New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled

Final Report for EW03-002

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $46,278.00
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Samir El-Swaify
University of Hawaii MANOA
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Project Information


Sustainable agriculture is an important alternative for beginning farmers in the Pacific Region. This regional project was designed to assist CES and NRCS staff in introducing sustainable agriculture to new farmers in a timely manner, before they have made financial or emotional commitments to farming in a certain way. Project output was a trainer module consisting of a beginning tropical farmer manual, a support website, and a trainer resources CD. The training materials were pilot tested in three locations with teams of CES, NRCS and Community College professionals. Module materials were revised and delivered to CES and NRCS staff via a one-day workshop. The project took three years to complete.

Project Objectives:

• To assist Pacific Region agricultural professionals to become more capable of conducting educational programs for new farmer clients and be better prepared to respond to client needs relating to sustainable tropical agriculture;
• To develop a trainer module for Pacific Region agricultural professionals to help CES and NRCS staff guide potential new farmer clients toward adopting sustainable tropical agriculture concepts and systems;
• To provide hands-on experiential learning for participating CES and NRCS staff via pilot testing of the Trainer Module;
• To improve access to information about sustainable tropical agriculture by providing materials in print, on-line and on CD.


Growing local agricultural products using sustainable techniques has several important advantages for our Pacific islands:
(1) It reduces our region’s dependency on imported food and fiber products;
(2) It expands the palette of regional products that can be exported within the region, to the mainland, or to foreign markets;
(3) Locally grown foods are generally fresher, and are more appealing to local consumers.
(4) Sustainable agriculture has many measurable environmental benefits that are readily recognized and highly valued by the community.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Bob Barber
  • Leomi Bergknut
  • Michael Duponte
  • Richard Ebesu
  • Ann Emmsley
  • Barri Green
  • James Hollyer
  • Dr. Michael Robotham
  • Glen Sako
  • Larry Shinshiro
  • Dr. Chris Smith
  • Jody Smith
  • Brian Yamamoto

Education & Outreach Initiatives



A Working Group was established to guide the direction of the project. The group assisted the project coordinator to identify, collect and review relevant resource materials for the trainer module (new farmer manual, support website, trainer resource manual and CD) and extension outreach literature.

The module for agricultural professionals was delivered to Pilot Teams (composed of CES and Community College staffs) for use and evaluation. This portion of the project was intended to provide hands-on experiential learning for the teams in designing and delivering basic introductory sustainable agricultural information. In addition, the model was designed to foster interaction, partnerships and involvement amongst the participating CES, NRCS and Community College agricultural professionals in Hawaii and the American Pacific.

Pilot Teams held “beginning farmer training courses” with aspiring new farmers in three locations (Kaua’i, Big Island, and Guam). Pilot Teams were encouraged to try out a variety of different formats, to actively involve experienced local farmers in their programs, to be flexible and to experiment. By inviting local farmers to serve as program speakers, the program attempted to actively involve established farmer/rancher leaders and to connect them to beginning farmers. Refer to the New Farmer annual report 2005 for more extensive information about the pilot projects.

Based on feedback from the Pilot Projects, the new farmer manual and support website were revised and finalized.

WEBSITE: The website came online in May 2004 and contained sections in the following topic areas:
• Choosing the Road to Sustainability – introduction to sustainable agriculture
• The Business of Agriculture: Agri-Entrepreneurship Topics
• Sustainable and Organic Production Techniques
• The Farm as Habitat: Environmental Topics
• Animal Production
• Agroforestry
• Trainer Resources
• Frequently Asked Questions
• Upcoming New Farmer Training Events
A hit counter was placed on the opening links webpage and the following “hits” information recorded during the course of the grant:
5/1/2004-12/31/2004: 864 hits total (12% internal to UH system, 88% external to UH)
1/1/2005-12/31/2005: 3446 hits total (5.5% internal, 94.5% external)
1/1/2006-12/27/2006: 3363 hits total (2.7% internal, 97.3% external).
This information reveals that the site continues to be actively accessed, primarily by individuals external to the domain.

