New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled

2004 Annual 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

New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled


Sustainable agriculture is a good match for beginning farmers in the Pacific Region. This grant project will assist CES and NRCS staff to introduce new farmers to sustainable agriculture at an early stage, before they have made financial or emotional commitments to farming in a certain way. A Trainer Module (consisting of a Trainer Workbook, CD, support website, and beginning tropical farmer manual) is being produced. The Trainer Module will be pilot tested in three locations with teams of CES, NRCS and Community College professionals. Module materials will be revised and then delivered to CES and NRCS staff via a one-day workshop and ITV technology to the Pacific Basin. This regional project is anticipated to take two years to complete.

Growing local food and fiber products using sustainable techniques has several important advantages for our Pacific Region islands:
(1) It reduces our region’s dependency on imported food and fiber products;
(2) It expands the palette of Hawaii and Pacific region products that can be exported within the region, to the mainland and to foreign markets;
(3) Locally grown foods sold to local consumers are generally fresher, more nutritious and appetizing;
(4) Sustainable agriculture has real and measurable environmental benefits, including reduced toxins in soil and water, less erosion, enhanced wildlife habitat and lower energy use. In an island ecosystem, these benefits are immediately recognized and highly valued.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • To assist Pacific Region agricultural professionals to become more capable of conducting educational programs for new farmer clients and better prepared to respond to client needs relating to sustainable tropical agriculture;

    To develop a holistic 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 extensive pilot testing of the Trainer Module;

    To improve access to information about sustainable tropical agriculture by providing print, online and CD presentations of the final Trainer Module.


Much has been accomplished in 2004. To initiate the project, CES and NRCS staffs were surveyed to determine what training materials are currently used with new farmers.

NEW WEBSITE: Based on this information, and on suggestions made by the Workgroup, over the course of spring-summer, a comprehensive website was established and launched for the project: “Links for New Farmers.” The website came online in May 2004 and was well publicized within Cooperative Extension and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Staff was encouraged to use the website on a trial basis and to provide feedback on its usefulness. After revision, it was launched publicly and linked to CTAHR’s front page for higher visibility.

The website contains 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

Informal feedback from CES and NRCS staff has been very positive. The website serves to free up staff time to a certain extent by allowing personnel to refer clients with general questions to a comprehensive set of links. If, after investigating the website, the client has additional questions, staff can really focus in on their more technical issues.

A hit counter was placed on the webpage and 780 hits have been logged from 5/1/2004 to 12/20/2004, with 12% of the hits coming from within the university system ( domain) and 88% external to UH.

NEW FARMER MANUAL: Over the course of the summer-fall, the new farmer training manual was being written, reviewed and revised. USDA NRCS Hawaii staff collaborated closely with UH staff to prepare the document. Hawaii Association of Organic Farmers (HOFA) greatly assisted with writing and editing the chapter on organic production methods.

A draft version of “Choosing the Road Less Traveled: An Introduction to Sustainable Farming in Hawaii” (available as downloadable .pdf files) was posted at the website in December 2004. The manual has been made available in time for the upcoming pilot projects which are scheduled to be held in spring-summer 2005. The manual is designed to mirror and reinforce the information on the website, and contains chapters on:
• Choosing Sustainable Agriculture
• Direct Marketing
• Sustainable and Organic Production Methods
• The Farm as Habitat: Environmental Topics
• Animal Production
A chapter on Agroforestry is being written, but was not required for executing pilot projects.

PILOT PROJECTS: Three pilot projects are gearing up for program delivery in spring-summer 2005.

KAUA’I: As of this writing, Brian Yamamoto of Kaua’i Community College (KCC) and Rich Ebesu from Kaua’i CES are teaming to deliver a series of 8 classes at the KCC, scheduled to run from January 12 – March 2. The draft manual and website will be evaluated as part of the course.

