Grapes for tropical Hawaii

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $17,370.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Ken Love
Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

Information Products


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, farm-to-institution, market study, value added, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, employment opportunities, sustainability measures


    The first grapes were reported growing in Hawaii at low elevations in the late 1700s. Today, with few high elevation exceptions, grapes are not found in commercial operations and seldom on small farms. The basis for this project was to show that grapes could again become a viable crop for growers at low elevations. This addition of a crop, in demand by chefs, could greatly contribute to small farm sustainability. Through researching and testing the varieties of grapes thought to have been grown, plus additional cultivars, the project was able to show that this could be a successful and profitable endeavor.  It will, however, take more time than originally thought.


    The project was divided into four sections:

    A. Research to determine what had been grown in Hawaii in the past and what additional newer cultivars might work. It was found that the Isabella variety of Vitas labrusca (concord type) had been grown in Hawaii in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

    There were also reports of scuppernong, Vitas rotondifolia, having limited success in some lower elevations. It was decided that we try a number of varieties for both labrusca and rotondifolia, as well as newer hybrids of the two.

    B. The PC spent a significant time at the USDA repository in Davis CA to sample, rate and document cultivars with promise for Hawaii. Assistance from farm manager and TA Howard Garrison and crop specialist Bernie Prins was much appreciated. Their assistance in identifying promising cultivars saved the project much time.

    At the same time, members of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) were polled to see who had or knew of existing grapes in Hawaii. This also proved successful in obtaining not only cuttings, but also additional collaborators who already had grapes started from either interest generated from project publicity or based on family history of grapes in Hawaii.

    In some cases new residents with a background in viticulture in California contributed their knowledge to the project.

    C. More than 200 cuttings of 55 varieties and cultivars were obtained from the USDA repository and the above-mentioned sources. As the cuttings took root, they were distributed to the collaborators, as well as planted in project test sites on different islands. As this is a of continued interest, the vines are continuing to be monitored and cared for. Additional cuttings have also been rooted and are awaiting distribution.

    D. HTFG held a series of meetings with members on all islands to inform them about the project and to distribute rooted cuttings. Progress and any changes were reported at monthly meetings on some islands and by email on islands were no meetings are held. A 12-page extension publication titles “Growing Grapes in Hawaii” was made possible by this project. Published in February 2014, it was written by PC Ken Love and Professor Robert E. Paull.

    A poster of grape photos is also planed for the future. 

    Project objectives:

    A. To establish locally grown grapes as a viable commodity for small farm sustainability in Hawaii.  

    This is one area which, in a sense, has taken longer than initially thought. There is no question that growers who have adopted the grapes have plans to make them a sellable commodity.

    B. To have grapes desired by our traditional chef customers and at farmers markets.

    Those who already have a small quantity are sharing them with chefs in order that the project obtains data. At this writing, chefs are willing to pay a considerable fee ($10.50 a pound average) for fresh local grapes of any color or size. Chefs and small cottage industry producers have also asked for fresh grape leaves as an available product, especially at weekly farmers markets.

    C. To enable other growers and general public to reconnect with the historical aspect of grape growing in Hawaii.

    Perhaps the most successful aspect of this project, collaborators have shared their knowledge on the history of grapes in Hawaii gained at initial project meetings. They have then shared their plant material on different islands with an estimate of more than 100 growers. Nurseries have expressed an interest in obtaining more material for distribution.

    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.