BEGINNING TROPICAL FARMER MANUAL: "Towards Sustainable Agriculture: A Guide for Hawaii's Farmers" was printed in December 2006 and is also available on-line.
Twenty-two NRCS and UH professionals assisted in the writing and review of the publication. Generally mirroring the structure of the website, the manual encompasses the following chapters:
• Choosing Sustainable Agriculture
• The Farm as Habitat: Environmental Topics
• Sustainable Crop Production Methods
• Sustainable Animal Production
• Agroforestry
• Marketing
There were 1300 copies printed. Sets of 20 manuals were provided to CES and NRCS education and outreach staff who attended the final polycom meeting.

On December 7th, 2006, we held a six-island polycom workshop linking CES offices in Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, Kona, and Hilo. Bob Barber from the University of Guam was able to join us on O'ahu as well. CES, NRCS and other ag professionals participated. The purpose of the workshop was to provide an updated overview of the New Farmer grant project results and to discuss long-term project prospects. Twenty-five people participated, with 7 from CES, 6 from NRCS, 2 from SWCDs, and completing the group were extension specialists, CTAHR administrators, and other agricultural educators. The Pilot Teams featured a prominent role by giving presentations about their experiences and making recommendations to their colleagues. Presentations on the Kona New Farmer series and the Organic Academy expanded the program. A final presentation about other new farmer programs from the mid-west U.S. helped to widen the panorama of what could be done in the future in the American Pacific. Participants ranked the polycom workshop program and the New Farmer support materials (website, trainer resources CD) as good to excellent.

Outreach and Publications

“Towards Sustainable Agriculture: A Guide for Hawaii’s Farmers” University of Hawaii, 2006.
“Measuring Contour Lines: Building and Using an A Frame” University of Guam, 2006.
“Chicken Tractors” University of Guam, 2006
“Windbreaks” University of Guam, 2006

New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled
University of Guam Cooperative Extension Service Sustainable Agriculture Resource Web

CD: Toward Sustainable Agriculture Trainer Resources

Kaua’i Pilot: 18 sessions, 17 people total attending
Big Island Pilot: 16 sessions, 191 people total
Guam Pilot: 7 sessions, 20 people attending
Oahu new farmer: 10 sessions, ranging from 10 to 60 people attending
Kona new farmer: 15 sessions, ranging from 15-30 attending
Oahu organic academy: 2 day program with field tour, 60 attending
Maui organic academy: 2 day program with field tour, 40 attending
Kona organic academy: 2 day program with field tour, 50 attending

Outcomes and impacts:

SHORT TERM OUTCOMES for extension/outreach professionals
• CES/NRCS Staffs are more capable of conducting educational programs for new farmer clients and better prepared to respond to client needs relating to sustainable land use.
• Awareness and knowledge about the interacting multiple aspects of sustainable agriculture (environmental impacts, production issues, animal production, agroforestry, marketing) has increased.
• CES and NRCS staffs now have instant access to comprehensive web-based materials to assist in answering new farmer client questions about sustainable agriculture. In addition, many of these resources are available on CD and in print.
• CES and NRCS has become more capable and pro-active about organizing and delivering new farmer training programs. There are additional new farmer training programs planned by CES for 2007.
• There is greater communication and networking occurring between CES, NRCS and local community colleges with a focus on sustainable agriculture.
• There is increased awareness and discussion by CES, NRCS and community colleges about the needs of diverse new farmer clients (non-English speaking, immigrants, mainland retirees, Hawaiian Homelands, gardeners moving into farming, youth farmers, prisoners, Chamorro Land Trust) with plans for adapting training materials for different new farmer client groups and situations.

SHORT TERM OUTCOMES for Pacific Region New Farmers
• The education events held (pilot project training events) and the products developed with this grant funding (manual, website) increased awareness, knowledge and skills in sustainable agriculture for farmer participants (Kaua‘i, Big Island, O'ahu, Guam).
• The grant project stimulated the delivery of additional training events (new farmer training in Kona, organic academy on O’ahu, Maui and Kona) which increased farmer awareness, knowledge and skills.
• Farmer cohorts were formed on Moloka’i (organic papaya production, tree farming and agroforestry).
• Pacific Basin new farmer training materials were tested and refined in Guam. They are being distributed to CES and NRCS staff throughout the American Pacific.

