Co-Managing Food Safety and Land Stewardship on Hawaii Farms

Progress report for WPDP19-24

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $74,715.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2021
Host Institution Award ID: G111-20-W7504
Grant Recipients: Oahu RC&D; North Shore Economic Vitality Partnership; University of Hawaii - Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Co-Investigators:
Jean Brokish
Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council
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Project Information

Abstract:

In order to elevate Hawaii’s farms to meet national standards and public expectations, Hawaii’s farmers will require technical assistance and training to comply with food safety regulations and land management requirements.  This initiative, “Co-Managing Food Safety and Land Stewardship on Hawaii Farms” will identify and fulfill opportunities for local farmers to comply with two common regulations: food safety requirements designed to minimize risk to consumers, and land development ordinances designed to minimize soil erosion.  We will assemble a team of farmers and food safety & conservation planning experts to identify, select, and demonstrate co-management practices (defined as conservation practices that simultaneously address food safety requirements) that are suitable for Hawaii’s agricultural industry. We will share information with conservation planners, extension agents and other agricultural professionals, increasing the use of conservation practices that improve land stewardship and support food safety compliance.

Project Objectives:

Project team members will identify, select, and demonstrate management tools and best practices for Hawaii farmers to successfully co-manage food safety and land stewardship goals. Key objectives and timelines include:

  1. Evaluate and identify practices that simultaneously address food safety and land stewardship goals.

July – October 2019: Convene advisory panel of farmers and professionals with expertise in food safety and land stewardship

July – December 2019: Create matrix of conservation practices based on the relationship between food safety and land stewardship

 

  1. Select high priority practices based on efficacy, feasibility and viability for Hawaii’s farmers.

January – March 2020: Obtain feedback from farmers and others to select the most viable strategies

 

  1. Demonstrate the use of practices identified as supportive of both goals (co-management practices).

April – June 2020: Install on-farm demonstrations of the most viable practices

March – April 2021: host on-farm workshops to share results (2 islands)

 

  1. Increase knowledge of co-management practices among farmers and agricultural professionals.

April – October 2020: draft outreach materials (fact sheet, e-newsletter, articles / publications)

December 2020 – June 2021: Share information with farmers, farm advocacy groups, conservation planners, farm advisors and other agricultural professionals.  

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kylie Tavares (Educator)
  • Joshua Silva (Educator)
  • Dave Elliott - Producer (Researcher)
  • Christian Zuckerman
  • Hannah Hubanks (Researcher)
  • Brittany Anderson
  • Melissa (Lisa) Rhoden - Producer (Educator)
  • Derek Adager
  • Ron Weidenbach
  • Daniel Carroll
  • Owen Kaneshiro
  • Umi Martin

Education

Educational approach:

No educational approach to report at this time. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Agricultural professional and farmer interviews
Objective:

Learn from food safety and conservation professionals and farmers about their experience with viable best co-management practices.

Description:

Process of comanagement practice identification

In 2019, the coordinator worked with partners from the North Shore Economic Vitality Partnership and extension agents of the University of Hawaii to cull a list of potential best co-management practices from hundreds, to just a few dozen. This process involving completing an initial matrix of potential practices, and then working together with the partners to identify that the venn diagram method was the best way to proceed. The reduced list of practices were ranked by agricultural professionals during interviews to identify those most relevant and viable to consider for the venn diagram. 

The project coordinator traveled to California to visit with agricultural professionals in regard to food safety and conservation efforts. These meetings connected the coordinator with various useful resources, previous work conducted on the topic (outside of Hawaii), and provided a network of support and advice for future workshop and outreach materials.

In Hawaii, the coordinator met with local agricultural professionals in the same regard, as well as to discuss the framework of project goals and how to best disseminate useful information to farmers in 2020. 

Jacob Guth and Meaghan Donovan of California Certified Organic Farmers discuss best management practices with the coordinator (left) along with Jo Ann Baumgartner of Wild Farm Alliance (middle left), and Danny Karp of UC-Davis (middle right). Kali Feiereisel from Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Judith Redmond of Fully Belly Farm share insight and hosted a farm tour highlighting potential co-management strategies (right). 

In 2020, the project coordinator began interviews with producers using the venn diagram tool and a series of questions to facilitate discussion with farmers regarding their food safety and conservation efforts. Six producers from three islands completed an interview to share their risk management approaches to food safety and existing conservation practice implementation. Each producer spoke about their current known risks to food safety, current natural resource concerns, and any related challenges they face on their individual farms, unique to their crop specialty and geographic location. 

Christian Zuckerman of Kahumana Farms (left) shared how he manages risks to food safety and which best management practices he maintains that contribute to natural resource conservation. At the GoFarm student-farmer learning site in Waialua (middle and right), Dan Carroll described various best management practices in place such as cover crops and windbreaks that offer benefits to food safety. Guided by farmer insight, the coordinator collaborated with extension agents to develop a comprehensive educational guide that recommends seven co-management practices suitable for Hawaii, based on agricultural professional surveys and farmer interviews.

The suggested practices included in the document were illustrated within a Hawaiian co-management ecosystem (above), including compost amendment, cover crop, fencing, grassed waterway, mulching, vegetative barrier, and windbreak. The guidance document also demonstrates how a farmer can incorporate co-management efforts into a food safety plan by providing example language for each practice. 

