New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled

2005 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 an important alternative for beginning farmers in the Pacific Region. This regional project will 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 will be a Trainer Module consisting of a trainer manual, CD, support website and beginning tropical farmer manual. The training materials 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. The project is anticipated to take two years to complete.

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 immediately recognized and highly valued by the community.

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 Trainer Module materials in print, online and on CD.


PILOT PROJECTS: Under the original grant proposal, three pilot projects were to be conducted (on Kaua‘i, Big Island and Guam). Our Kaua‘i extension agent carefully managed his allotment, allowing an expansion of an additional pilot project to be conducted on O‘ahu. Each project was autonomous, managed independently by the pilot team members. Teams were encouraged to experiment and use the funding to examine multiple ways of training new farmer clients.

KAUA‘I PILOT PROJECT (submitted by Richard Ebesu). Team Members: Richard Ebesu (CES) and Brian Yamamoto (Kaua’i Community College)

Format: Eight sessions offered with 18 topics/speakers; held on Wednesday mornings at Kauai Community College; charge $40 for all sessions or $10/session

Attendance: 17 people attended one or more sessions (12 farmers/associates, 1 value-added business, 4 interested others)

Jan. 12 – USDA NRCS (Lex Riggle), FSA (Robert Ishikawa), CTAHR resources, Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture (Richard Ebesu, CTAHR)
Jan. 19 – Crop Nutrition (Richard Ebesu)
Jan. 26 – Integrated Pest Management (Richard Ebesu), Business Plans (Larry Dressle, Kauai Micro)
Feb. 2 – Agroforesty (John Edson, Hawaii Reforestation), Cover Crops (Bob Joy USDA), Animal Production (Lincoln Ching, CTAHR)
Feb. 9 – Fruit Trees (Ken Love, Love Family Farms)
Feb. 16 – Value Added (Stuart Nakamoto, CTAHR)
Feb. 23 – Marketing – Retail Exports (Chucky Boy Chock – Kauai Fruit & Flower Co.), Internet Marketing (John Gordines), Selling To Restaurants (Chef Colin – Blossoming Lotus Restaurant), Fruit Processing (George Morvis Jr. – Hawaiian Fruit Specialties)
Mar. 2 – Resources – Small Business Development Center (Haviland Wright, Kauai Community College), Hawaii Department of Agriculture Loan Program (Stan Kawamura), Information Resources (Richard Ebesu)

Resources (given to class participants):
* Building A Sustainable Business. A guide to developing a business plan for farms and rural businesses. SARE Network Handbook Series Book 6.
* This Hawaii Product Went To Market. CTAHR
* Plant Nutrient Management in Hawaii’s Soils. CTAHR
* Western Profiles of Innovative Agricultural Marketing. Examples from direct farm marketing and agri-tourism enterprises. Western Extension Marketing Committee. University of Arizona.
* CTAHR Sustainable Agriculture Cover Crop and Green Manure Fact Sheets.
* Choosing The Road Less Traveled. An Introduction to Sustainable Farming in Hawaii. (new farmer draft manual).
Additional publications and videos are available at the Kaua’i Community College Library as new farmer resources.

Evaluations: At each session, participants conducted a self-evaluation to gauge their increase in knowledge. Highest increases in knowledge (>60%) were reported for kukui brand processing, Internet marketing, animal production, farm service agency, retail export and small business development center. Overall rating (poor, fair, good, great) of the sessions were good or great.

BIG ISLAND PILOT PROJECT (Submitted by Leomi Bergknut). Team Members: Leomi Bergknut (OCET Hawaii Community College), Bari Green and Kelly Lange (Hawaii Organic Farmers Association), Michael Duponte (CES, Hilo), Glenn Sako (CES, Hilo), Virginia Easton-Smith (CES, Kona)

Format: Sixteen free workshops with 16 topics, offered primarily in Hilo, with some sessions in Kona and Waimea. Workshops were held at various times (weekday evenings and weekends during the day) with some field trips offered as well.

