Beginning farmer training program seeks students for second cohort

MEDIA RELEASE

Ku I Ka Mana, a Beginning Farmer-Rancher Training Program administered by The Kohala Center, is accepting applications from prospective students for its second cohort.

Applications may be downloaded at www.kohalacenter.org/farmertra….

No previous farming experience is required.

The eighteen-week course is conducted in Honokaa and begins on Friday, August 2, 2013. Class sessions take place Friday evenings at the North Hawaii Education and Research Center, and Saturday mornings at Ka Hua Aina, The Kohala Center’s farm training site.

The program has a goal to recruit, train, and support at least forty new farmers over the next two years.

Beginning farmers who successfully complete the training program and create viable farm and business plans will be able to work with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture to execute short-term leases on farmlands managed by the Hamakua Agricultural Coop, County of Hawaii, and Kapulena Agricultural Park, with the understanding that satisfactory farm operation start-up will allow for longer-term land occupancy.

Ku I Ka Mana represents a unique partnership between The Kohala Center, local government agencies, academic institutions, and leading agricultural professionals.

The program is funded primarily by an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture that supports new farmer training and education programs in twenty-seven states.

The County of Hawaii provided matching funds that enabled The Kohala Center to secure the USDA grant.

The first cohort of Ku I Ka Mana students, made up of twelve island families, completed their classroom and field instruction in May.

Students represented diverse interests in what they want to farm, ranging from kale and salad greens to poultry, taro, and orchard crops.

The course covers a vast range of critical subject areas, such as measuring and building soil fertility; irrigation; how to create inputs like biochar, compost, compost tea, and indigenous microorganisms (IMOs); crop rotation strategies; pest management; pollination; and the “business” side of farming—marketing, accounting, budgeting, and record-keeping.

Though there are abundant fertile lands and a year-round growing season, Hawaii Island imports an overwhelming majority of its food from at least 2,300 miles away.

Issues such as food security, energy costs, and time required to transport perishable food make the need to increase local food production even more critical.

Jim Cain, a successful taro farmer and poi producer on Hawaii Island for over twenty years, is the program’s director. Cain’s network of successful farmers and agricultural professionals across the state enables The Kohala Center to assemble a distinguished team of local instructors to share their wisdom with the new farmers.

“The idea of developing farmer training programs has been discussed for a long time, really since the closing of the sugar plantations,” Cain said.

“Jobs were lost and agricultural areas across the islands, especially places on this island where a vast majority of the state’s agricultural lands are, were hardest hit. Our program envisions a new generation of farmers making up ‘a thousand points of green’ up and down the Hamakua coastline and beyond. We have the land, the water, the expertise, and the demand. What we need now are more farmers.”

The farmer training program supports several primary goals of The Kohala Center, state and county governments, island leaders, and community groups: to increase local food production, decrease dependency on imports, diversify Hawaii Island’s rural economy, create jobs, and promote greater self-reliance.

To learn more:

www.kohalacenter.org/farmertra…

Jim Cain jcain@kohalacenter.org or 808-333-0457

 

The Kohala Center (www.kohalacenter.org) is an independent, community-based center for research, education, and conservation. The Center was established in direct response to the request of island residents to create greater educational and employment opportunities by enhancing—and celebrating—Hawai‘i’s spectacular natural and cultural landscapes.