College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension staff Jensen Uyeda, left, examines a tomato plant.

GoFarm Hawaiʻi Grows New Farmers

GoFarm Hawaii enhances Hawai‘i’s food security and economy by increasing the number of local agricultural producers by offering those with an interest in agriculture a combination of knowledge, experience, and support to assist them in becoming viable production growers, and accomplish this in a manner that encourages sustainability.

The beginning farmer-training program GoFarm Hawai‘i is expanding to Hawai‘i Island, thanks to funding from Kamehameha Schools, Ulupono Initiative, and a partnership with The Kohala Center. With this addition, GoFarm Hawai‘i will have five program sites across four islands, making it one of the largest beginning farmer training programs in the nation. The first class at the Big Island location will begin fall 2016.

GoFarm Hawai‘i is a comprehensive and practical training program built around the real-world needs of tomorrow’s farmers. It involves several stages of increasing commitment and learning, from an initial AgCurious seminar open to the public, followed by a series of AgXposure workshops, a four-month AgSchool course, and a six-month AgPro extension that provides deeper learning. Then graduates are eligible for three years of incubation support while they grow crops on land provided by the program.

Specifics of programs may vary by location. All aspects of farmer training, from crop selection and farm equipment instruction to pesticide information and business plan guidance, are covered in a mix of hands-on and classroom learning. The program’s goal is to develop aspiring farmers who can provide local food and other agricultural products for Hawai‘i while being compensated fairly for their efforts.

“We are so excited to offer our training to aspiring farmers with GoFarm Hawai‘i @ The Kohala Center,” said Steven Chiang, director of GoFarm Hawai‘i. “The Kohala Center is a fantastic partner with many programs that support farmers. With this partnership we can leverage our combined resources and know-how to have even more impact on creating farmers for Hawai‘i, addressing a critical need for our state and Governor Ige’s stated goal of doubling our agricultural production.” Mr. Chiang, also the director of UH’s Agribusiness Incubator Program, is a faculty member of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), a key collaborator in the GoFarm program.

The program’s other sites include Windward Community College and Pioneer Hi-Bred on O‘ahu, UH Maui College, and Kaua‘i Community College. Training is also offered at CTAHR’s Waimanalo Research Station. Launched in 2012, the program is now training its seventh cohort of students at the Windward location.

GoFarm Hawai‘i is currently supported by grants from HDOA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Doc Buyers Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation, and Kamehameha Schools. It is also supported by significant in-kind contributions from collaborators. “We are so grateful to Kamehameha Schools and Ulupono Initiative for supporting our vision of creating more farmers for Hawai‘i,” said Mr. Chiang.

“We are pleased to support GoFarm Hawai‘i in its mission to recruit and educate new farmers,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative. “With the average age of Hawai‘i farmers being over 60 years old, it’s critical to find the next generation of farmers who will keep our agricultural industry thriving. The work GoFarm Hawai‘i is doing is playing a big part in finding those future farmers.”

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For Our University, Our Hawai‘i, Our Future