Building Competencies in Hawaii’s Agricultural Professionals and Stakeholders in Under Represented Agricultural Communities Through Collaborative Partnerships. State of Hawaii.

Progress report for WPDP19-21

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G133-20-W7504
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii, PEPS
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Joshua Silva
University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture a
Jari Sugano
University of Hawaii, TPSS
Michelle Gorham
West Oahu Soil and Water Conservation District
Dr. Koon-Hui Wang
University of Hawaii
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Project Information


Hawaii is the most geographically isolated population on the planet which relies on 85-90% of imports for food (S/H DBED, 2012). Ninety-five percent of farms in Hawaii are small family farms (USDA NASS, 2012). This PDP proposal aims to increase food self-sufficiency and security in the Hawaiian islands by forming a consortium between the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH CTAHR) Cooperative Extension and Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program (SOAP) with state agencies, new farmers’ training programs, farmer’s unions, community colleges’ ag programs, and other essential public and private organizations to develop educational programs that support a “Together We Farm” movement initiated by West Oahu Soil &Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Our specific objectives are:

  1. Increasing farmer awareness of sustainable agricultural practices that promote soil and water conservation through collaboration with traditionally under represented farm communities across Hawaii,
  2. Empowering Hawaii’s rural farm communities through the hands-on teaching demonstration method (train the trainer’s approach) and becoming active information seekers, and
  3. Examine the regional, economic, social, and environmental implications of adopting sustainable agriculture practices and systems.

We anticipate providing agricultural professionals and producers with the technologies, skills and competencies to increase on farm productivity and efficiency; practice responsible farming by safeguarding human health, reducing chemical inputs, enhancing on farm biological and natural resources, recycling local waste as farm inputs; become active information seekers and transformational leaders; reaching out to Agribusiness Incubator Programs that master in agribusiness, marketing, ag tourism; and improve the overall quality of life of Hawaii’s farmers and agricultural communities through education, outreach, and applied local research. 

Project Objectives:

We will maximize the limited resources available for agricultural professional development training in Hawaii while building long-term trusting relationships and heightening competencies.

Specific objectives to achieve all WSARE goals
1. Increase farmer awareness of sustainable agricultural practices that promote soil and water conservation through collaboration with traditionally under represented farm communities across Hawaii. (Year 1)
a. Identify key under represented farm communities across Hawaii with multiagency collaboration and support
b. Work with community agricultural leaders to boost sustainable agriculture education.
c. Strengthen partnerships with local teams of extension agents and NRCS staff which will allow SOAP to reach more stakeholders and increase awareness of sustainable agriculture practices.
d. Design, deliver and evaluate in-depth training on priority sustainable agricultural topics based on the needs of those who service and farm in these agricultural communities.
e. Develop simple, yet science-based presentations in lay terms with heavy visuals (translated if necessary) to increase and reinforce sustainable agricultural concepts.
f. Transfer new technologies to address priority need areas for agricultural professionals.
g. Engage and involve agricultural leaders into our program design, implementation and evaluation
2. Strengthen the viability of Hawaii rural farm communities through hands-on teaching demonstration (Year 1-2)
a. Strengthen established relationships.
b. Incorporate the hands-on teaching demonstration technique into programming to build confidence and competency in our staff and community leaders.
c. Develop workshops, field days, farm tours and round table discussions on subjects on responsible farming, reduced risk edible commodities, environmental stewardship, food self-sufficiency, etc.
d. Exposing family farms to Agribusiness Incubator Program at UH with specialty in agribusiness, marketing, sales, ag tourism
3. Examine the regional, economic, social, and environmental implications of adopting sustainable agriculture practices and systems.
a. Track the level of adoption of producers in sustainable agricultural practices and note changes in knowledge, skill, and adoption.


Agriculture in Hawaii that was once dominated by the sugar and pineapple plantation industries has shifted towards a diversified agricultural system. Currently, 63% of farms in Hawaii are < 10 acres with 88% of total farms farming on < 50 acres, with less than $50K in annual sales. Ninety-five percent of Hawaii’s farms are considered small family farms (USDA NASS, 2012). New, beginning and Asian immigrant farmers enter Hawaii’s agriculture industry with little to no experience in sustainable and legally compliant crop production (Sugano, 2013). Experienced farmers from outside the US have a lack of trust in government programs, and need to stay close to their rural farming areas. They are often under-represented. Most critically, these farmers are challenged by new government regulations on pesticide drift, food safety, farm dwelling, worker protection, etc.

