Hawai'i Community-Based Food Security

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons, avocados, bananas, figs, citrus, pineapples, general tree fruits
  • Nuts: macadamia
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants
  • Animals: bees, poultry, rabbits, fish


  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization, hedges - woody
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - living
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Currently 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. Given the remoteness of Hawai‘i (2,560 miles from the US mainland), there is increasing interest within educational institutions, government and among the general public in creating ecologically and economically sustainable local food systems.

    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 restores concepts of sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes to address food security issues in Hawai‘i.
    The project has two main components. First, it will produce a manual covering fruit and nut trees for environmental services such as shade, windbreak, erosion control, and noise barriers; important traditional Pacific island crops that thrive in Hawai‘i; tropical perennial leafy vegetables for hedges and groundcovers; small-scale enterprise development and value-added processing based on perennial food plants; water conservation techniques; soil fertility maintenance using locally available resources; and alternatives to toxic herbicides. Second, the manual will form the core curriculum for five workshops to be presented throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The workshops include both classroom-style presentations and field tours of home and community gardens and small commercial farms. In addition, the project will publish a marketing/information kit for landscapers and government agencies to use in promoting appropriate perennial food plants, as well as a policy brief for policymakers to inform them of the benefits of community-based food security.
    The manual will be written 2011–2012, the project workshops will take place in 2012–2013, and the marketing/information kit and policy brief will be authored and distributed in 2013. Evaluation will take place by phone interview of workshop participants and by tracking Internet downloads of the project publications.
    This project has been planned collaboratively and will be carried out by five Major Participants and the Project Coordinator, who have extensive expertise in organic and sustainable Pacific island agriculture, landscaping, farming, and community service. The Project Coordinator has produced three popular WSARE PDP-funded publications: Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands (2000), Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (2005), and Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry (2010), which covered agroforestry systems and species for Pacific island farms. This project emphasizes perennial food-producing plants in public and private landscapes, which has not been done previously.
    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 will address food security issues by expanding food production and access, 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.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    There are four outputs from this project:
    a. Sustainable, perennial food-producing landscapes manual for Hawai‘i
    b. Five workshops in the Hawaiian islands
    c. A marketing/information kit for commercial and government landscape professionals
    d. A policy brief for elected officials, civil servants, and NGOs

    Sustainable perennial food-producing landscapes manual

    Written by Hawai‘i experts, Major Participants, and the Project Coordinator, the first phase of the project will produce a manual focusing on low-input and sustainable techniques for food producing landscapes, the first of its kind in the Pacific. Major topics to be covered include:
    • Fruit and nut trees for environmental services such as shade, windbreak, erosion control, and noise barriers, their use and maintenance; NRCS practice standards that support their use.
    • Important traditional Pacific island crops that thrive in Hawai‘i, including breadfruit, banana, and coconut, and agroforestry systems that have proven to be sustainable.
    • Tropical perennial leafy vegetables for hedges and groundcovers.
    • Small-scale enterprise development and value-added processing based on perennial food plants.
    • Water conservation techniques through use of drought tolerant perennial food plants, micro-irrigation and utilization of run-off water.
    • Soil fertility maintenance using locally available resources, including mulching, composting, and vermiculture.
    • Alternatives to toxic herbicides, including elimination of bare soil through mulching and low maintenance edible ground covers
    All concepts will be well illustrated with photographs or line drawings. The manual will have a minimum of 72 pages and 40 photographs. At least five experts with diverse perspectives from university, landscape industry, government, and farming will review the manuscript. The manual will be published as a PDF file for free downloading, and printed for project workshops and for distribution to 50 extension offices and NGOs in Hawai‘i and the American-affiliated Pacific.

    The second part of the project presents five workshops for agricultural extension, government agencies, community planners, landscapers, and farmers. Workshops will consist of a day of classroom-style presentations followed by a half-day of field tours to model farm, community, school, or home garden sites and will take place on each Hawaiian island (O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i, Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i). The project manual will be the main text for the workshops. Local experts will be used to teach the workshops in order to emphasize locally appropriate solutions for each island and save on interisland travel costs. It is expected that a minimum of 50 people will attend each workshop, for a minimum total of 250 participants. Five presenters and two field tour hosts are planned for each workshop, for a total of 35 presenters. The workshops will be organized by a Major Participant from each island with support from the Project Coordinator.

    The remote location of Hawai‘i emphasizes the need for community-based food security. Inset map: The five islands where workshops will take place, one on each island.

    Marketing/information kit
    In order to support the landscaping industry in transitioning to perennial food-producing landscapes, including private and public projects, a marketing/information kit will be developed to assist landscapers in promoting edible landscapes to their clientele. The kit will consist of copyright-free text about the benefits, practical implications, and cautions, as well as photos. These materials can then be used by businesses and other private or public organizations for brochures, web sites, or other promotional efforts.

    Policy brief

    A 2–3 page brief describing the needs, benefits, and recommendations for perennial food-producing landscapes on private and public lands will be produced for dissemination to elected officials, civil servants, community organizations, and educational institutions. The policy brief is designed to raise awareness among these groups, and eventually lead to policy changes. Examples of changes may include tax benefits for food-producing landscapes, fruit and nut trees planted in appropriate public landscapes, additional support for school garden programs, incentives for reduced pesticide use, and modifications in laws regarding grey water use.


    The primary method of dissemination of the manual, marketing/information kit, and policy brief will be via the Internet. As they are completed, these publications will be posted to their own web pages at hawaiihomegrown.net (average 100 visitors/day) and agroforestry.net (average 700 visitors/day). Hard copies of the manual will be sent to 50 extension and NGO offices in Hawai‘i, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and American Samoa. Press releases and announcements will be sent through several channels, including Pacific island agricultural journals, libraries, internal university and USDA newsletters, local food-related e-mail list serves, the SAN Program’s Source Book of Sustainable Agriculture, and sanet-mg. Workshop participants will receive e-mail announcements about updates to the manual, and other project products.

    3) Products
    As covered in the preceding section, the project will produce a 72-page manual, marketing/information kit, and policy brief.

    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.