Hawaii imports 85–90% of its food, rendering it vulnerable to interruptions in the food supply given its distance from the mainland United States of more than 2,000 miles, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism of the State of Hawaii. The state also faces challenges related to an aging farmer population and a workforce shortage on the farms. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the USDA is pleased to assist the University of Hawaii (UH) in developing the state’s future generation of farmers during Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month.
The University of Hawaii (UH) recognized the need to support current farms to boost output and profitability while also training new farmers who are focused on commercial production.
GoFarm Hawaii (GFH) was established by a UH Extension team to support and help commercial farmers become well-equipped to handle production and business issues and to contribute right away to the state’s food sustainability goals.
GFH receives essential financial support from NIFA’s Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program (ANNH).
The GoFarm Hawaii initiative, according to Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard, national program leader for NIFA, is a good illustration of the objectives of the ANNH program.
According to Jones-Jamtgaard, “the ANNH program intends to increase Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions’ capacity to carry out education, applied research, and community development projects. “GoFarm Hawai’i achieves the program’s objectives by emphasizing enhancing local economic sustainability and engaging adult learners in practical learning around the state. Furthermore, GFH actively collaborates with Native Hawaiian farmers and companies and incorporates traditional agricultural techniques into its curriculum.
GoFarm Hawaii employs a range of outreach techniques to involve existing farmers who are eager to enhance their businesses as well as prospective new farmers. GoFarm Hawaii held activities in Fiscal Year 2022 to introduce novices to farming while delivering more in-depth instruction at multi-day seminars and schools. Additionally, Extension specialists gave classes on issues including on-farm scaling and value-added product development in addition to conducting more than 60 one-on-one business counseling sessions to help current agricultural businesses.
GFH is the only post-high school agriculture training program that covers the whole state and includes production, business, and continued assistance after graduation. The curriculum prepares students for professions in agriculture, enabling many of them to launch their own companies, enhance business procedures, or find employment in the agricultural sector while accumulating resources and expertise to launch a company. Additionally, GFH is the only business education and consulting school in the state with an emphasis on agriculture.
The efforts of the UH Extension team are bearing fruit. More than 40 GFH alums started farming for a living, and additional alums work for other farmers or assist the food system. Important underserved populations are being reached through GFH, and a sizable portion of participants identify as women or members of racial or ethnic minorities. The GFH program is effective at creating new farmers, and demand for the program keeps rising.