Attendance: 191 people attended in total (21 attended 2 sessions, 4 attended 3 sessions, 5 attended 4 sessions, 5 attended 5 sessions, 1 attended 6 sessions, 4 attended 9 sessions)

Jan 29 – Curious About Aquaculture (Jim Szyper)
Feb 2 – Intro to Sustainable Agriculture (Debbie Ward)
Feb 19 – Cultivating Noni and Ava (Dr. Scot Nelson)
Mar 8 – Livestock Opportunities (Michael Duponte)
Mar 15 – Backyard Worm Composting (Piper Selden)
Mar 22 – Intro to Tree Farming (Dr. JB Friday)
Apr 9 – Intro to Coffee Growing (Virginia Easton-Smith)
Apr 11 – Business Planning (Dr. Herbert Marutani
Apr 12 – Plant Propagation (Glenn Sako)
Apr 18 – Tropical Fruit Trees (Ken Love)
Apr 20 – Plant Propagation (Glenn Sako)
Apr 30 – Non-Circulating Hydroponics Systems (Dr. Bernard Kratky)
May 3 – Researching Agriculture Opportunities (Leomi Bergknut)
May 24 – Foliage and Nursery Opportunities (Andrew Kawabata)
May 25 – Soil Fertility (Dr. Jonathan Deenik)
May 26 – Opportunities in the Orchid Industry (Kelvin Sewake)

Resources (given to class participants): Choosing The Road Less Traveled. An Introduction to Sustainable Farming in Hawaii (new farmer draft manual). Additional publications and videos are available at Cooperative Extension Offices in Hilo and Kona.

Evaluations: 50% of the evaluations were completed and were very positive. Some strengths mentioned were: practical info with hands-on experiences, good manual, good website with links and resources, good ideas for entrepreneurship and niche marketing, networking opportunities, introduction to computer technology as agricultural tool. Some weaknesses noted were: more workshops in Kona and Waimea, more info on value adding, no money for advertising, more workshops with panels of successful farmers, increase attendance of general public to make them more aware of agricultural issues and needs.

GUAM PILOT PROJECT (submitted by Robert Barber). NOTE: This pilot project is still in progress. Team Members: DOA, NRCS, University of Guam.

Format: Train-the-Trainer workshops for Dept. of Agriculture and Dept. of Corrections staffs (for their organic farm). Currently holding one workshop every two weeks, which includes demonstration sites (contour trench, lemon grass filter strip, etc.). Due to interest in obtaining CEUs, the program will probably evolve into 10-hour modules.

Attendance: 6-12 attendees per program

Subjects: mulching, composting, determining contour lines and constructing an A-frame, soil health, pest identification.
Future Programs: mulching, NFT contour hedge rows, contour trenches and filter strips, building A-frame, ground covers, sheet composting, farm environmental planning, permaculture, economic windbreaks.

Resources: Use website as basic source of info plus developing additional publications on: contour lines, constructing an A-frame and others.

OAHU PILOT PROJECT (submitted by Jari Sugano). Team Members: Jari Sugano, Jody Smith, partnering with Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation for three programs.

Format: Free evening workshops during the week
Attendance: 10-30 participants, varying with topic (with a maximum of ~60 at tropical fruit presentation).

Jan 24 – Managing Soil Fertility in Oahu’s Soils (Dr. Jonathan Deenik, J. Sugano)
Feb 28 – Adding Value to Agriculture (Dr. Stuart Nakamoto, J. Sugano)
Mar 28 – Organic Production (Dr. Hector Valenzuela, J. Sugano)
April 20 – Hawaii DOA Crop Grouping and Commodity Definition Seminar
May 30 – Increasing Direct Sales via the HFBF Farmers Markets (Dean Okimoto, Joan Namkoong, J. Sugano)
June 20 – Hawaii’s 100 Fruits (Ken Love)
June 22 – Hawaii DOA Informational Meeting: Revised Pesticide Rules
June 23 – Bayer Crop Sciences Vegetable and Fruit Crop Update (E. Ishida, J. Sugano, S. Fukuda)
Oct 4 – How to be a Successful Farmer’s Market Vendor (Ned Yonemori, Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga, Joan Namkoong) co-sponsored with Hawaii Farm Bureau at Kapiolani CC
Oct 11 – What to Grow? How to Sell it? (Joan Namkoong, Dean Okimoto, Armstrong Produce) co-sponsored with Hawaii Farm Bureau at Kapiolani CC

WEBSITE: The website continues to be popular, with 3,529 hits recorded between 12/5/2004 and 12/5/2005. Ninety-three percent of the hits are external to the University of Hawaii system.

