Given that nearly 90% of the food available in Hawai‘i is imported, and the number of farms in the state and across the U.S. is declining while the average age of farmers is increasing, The Kohala Center’s Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program is dedicated to training new farming families on Hawai‘i Island and inspiring island youth to consider careers in agriculture.
By motivating and training the next generation of farmers, this program seeks to increase local food production, decrease dependency on imports, diversify Hawai‘i Island’s rural economy, create jobs, and move Hawai‘i toward greater food self-reliance.
The Kohala Center created the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program in 2012 with grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and matching funds from the County of Hawai‘i. Through partnerships with several local government agencies and academic institutions, the program will recruit, train, and support at least 25 new farming families in the Hāmākua region of Hawai‘i Island by the end of 2016. The next cohort of the Beginning Farmer-Training Program begins on Saturday, November 7, 2015.
The seven-month course will deliver more than 70 hours of classroom training, hands-on field days, and farm tours over 14 sessions. Led by University of Hawai‘i researchers, extension agents, and other agricultural experts, the course covers a wide range of critical subject areas, such as managing soil health and fertility; crop nutrition; pest management; business planning, and marketing.
In addition to the classroom trainings, hands-on field days, and farm tours, The Kohala Center developed a ten-acre demonstration farm in Honoka‘a to provide apprenticeship opportunities for individuals seeking hands-on farming experience.
Classes meet every other Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Honoka‘a at the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center on the following dates (subject to change):
Beginning farmers who successfully complete the training program and create viable farm and business plans will be able to work with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture to execute short-term leases on farmlands managed by the Hāmākua Agricultural Coop, County of Hawai‘i, and Kapulena Agricultural Park, with the understanding that satisfactory farm operation start-up will allow for longer-term land occupancy.
To apply, download the application and submit your completed form no later than Wednesday, November 5, 2015. For more information, contact Derrick Kiyabu at firstname.lastname@example.org or call The Kohala Center at 808-887-6411.