Pono ACRES: Establishing a Functional Forest Demonstration Site Using the Hybrid Ecosystem Model

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $24,950.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G252-24-WA507
Grant Recipient: Wailea Spring Farm
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Shari Tresky
Wailea Spring Farm


  • Fruits: avocados, bananas
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forest farming, forest/woodlot management, intercropping, multiple cropping
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: permaculture

    Proposal summary:

    Research Question

    This project addresses the question – Can the hybrid ecosystem
    model of forest restoration be adapted to create a functional
    forest that provides salable commodities while also providing a
    balanced ecosystem for protection and propagation of native


    Historically, agricultural production and ecosystem restoration
    have had conflicting goals. In the State of Hawaii, agricultural
    practices degraded the ecosystems of rural areas, particularly in
    lower elevations. On Hawaii Island, the Hamakua coast was denuded
    of native forest by the sugar cane industry, which contaminated
    soil and waterways all along the coast. Much of this land is now
    privately owned, with over 1 million acres of fallow farmland in
    the State. Wildfires in Hawaii, such as the recent disaster on
    Maui, are greatly exacerbated by undeveloped acreage covered with
    dry, invasive shrubs and grasses. 


    This project will demonstrate a practical way to integrate
    agricultural production and ecosystem restoration where native
    plants are supported by non-native species that provide food,
    fiber and other useful products, including plants important to
    Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.

    The project is based on prior research, in which forest
    ecologists successfully created functional forests using a hybrid
    ecosystem approach. The Pono ACRES project will demonstrate how
    farmers can adapt this research to establish productive forests
    that protect biodiversity, provide wildlife habitat, sequester
    carbon, create a buffer from wildfires, and simultaneously
    produce food, fiber, cultural plant products and nursery plants
    that provide farmers with diversified income sources.

    Information about this system will be disseminated through
    on-site tours, workshops, and a website promoted through local
    farming organizations and farming related social media groups. A
    new Hawaii Island tax incentive significantly reduces property
    taxes for farmers dedicating land to a functional forest and this
    will serve as an additional incentive for farmers to adopt these


    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objectives

    1. Identify and measure the presence of specific invasive
      species on the project site and monitor their reduction over the
      course of the project.
    2. Monitor functional forest functioning by measuring growth,
      health and propagation of key species, including natives and
      crop-producing trees and plants.

    Educational Objectives

    1. Document the process of establishing the system, using
      photography, video, and writing.
    2. Conduct 4 participatory planting and maintenance events,
      involving UHH students and members of the community.
    3. Conduct on-site workshops for farmers presenting information
      on how to establish a similar system.
    4. Provide a website with resources for farmers and landowners
      and anyone else interested in creating functional forests on
      their own properties.
    5. Promote the events and the website through social media
      groups specific to Hawaii, such as Homesteading Hawaii, Small
      Farm Hawaii and more.
    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.