Hawai'i Community-Based Food Security

Final Report for EW11-014

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $58,520.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Craig Elevitch
Hawaii Homegrown Food Network
Expand All

Project Information


This project produced a written publication and statewide workshop series focusing on sustainable perennial food-producing landscapes. Integrating perennial food plants in private and public landscapes has many advantages, including:

  • Increasing food production in urban, periurban, and rural areas where the food is consumed, avoiding reliance on fossil-fuel dependent distribution systems.
  • Reallocating some of the fertilizer, pest management, fuel, and labor resources that are currently consumed in ornamental landscapes to growing food.
  • Providing opportunities to supply small, local farmers markets with produce.
  • Expanding opportunities for value-added cottage industries such as preserves, baked goods, fermented products, and other specialty items.
Project Objectives:
    1. A sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes manual for Hawai‘i covering traditional and modern agroforestry systems, local sources of soil fertility, pest and disease control, livestock, and planning and implementation. 
    2. Professional development workshops on five Hawaiian Islands covering the main topics of the manual.
    3. A marketing/information kit for landscape professionals.
    4. A policy brief for elected officials, civil servants, and NGOs.

It is estimated that over 85% of the food consumed in Hawai‘i is imported from the U.S. mainland and other overseas sources. The remaining 15% of food grown locally is almost completely dependent upon imports of fertilizer, chemicals, and fuel for its production and distribution. Despite Hawai‘i’s geographic isolation and high dependence on imports, its environment makes it especially well suited for year-round food production. Indigenous Hawaiians had sustained-yield perennial home, community, and agricultural landscapes that made them among the most well-nourished and self-sufficient peoples in the world for centuries. This project re-introduces concepts of sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes to address food security issues in Hawai‘i.

The project has two main components. First, it produced an extension-level publication for food-producing agroforestry landscapes in Hawai‘i. Second, the project presented five workshops throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

By providing cooperative extension agents, NRCS field staff, landscapers, nursery growers, agricultural consultants, and development organizations with current and detailed training in sustainable food-producing landscapes, this project addresses food security issues by expanding food production and access, supporting small-scale farming enterprises, and building a widening landscape of perennial food production. Implementation of sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes can improve food security at a systemic level over the long term.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Colleen Carroll
  • Paul Massey
  • Dr. Ted Radovich
  • Dr. Gerry Ross
  • Deborah Ward

Education & Outreach Initiatives



Written by Hawai‘i experts in their fields, each chapter of the manual went through extensive review prior to publication. Experts with diverse perspectives from university, the landscape industry, government, and farming reviewed the manuscripts. In all, 11 authors and 26 reviewers contributed. The 320 pages of content are richly illustrated with 345 photographs and other graphics. Each chapter was published as a pdf file on the project web site at agroforest.info as it was completed. After completion of all chapters, a hard copy version was formatted and printed. Over 50 hard copies were sent to extension offices and NGOs in Hawai‘i and the American-affiliated Pacific and over 250 copies were distributed to workshop participants as well as other agricultural organizations in Hawai‘i.

Project workshops took place in 2015 on Moloka‘i (March 21), Kaua‘i (April 25–26), Maui (June 12–13), Kona (June 20–21), and O‘ahu (June 27–28). Local experts presented at the workshops in order to emphasize locally appropriate solutions for each island, in addition to bringing in presenters from off-island (primarily authors of the project manual). The workshops included both classroom-style presentations and field tours of home and community gardens and small commercial farms.

Over 250 attendees and 30 presenters participated in the five workshops. Workshops consisted of a day of classroom-style presentations followed by a day of field tours to model farm, community, school, or home garden sites. Local experts taught the workshops in order to emphasize locally appropriate solutions for each island.

A selection of workshop photos is attached to this report.

