Adaptation of a Natural Farming System to Vegetable Farm Production in Hawaii.
The year 2003 saw a change in direction in the project’s final year. The Waialua High School project continued as before with an increasing knowledge and capability of the faculty and students to manage the farm and problems effectively. The High School is considering how to continue the farm after SARE funding ceases.
The major change was the withdrawal of the two commercial farmers from the project. The funds were then diverted to accomplish a study of the effects of the covercrops on soil microorganisms and soil nutrients to assist Hawaii farmers in effective timing of incorporation of covercrops, their effect on soil and replanting of the next crop. The data obtained is being published.
A final report for the project is in preparation.
1. Establish a natural farming method suitable for Hawaiian Growers
2. Determine its efficacy for plant nutrition and pest and disease management.
3. Determine cost effectiveness and profit potential
4. Determine sustainabillity of the natural farming system.
5. Educate Hawaiian Growers in natural farming methods.
Objective 1. Natural farming method was initiated in 1999 in a commercial farm and also as a learning experience for high school students interested in a career in agriculture
Objective 2. By trial and error the school project proceeded and the students and supervisor became ever more adept at controling pests and providing enough soil nutrients to each crop. The commercial growers, however were not as successful, mainly because they could not afford the time and attention to the plantings that are needed to carry out natural farming. Instead, they managed their large farm commercially and used pesticides and fertilizers to save time and remain profitable. Eventually they chose not to continue the project.
Further studies were carried out to help small farmers effectivley incorporate covercrops into their natural farming system.
Objective 3. The natural farming system proved to be profitable on a small scale for producing vegetables for sale in local groceries, restaurants and schools. It did not prove to be profitable for the larger commercial growers who could not spend enough time on each crop to control pests and provide nutrients.
Objective 4. The natural farming system proved to be sustainable for the duration of the project and each year saw a more efficient and better yielding small farm. For small growers and gardeners the system is very effective and even the larger farmers can benefit from following some aspects of the systerm
Objective 5. The project resulted in successful disemination of information to the public through field days and informative hand-outs. This was possible the most successful aspect of the project with the high school project being shown and explained to many local gardeners and the students learning and participating in demonstrations and science fair projects. Additionally the food nutritional information provided for local families that are often immigrants with little nutritional knowledge has proved to be an unexpected outcome of the project.
A publication is being prepared that will be made available to the local public through state extension agents and more widely by means of the HARC website.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The public has been made more aware of the possibilities, sustainability and healthfulness of the natural farming method. Students have participated in the project for three consecutive years and the high school has plans to continue with the natural farm after the SARE funding ceases. It will become a continuing part of the curriculum in this high school that has many students from rural families that are intending to continue in agriculture.
In addition, many other home gardeners, small farmers and organic farmers have gained information from the project. If they do not convert their farms wholly to the natural farming system, they can take advantage of the techniques learned to reduce their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This will impact on the state of Hawaii and its environment.
The final report for this project is in preparation and will be reported within 90 days of the project end date.