 

Outcomes and impacts:

2019

Agricultural professional interviews guided the vetting process of potential co-management processes required to prepare for farmer interviews in Hawaii. 

Learning: The partners agreed there was little benefit to farmers in reporting practices which are of low impact to both conservation and food safety. Thus, partners supported the decision to pursue creation of a venn diagram to display potential positive strategies rather than a matrix which displays a spectrum including low-impact practices. Resources were acquired from partners on previous co-management research to assist in decision making. 

Action outcomes: Material generated to draft prioritization matrix (venn diagram) deliverable. 

Impact: Providing a more concise list of practices to take to farmers for their input. 

2020

Six producers from three islands contributed valuable insight to the project researchers regarding which potential best management practices are suitable for co-management goals in Hawaii.

Learning: Multiple farmers shared similar feedback on the conflicting impacts of some potential co-management practices and cautioned that suggestions should always be presented on a case-by-case basis, unique to the farmer’s goals, resources, and farm conditions. Overall, the producers shared how goals to reduce runoff and improve soil health are often a co-management win-win for the farm, and to focus on practices that target those issues. 

Action outcomes: Guidance document produced and shared containing seven suggested co-management practices. 

Impact: Development of an outreach resource available to farmers to encourage adoption of co-management practices. 

 

Cooperator network outreach
Objective:

Expand the network of farmers in Hawaii that are interested in co-management strategies

Description:

The coordinator attended a Produce Safety Alliance grower training course, as well as a Food Safety Modernization Act workshop on Oahu to share project goals and network with local farmers and professionals that may be interested in integrating conservation practices into food safety management. Additionally, community agricultural events with other organizations provided opportunities to discuss project goals and connect with farmers including attendance to events hosted by GoFarm, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, and Waimanalo Agricultural Association. 

In 2020, the guidance document was shared in the Oahu RC&D monthly newsletter, and published in January of 2021 within the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources). Throughout the year, 12 social media posts were shared with our cooperator network to introduce the recommended co-management practices as well as introduce the availability of the co-management guide for Hawaii producers. In November of 2020, the project findings and guidance document were also virtually presented at the Hawaii Farmers Union United (HFUU) conference to an estimated 12 people (unable to confirm total attendance number).

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning: The feedback of community farmers helped identify what priorities, challenges, and opportunities Hawaii faces for local food production such as common food safety outbreaks/concerns and these considerations were included in the guidance document. 

Action outcomes: Currently, the guidebook has been downloaded 47 times since its launch in November of 2020. 

Impact: Sharing the final project outcomes with the visual document will support the outreach messaging for upcoming workshops. Impactful information will also help to facilitate in-person opportunities to answer questions and tangible actions for those interested in installing co-management practices. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

27 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
3 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary

2 Extension
2 Researchers
4 Nonprofit
11 Farmers/ranchers
2 Others

Project Outcomes

12 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

A Food Safety and Conservation Co-management Guide for Hawaii Growers

The interviews held with farmers across the state helped to generate a guidance document on co-management practices. Practices were chosen if producers considered them to be practical in Hawaii, which has distinctive growing conditions from the continental US, and which were already vetted for their ability to address food safety concerns and conservation of natural resources. The guidance document will continue to be distributed and used this year during co-management workshops. 

Two producers participated in an on-farm demonstration installation of a recommended practice. On Big Island, a producer installed a vegetative barrier of vetiver to stabilize soil and reduce risk of contaminated runoff from reaching an adjacent stream, where her cattle graze above (left and middle left). On Oahu, another producer installed a windbreak to improve the orchards biodiversity and reduce irrigation waste, and reduce risk of airborne contaminants on the property (right). 

 

2 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
11 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

While there was overlap of practices considered in both categories of farm goals, it was noted that many practices best suited for food safety were unrelated to those best suited for conservation goals and vice versa. This observation introduced the need to reevaluate the impact of the project initiative to identify clear overlapping practices. Co-management practices were evaluated further in farmer interviews. Despite this challenge, the necessity of addressing both concerns remains of clear importance in Hawaii to support a sustainable agriculture system. Identifying cases in which food safety and conservation practices run counter to each other helps to flag important challenges for farmers and those supporting them in one or both of these areas, while preventing unrealistic recommendations (i.e. the adoption of a conservation practice that undermines food safety).

Recommended practices for conservation highlight the overall improvement to an ecosystem that can be attained, which can encourage healthy plant communities and food safety, however, the marriage of these two concepts is often challenged in real-world agriculture. Examples of such realized challenges for Hawaii specifically were: small acreage plots, short land leases, limited commercial distributors that must comply with FSMA food safety standards, and year-round growing seasons. The outcomes of this initiative have provided valuable insight into this challenge, as it was not previously well-defined, and have also encouraged the opportunity to share co-management strategy information in a more visual and cohesive way for participating farmers. 

An important take-away from this work has been to better understand the limitations of farmers to implement new practices on their farms, and the ongoing complexities of decision-making they face. By providing a concise list of practices and identifying the candid pros and cons of each in regards to food safety as well as conservation, this project supports farmers in their decision-making process by equipping them with relevant information and feedback generated by a community of farmers. 

 

 

Success stories:

None to share at this time.

Recommendations:

None to share at this time. 

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.