Topics included:

  • Important Pacific island crops and agroforestry practices
  • Enhancing soil function using locally available resources
  • Pest and disease prevention strategies
  • Food forestry for home and commercial use
  • Advice and techniques for landscapers
  • Hawaiian cultural perspective on Pacific Island agroforestry 
  • Strategies for converting to agroforestry systems
  • USDA NRCS assistance programs that support agroforestry practices
  • Integrating livestock and poultry
  • Local experiences in agroforestry system implementation

Outreach and Publications

Each chapter weaves together a theme in sustainable agriculture with Pacific Island agroforestry practices, yielding a publication for professionals and practitioners that is unique in the literature. By providing professionals with current and detailed training in sustainable food-producing agroforestry landscapes, this publication addresses food security needs by expanding opportunities for food production, supporting small-scale farming enterprises, and building a growing network of home and community gardens. Implementation of sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes can improve food security at a systemic level over the long term. All chapters are available for free download from the project web site (www.agroforest.info).

Chapter title and brief description

# pages

# illustrations

Sustainable Traditional Agricultural Systems of the Pacific Islands by Harley I. Manner. Covers important Pacific Island agroforestry systems that have been sustained for thousands of years and suggests systems and techniques for adoption in modern day.



Enhancing Soil Function and Plant Health with Locally Available Resources by Ted Radovich, Archana Pant, Amjad Ahmad, Craig Elevitch, and Nguyen Hue. Focuses on the use of locally available resources to enhance soil function and plant health in the short and long term. The emphasis is on a description of the inputs, pros and cons of use, specific conditions in Hawai‘i and recommendations for food producers. 



Pest and Disease Control Strategies for Sustainable Pacific Agroecosystems by Hector Valenzuela. Covers recommended production practices that may be used in agroforestry systems of the Pacific and tropical regions to create resilient production systems and enhance and protect the natural resources on the farm.



Small-scale Livestock Production in Agroforestry Landscapes by Glen Fukumoto. Covers integration of livestock into Pacific Island environments, including local fodder and sustainable waste management.



Getting started with a food-producing agroforestry landscape in the Pacific by Craig Elevitch. Presents a range of concepts related to Pacific Island agroforestry systems. Highlights important traditional species and their services in agroforestry systems.



Grower’s Guide to Pacific Island Agroforestry Systems: Information Resources, and Public Assistance Programs by Craig Elevitch, Garien Behling, Michael Constantinides, and James B. Friday. Describes ten of the most important agroforestry systems of the Pacific Islands and associated practices supported by technical and financial assistance programs through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other state and federal programs. Includes development and value-added processing based on perennial food plants and a resources section (technical guides, periodicals, organizations, and species information).



"Benefits of perennial edible landscapes: A primer for agricultural professionals" How can we address common obstacles to home grown food? What are the benefits of food-producing perennial landscapes? How can people grow food in their home landscapes without increasing their costs? This primer addresses these questions and offers guidance for promoting food-producing landscapes.



"Food-producing agroforestry landscapes for Pacific Islands: A policy brief" summarizes the main conclusions of this project for policy makers.



Marketing/information kit and Policy brief

A 3-page marketing/information guide was developed to assist landscapers in promoting edible landscapes to their clientele. The guide provides suggestions for Similarly, a 3–page policy brief was produced summarizing the content of the project publication. Both publications are available for download from the project web site.


Over 250 attendees and 30 presenters participated in the five workshops. Workshops consisted of a day of classroom-style presentations followed by a day of field tours to model farm, community, school, or home garden sites. Many photos and presentations are available from the project web site www.agroforest.info.

Kaua?i workshop attendees. In all, over 250 people attended the project workshops on five Hawaiian Islands.
Kaua?i workshop attendees. In all, over 250 people attended the project workshops on five Hawaiian Islands.