SHORT TERM OUTCOMES for Academic Staff and Administrators
• There is an increased awareness within UH Hawaii CTAHR administration for the need for new farmer training programs, based on the positive opinion about what has been accomplished to date.
• There has been formal adoption by University of Guam of new farmer training within their five year plan of work, a major accomplishment.

SHORT TERM OUTCOMES for the Public at Large (Community)
• Public awareness of sustainable agriculture has expanded and public opinion of sustainable agriculture is positive within the communities where pilot projects were conducted (anecdotal reports).

MEDIUM TERM OUTCOMES/IMPACTS (3-5 years) – underway:
• More CES, NRCS and Community College staff are getting involved and delivering better training programs to different new farmer clients.
• Further training opportunities will be available in Hawaii in organic production, agroforestry/ tree farming, Maui new farmer training, and via Moloka’i farmer cohorts.
• The Guam program will be expanded and delivered to landowners eligible for Chamorro Land Trust agricultural lots and to Guam youth.

LONG TERM IMPACTS (> 5 yrs, projected and not evaluated within this 3-year grant):
• CES, NRCS and community college staff will provide excellent sustainable agriculture education programs to support new and existing farmers.
• Knowledgeable new farmers will use sustainable production methods to produce food and fiber in the American Pacific with positive social, economic and environmental results.
• There will be widespread understanding and adoption of sustainable agriculture within the culture of the university systems of the American Pacific.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

This project yielded very high levels of public participation due to the three pilot new farmer training events called for within the grant proposal (Kaua‘i, Big Island, Guam). However, without financial support from this grant, additional new farmer training programs were conducted on O‘ahu (2005) and Kona (2006). In addition, the CTAHR Organic Working Group (formed during 2005) designed a two-day intensive introductory “organic academy” which was fully funded and delivered in the fall of 2006 on O‘ahu, Maui, and Kona. Two more organic academy programs will be delivered in January 2007 (Moloka‘i and Kaua‘i).

There are new farmer training programs on the drawing board for Maui. In addition, a tree farmer/ agroforestry series is in the planning stages for the Big Island.

At a more advanced stage of development, the Moloka‘i extension office is working with cohorts of new farmers affiliated with the Hawaiian Homelands for organic papaya production and tree farming/ agroforestry.

The new farmer project has provided seed money to stimulate CES and NRCS staff to deliver additional training programs. Partnerships between the two to submit grants have resulted in successfully obtaining RC&D funding for the Kona program. The Organic Academy has obtained financial support from CTAHR, the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau. The Guam pilot has been extremely successful in leveraging funding via NRCS CIG funding.

The pilot projects encouraged experimentation to examine the pros and cons of different ways of delivering the training program. As a result, three interesting models have emerged.

Coordinator Model: In Hawaii the majority of the programs were a result of a collaboration between CES and Community Colleges (Office of Continuing Education, OCET). The community colleges provided a venue, promotional information, and for some pilots, a coordination function. Local experts were invited to present on topics of interest to new farmers within their specific area of expertise. NRCS staff was involved to present pertinent information about NRCS resources and programs. CES and OCET planned and coordinated the series of presentations.

Academy Model: The Organic Academy used a different training model. CTAHR Administration provided funding and a PI was selected to coordinate a program featuring individual expert speakers from CTAHR to deliver talks within their areas of expertise. This team of experts was flown to different islands to deliver the classroom segments of the program. Local farmers were invited to present and give the local perspective. A field trip to 1-2 local farms completed the program.

Guam Model: The Guam program used the pilot project to design and fine tune their extension materials and training methods. This program was field tested with prisoners and ag professionals and offered Continuing Education credits (CEUs) for attendance. Extension materials were designed to be more suitable for low input agriculture common within the Pacific Basin area. The extension materials are now ready for extensive delivery to leasees of Chamorro Land and for youth education programs. As noted earlier, the Guam program has succeeded in obtaining solid administrative support for their program within the UOG system, which represents a much deeper commitment to new farmer training. The ambitious outreach program will be ramping up in the next 3-5 years. It may possibly develop into an excellent nationwide model.