NEW FARMER MANUAL: Over the course of the year, the new-farmer training manual has been reviewed, revised and submitted to the CTAHR Office of Communication Services for final editing, graphic design and printing. The publication is scheduled for delivery from their office by March 2006.

TRAINER WORKBOOK: Several excellent sustainable agriculture Trainers Manuals have been recently released, most notably a series of three publications from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems: Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture, Training Organic Farmers and Gardeners: Resources for Instructors; and Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors. These excellent training manuals will be purchased and distributed to CES and NRCS staff for use as the basic Instructor’s Workbook.

NEW FARMER INFRASTRUCTURE: To be most effective for new farmers, the training module should have support programs (mentorship programs, new farmer networking opportunities, apprenticeships, seminars, field days, conferences, farm partnerships, flexible distance-learning opportunities) in place to maximize the impact of the training on new farmer agri-entrepreneurs. During the course of this project, we have attempted to establish these important components with limited success. While the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) has expressed interest in establishing an apprenticeship program, to date our efforts have not yielded much progress. Fortunately, however, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) already has a strong, existing apprenticeship program to which we can refer our new farmer agri-entrepreneurs. Similarly, efforts to organize regular monthly or quarterly farmer-to-farmer mentorship, networking and support meetings have not yet materialized. Our relationship with HFBF did result in co-hosting two marketing workshops on Oahu. In addition, CTAHR collaborated with HFBF for a grant proposal for SARE Chapter 1 funding (for research on farmers markets) which was submitted in June ’05, but not funded.

PROJECT SUSTAINABILITY: As a result of the pilot programs held during 2005, there is interest in expanding the New Farmer training in 2006 to Maui, Kona (Hawaii Island) and to repeat the training program in Hilo. Virginia Easton-Smith (Kona CES Extension Agent) wrote and received a grant from the Big Island RC&D to offer new farmer training in 2006. Dr. Harold Keyser (Maui CES Extension) has obtained grant funding for a new farmer training program on Maui next year.

Several important topic areas for additional advanced training (production and marketing) have become immediately apparent: organic products, value adding, tree farming and exotic tropical fruit production. A 3-day course for organic vegetable production is on the drawing board.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


    14 from CES; 5 from USDA NRCS; 4 from Community Colleges; 7 farmers; 5 agency personnel (FSA, Hawaii Dept. of Ag, etc.); 4 from non-profit organizations (Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, Hawaii Organic Farmers Association); 3 agricultural consultants.



    CES staff strongly supports delivering training to new farmer clients in sustainable agriculture. This is evident from the expanded interest in grant funding and the proliferation of training programs surfacing within the upcoming year. At this point 14 extension agents and specialists are involved in the training program (out of 26 in Hawaii). Dr. Wayne Nishijima, the Director of Extension, supports and maintains a high level of interest in the project. Dr. Harold Keyser, CES Maui County Administrator, has offered to initiate a new farmer training on Maui. Dr. JB Friday, CES Extension Forester, was a trainer for the Big Island pilot project, and, as a result, he is planning to adapt the program to provide similar forestry related training to new farmers/ foresters.

    CES and NRCS continue to network well due to joint involvement in the new farmer training.

    CES and NRCS field staffs continue to find the new farmer website useful for answering basic questions and they refer their new farmer clients to the website.

    CTAHR staff expertise in organic agriculture has grown to the point that CTAHR has organized an Organic Working Group with an official website. This workgroup wishes to organize and deliver a 3-day organic production course as a part of the new farmer training programs on Maui and Hawaii islands.

    New and strengthened networks formed to build the new farmer training program are materializing. These networks are solidifying into partnerships, especially with the Community Colleges, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

    The training model used in this grant where CES and NRCS staffs conduct training as part of their professional development program appears to be very successful with a high rate of continued interest and increased delivery of training programs to the public as a result.

    The project ties former SARE projects together and reinforces them. Educational materials developed through SARE funding in the following subject areas are being regularly cited and used: cover crops and soil quality, direct marketing, sustainable pest control, and exotic tropical fruit production and marketing. Trainers from these earlier grants collaborate to continue to provide information about sustainable agriculture in Hawaii.


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