Selection of workshop photos

Outcomes and impacts:

Total number of visits to project web site www.agroforest.info: 8,500

Total number of web hits on publication pdf files through Oct. 2015: 19,900

Workshop attendees: over 250

Workshop presenters: 30

For more details on the project publication, see “Publications/Outreach”

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

See "Publications/Outreach"


Potential Contributions

Workshop participants represented diverse organizations including University of Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Community College faculty and students, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, Hawai‘i Island Soil and Water Conservation District, farmers markets, and numerous nonprofit educational organizations. Forty-two percent of participants identified themselves as serving at least one of the following agricultural professional roles: educator, consultant, extension agent, landscaper, architect, arborist, and community organizer.

More specifically, workshop participants identified themselves as below. Due to the multiple roles many play in sustainable agriculture, participants were allowed to identify themselves in multiple categories.

Agricultural Professional

  • Landscaper, nursery, architect, arborist 26%
  • Educator 22%
  • Community organizer 12%
  • Consultant, extension, planner 10%


  • Home gardener 63%
  • Farmer 49%

A survey was conducted several weeks after the workshops. When asked, “What future plans do you have for applying concepts you learned about during the workshop?” typical responses from agricultural professionals (educators, landscapers, extension agents, and planners) included:

“Everything I do in farming will be informed by the principles and practices I learned in the workshop.”

“I now know to impress upon land users the ‘system’ approach to agroforestry.”

“Produced more agroforestry trees in nursery.”

“The UH Maui Cooperative Extension Service is currently writing a grant to install an Organic Education and Demonstration Center in our garden area. Since we have existing fruit trees, I'm designing a demonstration agroforestry area that will incorporate concepts and techniques learned during the workshop.”

“Instead of row cropping, I will be diversifying my plantings. I am very interested in developing a technique where I can get the same accessibility to my crops for a slightly larger scale, but incorporating the agroforestry to that model.”

“I am actively planting 3 agroforestry systems ranging from 1–4 acres.”

“Our 260-acre Regenerative Farming Community plans on realizing the exact wisdom and intelligence that was illustrated in the workshop.”

“1. Incorporating more agroforestry workshops into our farmer training program. 2. Incorporating more agroforestry into our farm. Much of our hillside lands are well suited for agroforestry.”

“I have taught and am in contact with UH Office of Continuing Education (OCET) offering Adult Education in Irrigation Systems and Wild Table Plant Identification and Use. I will integrate Agro-forestry in to both of these classes. I'm also in contact with the School Garden Programs and persons … involved with Sustainability; there is an interest in Perennial Edible landscape and Native Plants being incorporated in to ‘the Farm model.’ This is so much better than monoculture!”

“I am ready to inform consultees about some of the concepts from the workshop.”

“I am planning to use the knowledge that I have learned and to use it to my advantage when landowners and others have questions about options for planting trees. It may not be for everyone’s needs but I am more than certain it will fill the needs of most.”

“I do intend to utilize concepts of agroforestry in urban landscape designs, particularly for residential projects.”

“I instruct a course in the Fall which has over 70 students and I can add that many more people are involved with the environmental protection, agricultural improvements, and positive new develops for farmers in Hawaii. The advances in agriculture are slow but still extremely important.”

“I hope to use our state landowner assistance programs to enroll more people using agroforestry systems.”

“I plan to change some garden areas around my house to have a more agroforestry concept. I cannot believe that I would not have considered it, if it had not been for this workshop. I will also lend the book to friends and family and see what their take is and if it can be applied to their gardens and yards as well.”

“Agroforestry concerns are being applied to home garden systems for various clients as well as helping to design a food forest for a local organic restaurant.”

“Inspired to incorporate more diversity into my designs for clients and on my farm.”

“I now have a better understanding of the types of agroforestry available in Hawaii that I can recommend to private landowners interested in the program. I also know more resources to connect landowners to.”

“It is great to get involved in the agroforestry community & create a local network, bring together like minded groups of people in future courses is critical to advancing sustainable agroforestry systems on the islands.”

Future Recommendations

Design of agroforestry systems and research into their productivity are needed for continuing professional development. Other areas requested by workshop attendees are techniques for integrating native plants and economic analysis of agroforestry systems.

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.