Located more than 2,000 miles from the continental US, Hawaii imports 85-90% of its food, making it vulnerable to disruptions in the food supply, according to the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. of the State of Hawaii. Additionally, the state struggles with an aging farming population and a lack of farm labor. As USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) celebrates Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI), NIFA is proud to support the University of Hawaii (UH) as it grow the next generation of state farmers.
The University of Hawaii (UH) recognized the need to develop new farmers focused on commercial production and help existing farms increase yields and profitability.
A team from UH Extension created GoFarm Hawaii (GFH) to develop and support commercial farmers who are well-prepared to meet business and production challenges and immediately contribute to the state’s food sustainability goals.
NIFA’s Competitive Educational Grant (ANNH) Program for Institutions Serving Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians provides crucial financial support for GFH.
NIFA National Program Leader Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard said the GoFarm Hawaii project is a clear example of the goals of the ANNH program.
“The ANNH program seeks to strengthen the capacity of institutions that serve Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians to conduct education, applied research, and community development programs,” Jones-Jamtgaard said. “GoFarm Hawai’i achieves the goals of the program by focusing on improving food sustainability and the local economy by engaging adult learners in experiential learning across the state. In addition, GFH actively engages with native Hawai’i farmers and businesses. Hawaii and incorporates indigenous farming practices into its programming.”
GoFarm Hawaii uses a variety of outreach methods to engage not only potential new farmers, but also current farmers looking for ways to improve their operations. In fiscal year 2022, GoFarm Hawaii hosted events to reach newcomers to agriculture while teaching more in-depth content in multi-day workshops and schools. In addition, Extension professionals conducted more than 60 one-on-one business consulting sessions to support existing farm operations and delivered sessions on topics including on-farm scaling and value-added product development.
Of the post-high school agricultural training programs available, GFH is the only statewide and the only one that incorporates production, business, and ongoing support after graduation. The program prepares students for careers in agriculture, allowing many to start independent businesses, improve business practices or obtain employment within the agricultural industry while accumulating capital and experience to start a business. In addition, GFH is the only agriculture-focused business education and consulting program in the state.
The efforts of the UH Extension team are paying off. More than 40 GFH graduates have started farming commercially, while other graduates are working for others in agriculture or supporting the food system. GFH is reaching important underserved groups, with significant numbers of participants being ethnic minorities or women. The GFH program is having success in developing new farmers and the demand for the program continues to grow.