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18 Maui Farm Apprentices Graduate from Mentor Program

July 18, 2018, 2:32 PM HST · Updated July 18, 1:19 PM
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New graduates of the Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United – Farm Apprentice Mentoring program are growing farms dedicated to environmentally and culturally conscious agriculture from Waiheʻe to Hāna.

Mayor Arakawa, spoke to the apprentices about his own experiences as a farmer in Kula for many years, as he, FAM Program Director, Dr. Phyllis Robinson, and UH Maui Office of Continuing Education & Training Director Karen Hanada, presented eighteen graduating FAM Apprentices with Certificates of Professional Development, from UH Maui College, Office of Continuing Education and Training on Wednesday June 27, 2018.

Maui County Council member, Kelly King gave the keynote address to the graduating apprentices, speaking of the role entrepreneurship can play at all levels of commercial farming, even at farmers markets. “The FAM program has a strong foundation and has shown great results this year. I’m proud to be able to support the FAM program and its sustainable vision for the future of farming,” King said.

Many of the graduates came to the program with little experience in farming but had land and a desire to transition from their current careers to become part of the regenerative agriculture movement. For these new farmers, practicing regenerative and Native Hawaiian agriculture comes from a strong desire to give back to Maui Nui by protecting the “ʻāina”, giving to the community and feeding the island.

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Over 6 months, from December to June, apprentices worked with 16 experienced farmer mentors as classroom learning became hands-on on a fully functioning farm. Mentors this year included Gerry Ross of Kupaʻa Farm, Evan Ryan, President of Pono Grown Farm Center, and Hokuao Pellegrino, who restored Nohoana Farm, which has been in his family since 1848.

The program, which is free of cost to the participants, is sponsored by the Maui County Office of Economic Development, Kamehameha Schools-ʻĀina Engagement Program, Lahaina Sunrise Rotary Club, The Savitt Family Foundation and The Atherton Family Foundation, among others. The classroom trainings and Certificate of Professional Development are offered through UH Maui College, Sustainable Living Institute of Maui.

The FAM program seeks to train and empower the next generation of family farmers on Maui by providing hands-on training in the fundamentals of permaculture principles, married with Hawaiian cultural farming, and Korean Natural Farming techniques. The Phase 1 curriculum includes: Farm planning, including reading your lands features, knowing its water resources, irrigation needs, soil composition and fertility management, propagation techniques like seed saving, weed and pest management practices without herbicides and only certified organic pesticides, and finally, the business of farming which carries over and is intensified in FAM Phase 2.

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Dr. Robinson reflected, “As we graduated our third FAM cohort from Phase 1, I felt a deep appreciation for all of the fine hearts and minds that helped to create the excellent regenerative farming curriculum we follow. Our Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United network across the state care deeply about this program and will continue to be a support to all of these new farmers as they pursue their vision. Perhaps someday FAM will be duplicated statewide. The FAM program truly is a FAMily; a circle of ongoing support as this group of 18 embark on the path of food self-sufficiency imbued with the spirit of both the “ʻāina” and a sense of family and community (ʻOhana). After all, it takes a village to grow a farmer.”

To apply for the next cohort of the Farm Apprentice Mentorship Program, interested individuals may contact FAM Program Director, Phyllis Robinson, pfierrorob@aol.co or may visit SLIM’s website.

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