Maui News

Micro Grants Awarded to 105 Small Farms in Maui County

March 22, 2021, 11:00 AM HST
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Laoa Farms on 4 acres in Kula produces citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, oranges, peaches and nectarines and avocados. PC: Laoa Farms

Maui County’s $2.5 million Agricultural Micro Grants Program, administered by Maui Economic Opportunity, purchased tractors, chippers and other supplies; put up fencing and sheds; and established an online presence for 105 small farms in the county.

MEO Business Center Director David Daly said today that his team is working on putting the finishing touches on the last couple of grants.   

The Agricultural Micro Grants Program was established to allow small Maui County farms to receive grants of up to $25,000 to directly increase the availability of local produce, livestock, poultry and farm products while increasing agricultural capacity, productivity, name recognition and income.

Among the qualifications were possession of a state General Excise Tax number, and residency of owners in Maui County. Preference was given to socially disadvantaged applicants, such as women and Native Hawaiians, and food-producing farm businesses that operate on less than 12 acres in Maui County.

Payments were made directly to vendors. Daly noted that vendors have been paid but that some farmers have not yet received equipment or materials due to manufacturing shortages and weather issues.

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According to MEO, the money was used for farming equipment and machinery; processing and storage equipment; farm expansion, such as fencing and sheds; supplies, including fertilizers, soil amendments, seeds, plants and small tools; packing and packaging materials; technology equipment; marketing supplies and services, including website development; health and safety upgrades; and professional development and education.

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One recipient, Carol Voss of citrus fruit farm Laoa Farms in Kula. received a $14,000 grant and used the money to buy farm equipment, including a chipper/shredder, lawnmowers and weed whackers, as well as fertilizer.

“We needed equipment; that’s our biggest drawback,” Voss said, adding that the pandemic did not really affect their business because their distributor, LocalHarvest, kept accepting their fruit.

Her husband, David, is the mechanic for the 4-acre farm, keeping the old and hand-me-down machinery going. “He recently learned that he had cancer, and the treatment sapped his energy and his ability to care for the equipment,” according to a press release.

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They learned about the grant from the Maui County Farm Bureau. 

“I feel very lucky to have gotten this grant,” said Voss, whose farm produces about 5,000 pounds of lemons, limes, oranges, peaches and nectarines annually. “It was great, very thankful,” said Voss, noting that her husband is on his way to recovery.

“I appreciate the county and whoever put this together for small farmers,” said Voss. “Usually, everything’s big grants, you gotta make $50,000 to get something. This was nice that it was small. . . . I assume it benefited a lot of small farmers on this island.”

MEO’s Business Development Center received more than 220 applications from October to January. The 105 grants included fruit, vegetable, aquaponics, livestock, herb, Native Hawaiian and medicinal plant farms, Daly said.

There is a wait list of more than 80 applicants, according to Daly.

MEO is referring farmers to a Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture micro-grant program for small-scale agriculture. The $1.9 million Micro-Grants for Food Security Program offers up to $5,000 to support small-scale gardening, herding and livestock operations, as well as religious groups and food banks. 

Applications may be found online. The deadline for emailing the completed forms to [email protected] is at noon April 23. Awards are expected to be announced in May, with first disbursement of funds expected in July.

For more information, contact the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture’s Market Development Branch by phone at (808) 973-9595 or by email at [email protected] For more information about business planning and micro loans offered by MEO, contact the Business Development Center at (808) 553-3270 by phone or [email protected] by email.

Laoa Farms, a citrus farm in Kula, received a $14,000 grant from the Maui County Agricultural Micro Grants Program, administered by Maui Economic Opportunity’s Business Development Center. The farm used the money to purchase mostly equipment, including a chipper/shredder, lawnmowers and weed whackers. PC: Laoa Farms

*Courtesy Maui Economic Opportunity.

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