This series of workshops featured field days with Master Farmers at their farms. Each workshop included a farm tour and presentation by the Master Farmer as well as additional specialist speakers. Workshops were attended by farmers interested in learning more in order to improve their own operations as well as other professionals from government, academia, agricultural consultants, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), and concerned nonprofit organizations and individuals.
As an added benefit, Master Farmers have agreed to answer questions submitted by participants following the workshops. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A summary and resources from each workshop can be found by clicking on the workshop titles below:
June 21st, Paul & Charlie Reppun, Waianu Farm, Waiahole
Paul Reppun and his brother Charlie have been farmers for 36 years. Both are lifelong residents of Hawaiʻi and got into farming by chance when they first planted dryland taro on land owned by a patient of their father (a medical doctor). Paul and Charlie are members of Hui Ulu Mea ʻAi, a group promoting community self-reliance and advocates for backyard gardens.
Waianu Farm in windward Oʻahu’s Waiahole Valley is long and narrow, bounded on one side by a river and on the other by forest. The diversity of crops grown reflects the complicated topography. The main crop is wetland taro grown in traditional lo. Waianu Farm constantly wrestles with the concept of sustainability. Waianu Farm produces food using the practices of what could be called “endemic” farming, using local inputs as much as possible, and by utilizing appropriate scale science and technology.
July 5th, Dean Okimoto, ʻNalo Farms, Waimānalo
Dean Okimoto, President of ‘Nalo Farms, Inc., grew up on the family farm and has been in agriculture for over 30 years.
July 19th, Fred Lau, Mari’s Gardens, Mililani
Fred Lau opened Mari’s Gardens in 2007 as a landscape nursery and in 2010 he converted one acre to an aquaponics farm that produces several varieties of vegetable crops including Manoa lettuce, beets, tomatoes, herbs, spinach, taro and cucumbers. On the aquaculture side, they raise tilapia and Chinese catfish. The farm exists as part of their mission to foster clean, sustainable agriculture and help reduce the energy footprint of importing food products from across the pacific.
Mari’s Gardens is a pioneer in the large-scale commercial use of aquaponics and is a leader in establishing food safety protocol for aquaponics to ensure that consumers receive the best quality products. They are also organically certified, overcoming challenges for stringent record keeping and finding certain organically certified pelleted lettuce seeds.
Mari’s Gardens constantly seeks to improve the operation and increase its sustainability. Fred installed a photovoltaic system to run the pumps in the tanks, greatly reducing their electricity costs, and has incorporated bees, beneficial insects and value-added products. According to Fred “if sustainable farming is the goal, then aquaponics is the way to go.” But Fred cautions that it can be a long hard road, so he advises farmers to start slow and learn as much as possible before beginning any aquaponics operation.
August 2nd, Kylie Matsuda, Kahuku Farms, Kahuku
Kahuku Farms on Oʻahu’s North Shore launched an agritourism venture in October 2010. The farm operates a lunchtime café and offers tractor-pulled wagon tours through the farm where visitors learn about the farm’s history, people, and crops. At the café, visitors can purchase farm products, including a variety of value-added merchandise like culinary and bath and body products.
The goals of Kahuku Farms’ agritourism operation are: 1) Educate the public about farming, 2) Promote local agriculture, and 3) Create opportunities for direct sales.
It took six years to open their operation due to a complicated and lengthy permit process. Kylie Matsuda explains that the process will be different for each farm based on county rules and lease or zoning requirements. Kahuku Farms is still experiencing growing pains and the farm has not yet realized a return on investment, but the trend is positive. Kylie reports: “The interest is there; and we are very excited about the future”.
August 16th, Ed & Jonas Otsuji, Otsuji Farms, Hawaii Kai
Otsuji Farm’s mission is to provide the highest quality produce at affordable prices, by carrying on tradition while embracing new technology in order to improve quality,efficiency, and sustainability.
Otsuji Farm employs a CSA model that allows members to purchase $10 boxes without a specific commitment. This method works because people pick up boxes of produce from the farm and extra boxes can be prepared for sale if demand exceeds expectations for any given week. While selling produce boxes for $10 has been a great way for Otsuji Farm to build a relationship with their customer and offer produce to more people at a great price, they admit that selling ala carte at farmer’s markets is more profitable.
Like many other farms, Otsuji Farm relies on a combination of endeavors to be sustainable. They rely on 100% word-of-mouth and some hand-made road signs to guide people to the farm for the market and CSA boxes. They also offer public farm tours and education programs to build a relationship with their customers.