Topics currently projected to be covered include:
– So you want to be a farmer! – Kaua’i land use laws, business plans, assistance
– Crop Nutrition – fertilizer, nutrient deficiencies, cover crops & green manures
– Tropical and Exotic Fruit Trees
– Livestock
– Pest Management
– Value Added
– Marketing
– Resources – financial, loans, grants, information

HILO: The Hilo team members include Leomi Bergknut (Hawaii Community College), Michael Duponte and Glen Sako (Hilo CES), Barri Green from Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA), and Virginia Easton-Smith (Kona CES). They plan to hold the training in spring 2005 (Jan-May) with roughly 7 evening sessions on the following topics (subject to change):
– “Farm to Table”
– Ranchland Management (3 sessions with field trip)
– Farm Business Management
– Aquaculture
– Landscaping, horticulture, soil fertility
– Organic production.
They are also investigating the possibility of offering the program in three different locations (Hilo, Waimea and Kona).

GUAM: Bob Barber from the University of Guam is the pilot project leader. Details are not yet available but they plan to deliver their training in spring-summer 2005.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

While it remains early to assess the impacts and contributions from this grant proposal, we are able to report the following:
• CES and NRCS field staffs are beginning to refer their new farmer clients to the website. Preliminary feedback is positive.
• CES Hawaiian homestead agents are testing the project materials with their Native Hawaiian new farmer clients from the Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands homestead lease program. There is an opportunity to work with a new training program on Moloka’i (Farm Family Cohorts, Hui Laulima farm cooperative, USDA model Farms project, Moloka’i Ag Development Program).
• We are networking to help build the new farmer support programs required to make these new entrepreneurs successful. We have linked to CTAHR’s Statewide Agribusiness Incubator program, Hawaii Small Business Development Center (NxLevel Alternative Agriculture course), and CTAHR’s Hawaii Ag Tourism workshops. We have requested that Leeward Community College pilot the new farmer manual as part of their upcoming NxLevel course on O’ahu (March-May 2005), expanding our pilot locations.
• We are making new connections and improving our collaboration with community colleges statewide. The new farmer project is involved with Kapiolani Community College’s “Culinary Institute of the Pacific” and their website. We are also working with Maui Community College’s agricultural program and with the culinary school’s value-added product development program for local farmers.
• CTAHR staff continues to expand their expertise in organic agriculture through this project in conjunction with the Hawaii Association of Organic Farmers.

The website and manual are ready. The stage is set. We are about to embark on the most dynamic phase of the project ~ the pilot teams will soon field test our materials. We will evaluate our results, revise our programs and meet to learn from our experiences. This coming year (2005) promises to be very busy and exciting for sustainable agriculture in Hawaii and the American Pacific.


Dr. Michael Robotham

[email protected]
Trop Tech Specialist
Office Phone: 8089568149
Barri Green

[email protected]
Hawaii Organic Farmers Association
PO Box 6863
Hilo, HI 96720
Office Phone: 8089697789
Jody Smith

[email protected]
Education Specialist
University of Hawaii MANOA
Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Mgmt.
1910 East-West Rd.
Honolulu, HI 96822
Office Phone: 8089567774
Larry Shinshiro

[email protected]
State Agronomist
Office Phone: 8085412600
Leomi Bergknut

[email protected]
Education Specialist ~ Continuing Education
Hawai'i Community College
200 West Kawili Street
Hilo, HI 96750
Office Phone: 8089747531
James Hollyer

[email protected]
Agricultural Development in the American Pacific
UH Manoa
3050 Maile Way, Gilmore Hall 112
Honolulu, HI 96822
Office Phone: 8089568140
Ann Emmsley

[email protected]
Associate Professor ~ Agriculture
UH Maui Community College
Office Phone: 8089843243
Richard Ebesu

[email protected]
CES Agent
CES Kaua'i
Office Phone: 8082743471
Glen Sako

[email protected]
CES Agent
CES Hilo
Office Phone: 8089599155
Bob Barber

[email protected]
University of Guam
Brian Yamamoto

[email protected]
Associate Professor
UH Kaua'i Community College
Dr. Chris Smith

[email protected]
State Soil Scientist
Office Phone: 8085412600
Michael Duponte

[email protected]
CES Agent
CES Hilo
Office Phone: 8089599155