whole senseless episode that the idea of supervising these coddled suburban idiots while they try to figure out which end of the shovel goes in the ground would just make him more agitated.

For all of the lip service we direct at the preservation of agriculture in Hawai'i, farms remain one of the most frequent targets of vandals and thieves. Twenty-seven percent of Oahu farms have reported vandalism or theft, according to the latest statistics, and 9 percent of statewide farm income has been lost to destruction or stealing of plants and equipment.

We are confident the police will make arrests in the Punzal case and we hope their punishment is sufficient to reimburse him, as well as to send a frightening message to other bored teens thinking about getting their kicks on the farm.