Other Observations
• Hawaii CES and NRCS staffs still remain somewhat unaware of the new farmer website and manual, despite relentless communication about their availability over the course of the project. We will need to continue “marketing” these new farmer tools and are committed to this.
• There was an extended publication delay for the new farmer manual within CTAHR. The draft was available in 2004, but wasn’t printed until December 2006. As a result, we have not been able to widely distribute and assess the impact of the publication. We are, however, committed to continuing this process beyond the grant lifespan.
• After consultation with CES and NRCS staff, it was determined that there was no genuine interest nor need to prepare a trainer’s manual. During the course of this grant, a number of excellent publications became available on-line. CES and NRCS staff did not wish to go beyond their areas of expertise and instead chose to invite expert technical presenters. This eliminated the need to prepare a local trainer manual.
• In Hawaii, the infrastructure which we had hoped to develop to support new farmers (apprenticeships, farmer mentors, etc.) has not materialized, despite on-going efforts. The Guam program has been much more successful along these lines.


Potential Contributions

As a result of this project, many Hawaii CES agents are now more aware of the need to incorporate environmental impacts of agriculture into decision making. Traditionally, agricultural colleges in the past have focused little on potential damage from soil erosion, invasive species, escaped agricultural plants into native ecosystems, etc. Because the New Farmer website and the manual "Towards Sustainable Agriculture" deal with this topic in a non-threatening manner, many have been more open to the reality of these possible environmental impacts. NRCS has assisted in this process via their technical expertise and on-going cost-share programs.

Virtually all of the pilot projects gave us feedback that training sessions on basic business skills and marketing were popular, vital and important in the new farmer training series. The pilot project organizers frequently turned to business and successful local farmers as trainers to explain these important facets of successful agricultural production.

Much of the information which is being delivered by CES and NRCS is most readily available electronically on-line. Many successful farmers rely on computer skills for marketing. The Hilo pilot project included a segment introducing farmers to the computer, walking them through some on-line resource available. This training session helped to increase farmer access to the new farmer support website funded by the grant. This success suggests the need to continue offering similar sessions for new farmer clients.

Because this program involved presenting an introductory overview of sustainable agriculture to new farmers, it tied in with and reinforced other SARE funded projects from our region. Information about cover crops, soil quality, sustainable pest control, direct marketing, exotic tropical fruit production, and agroforestry were all incorporated within the new farmer pilot projects. We were able to capitalize on the wealth of information which has been developed by the SARE grant program in Hawaii and the Pacific. Information and products from all of these earlier SARE grant projects are linked to the new farmer website.

Future Recommendations

The "hands-on" experiential learning model used in this grant, whereby CES and NRCS staffs conduct training as part of their professional development program appears to be very effective. After completion of the pilot projects, there was a continued high rate of interest in providing new farmer training. Several CES agents subsequently initiated their own training programs independently from the grant project (Kona new farmer training, Organic Academy, upcoming Tree Farmer/Agroforestry workshops).

Training programs which involved having successful local farmers co-presenting with our extension specialists were consistently rated as very valuable to the new farmer clients. Recruitment of local farmers was difficult, due to the time constraints imposed by active year-round farming. In the organic academy program we were able to provide an honorarium to the local farmer-presenter which helped increase their participation.

The six site Polycom final meeting was complex to organize and set up but it proved to be efficient and effective to get attendance from CES and NRCS staffs across the Hawaiian Island chain. Staff from both agencies are very busy, so the polycom meeting helped save significant amounts of travel time and money. One problem was that some participants were not familiar with the polycom equipment which resulted in some poor quality visuals. With practice and experience, this could be easily resolved. With the expansive distances across the Pacific, rising travel costs, and funding cuts, it would be good to train CES/NRCS in optimal use of this technology.


FEEDBACK from 12/07/06 Polycom Participants:

"I plan to set up a set of workshops/training events for tree farmers. It was valuable to discuss the different models for training - master gardener, organic academy and sustainable ag and hear what worked there." ~ CES Agent

"All information shared was equally important. This helps each group to focus on what they think will work on their island in regards to the program/training towards farming and sustainability." ~ USDA NRCS Staff

"I'd also like to offer up my thanks and admiration for your efforts. I came late to the process but was delighted in the efforts made by all with the programs and the development of such excellent resources. I came away from the meeting with the realization that we have a group of excellent resource people throughout CTAHR and the state, dedicated to helping farmers, new or otherwise, be successful." ~ UH Administrator

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.