A change in Hawaii’s agriculture industry has prompted a need to increase awareness about the environmental and economic impacts of efficient and sustainable agricultural practices. To be successful we must engage and earn the trust of non-traditional stakeholders, especially those who with limited resources or are socially disadvantaged. For example, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiians and their respective crop advisors. The ability to attract and educate new stakeholders about the benefits of sustainable agriculture can only happen if we find a way to understand their orientation to learning (Knowles et al., 2005).

Our team is largely composed of members from SOAP at UH CTAHR. We are committed to fulfilling the Land Grant University mission of instruction, scientific research, and outreach. CTAHR utilizes the human resources of statewide Extension agents, collaborative partnerships, and various forms of traditional and distance education technologies to transfer research and technology discoveries that can better prepare farmers’ ability to deal with the many facets of crop production. Our goal is such that they can choose and utilize specific technology and practices best suited to meet their diverse needs. Fortunately, new farm coaches are being recruited statewide into the UH GoFarm Hawaii Program, a new farmer training program aimed at increasing commercial farmers in Hawaii. In 2018, Hawaii State legislature passed a bill for CTAHR to recruit 10 new tenure track extension positions, two of which are dedicated to promote sustainable agriculture. Therefore, it is most timely now for SOAP to develop a Professional Development Program to “Train the Trainers”.

A needs assessment of agricultural professionals revealed that additional in-service educational trainings opportunities are needed in the following priority areas: pest management, produce quality, creating educational video, accessing social media to reach clientele, ag technology, cost of production, post-harvest quality, plant nutrition and soil fertility, distance education, cultivar selection, etc. (2018 SOAP Needs Assessment). We anticipate utilizing a collaborative approach to increase knowledge and competencies within agricultural professionals and stakeholders across the state via implementation of grass roots methods targeted at reaching nontraditional and underrepresented clientele of Cooperative Extension in Hawaii.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Michelle Gorham (Educator)
  • Joshua Silva (Educator)
  • Dr. Koon Hui Wang (Researcher)
  • Jensen Uyeda (Educator)
  • Sharon Wages (Educator)
  • Dr. Amjad Ahmad (Educator)
  • Dr. Theodore Radovich (Researcher)
  • Janel Yamamoto (Educator)
  • Pomai Weigert (Educator)


Educational approach:

The Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program is a team of Cooperative Extension agents and specialists with an established network of government and industry partners. SOAP has established a solid reputation for delivering timely, useful, quality outreach and education to Hawaii’s producers. However, many growers in Hawaii still remain underserved. There is a need to expand SOAP’s contacts both within current targeted communities, and into new farmers in underserved areas.

In 2019 and early 2020, we initiated the development of the statewide train-the-trainer curriculum with emphasis on visual or hands on activities related to sustainable agriculture.  A field day was scheduled in April 2020 to educate growers and train agricultural professionals.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our educational outreach was halted, shifting educational approaches to digital and virtual methods to disseminate information to growers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Conservation of Natural Resources

Enhance the quality and productivity of soil by conserving natural resources while improving the quality of our surface and ground water.


Limited land availability, repetitive mono-cropping and the lack of organic matter replenishment have resulted in nutrient depletion in many Hawaii soils. For an island state, fertilizer applications and soil health must be monitored regularly to minimize erosion, nutrient leach, and ground water and ocean contamination. Increased education of these issues is critical to sustain our island resources.

Co-PI Wang created a YouTube video that demonstrated the benefits of cover crops such as white clover, wheat grass, sunn hemp, and oil radish towards soil infiltration, runoff prevention, and overall soil health.  

Co-PI Wang's Soil Health and Cover Crop Video ( )

Co-PI Wang has also established several soil conservation projects pertinent for Hawaii agricultural and soil health (  

Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, PI Silva presented soil nutrient management and testing information at co-PI Gorham's “Together We Farm” program workshop on February 4 and 6, 2020, to English- and Chinese Mandarin-speaking farmers.  The workshop included both at lecture describing soil pH and nutrient management for Hawaii soils and short-demo on collecting soil samples.


Additional future work will expand on these efforts, focusing on soil health and nutrient and water resource management.

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning, Action outcomes: Co-PI Wang's soil health and cover crop video has 127 views. PI Silva and co-PI Gorham's presentations were attended by 25 English- and 5 Chinese Mandarin-speaking farmers.

Impact: Increased farmer awareness and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices that promote soil and water conservation through collaboration with traditionally under represented farm communities across Hawaii.

Improved Quality of Life

Enhance the quality of life of farmers and ranchers and ensure the viability of rural communities.


Small acreage farms are vulnerable to many issues from low wholesale prices and saturated market niches, higher economic risk due to increasing input costs (e.g. land, labor, mechanization), as well as natural disasters (i.e Hurricane Lane).  Farmers need timely, science-based solutions to resolve their critical needs.

On June 24, 2020, during an anticipated hot summer, PI Silva and a local university fire ecologist hosted a statewide Farm Wildfire Management Webinar where recommendations were shared regarding fuel management, fire break construction, and appropriate processes should a fire occur.  Additionally, for a couple of growers on the high risk side of Oahu island, in-person field visits were conducted to assess their fire readiness, following COVID-19 precautions. 


Outcomes and impacts:

Learning, Action outcomes: 37 farmers and land managers virtually attended the Farm Wildfire Webinar, and 5 farmers participated on the fire readiness walkthrough, having learned relevant recommendations on preventing and managing wildfire for their farms.  

Impact: The timing of this webinar was serendipitous, as one week following the webinar a potentially major wildfire occurred in the Waianae valley where the fire readiness efforts occurred. Two years prior, major fires burned 8,800 acres of farm and native forest lands, causing multiple farmers to suffer severe losses.  Farmers believed the recommendations and farmer connections made through this webinar saved 1,300 acres and more than one dozen farms and homes from a wildfire catastrophe.

Reduced Pesticide Use

Protect the safety of our food systems by reducing chemical use and optimizing biological control.


Hawaii’s tropical climate provides an ideal haven for insects and plant diseases. Despite strict quarantine, new, economically destructive pests enter into Hawaii every year. Educators on the project team continue to explore integrated management strategies for these pests and diseases.  In lieu of in-person workshops during COVID-19, educators disseminated applied research findings via SOAP's newsletter "Hanai `Ai".

Three Hanai `Ai articles on local IPM issues published by project educators during 2020 included bagrada bug management, basil variety trials screening for downy mildew resistance, and using bags to prevent bird and fruit fly damage on guava (website: Hanai `Ai Vol 39).  These articles described appropriate techniques or varieties to manage their respective pest and disease issues utilizing minimal or pesticide free methods.

Outcomes and impacts:

Impact: Hanai `Ai newsletters have a regular viewership of about 1,800 farmers, growers, and agricultural professionals.  For growers who view these articles and incorporate the recommended practices, crop loss and pesticide use are expected to be minimal and efficient.  About 6 basil growers across the state, for example, have already expressed their adoption of new, downy-mildew-resistant varieties into their operations, which will hopefully minimize the need for fungicide applications.



Crop and Enterprise Diversification

Promote crop and enterprise diversification.


Hawaii State Departments of Agriculture, Business and Economic Development and the Office of the Governor are urging the promotion of community resiliency and self-sufficiency. In the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Lane, only a weeks’ worth of food is available on the island to sustain over 2 million people, residents and visitors.  The need for local food became more apparent during COVID-19 times, with many Hawaii residents creating their own gardens to supplement their food needs.

To address and bolster this crop production need in the state, co-PI Sugano, PI Silva, and project educators installed raised bed gardens and static hydroponic systems at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center, which is a university research station that educates both the farming and home garden communities.  In addition, they created two educational videos on the benefits, inputs, and recommended practices for these two simple systems that can help both home gardens and some small farms increase their crop production.


Raised Garden and Static Hydroponic Videos ( ;

Also, crop variety trials for the purposes of import replacement or new crop enterprise potential were conducted at the Urban Garden Center in Oct-Dec 2020.  Crops included Japanese shishito and sweet peppers, short-day onions, and okra.  Data is currently being analyzed for dissemination. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning, Action outcomes: Raised Bed and Static Hydroponic videos currently have 22 and 41 views, respectively.  Information shared for these and crop variety trials will allow farmers to make informed decisions regarding these crop and growing systems.

Impact: Increased crop and enterprise diversification. The change in practices such as the adoption of new varieties into agribusiness to boost food system profitability or combat climate change would be example indicators of program impact. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

3 Extension
5 Agency
61 Farmers/ranchers
190 Others

Learning Outcomes

251 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
5 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

This project started on October 1, 2019. Four months into the project we have created our statewide training materials and selected demonstrations to offer agricultural professionals, but due to COVID-19 were delayed and needed to shift our delivery methods.  Through virtual webinars and concise educational videos and newsletter articles, our project has directly serviced at least 256 farmers, growers, and agricultural professionals.  

1 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
256 Farmers reached through participant's programs
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.