Maui News

$1 million grant provides seed money for small and new farmers

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  • New and small farmers in the University of Hawaiʻi’s GoFarm Hawaiʻi program can apply for grants of up to $25,000, which they must personally match. Photo Credit: UH
  • A $1 million grant was given to the University of Hawaiʻi’s GoFarm Hawaiʻi program. Photo Credit: UH
  • Graduates of the University of Hawaiʻi’s GoFarm Hawaiʻi program can apply for grants of up to $25,000, which they must personally match. Photo Credit: UH

To support beginning and small farmers, American AgCredit and CoBank increased their investment in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s farmer training program GoFarm Hawaiʻi with a $1 million gift.

The new donation will help GoFarm Hawai’i graduates grow their agricultural businesses, which enhances food security; provides local fresh food; and supports economic growth in the islands. Grants up to $25,000 per farmer must be matched personally by the farmer.

“Agricultural production in Hawaiʻi is concentrated on smaller farms, and more than a third of Hawaiʻi’s farmers have less than 10 years of experience,” said Nicholas Comerford, Dean of UHʻs College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources that oversees the program.

“Supporting these young, beginning and small farmers is important to help alleviate Hawaiʻi’s reliance on imported food, which restricts access to fresh food and makes our island state especially vulnerable to disruptions in food supply. This grant enables our GoFarm Hawaiʻi graduates to build farming businesses that benefit all of us here in Hawaiʻi.”

Today, GoFarm Hawaiʻi is one of the largest and most successful farmer development programs in the nation, graduating 480 participants since its inception in 2013. The program provides young, beginning and small farmers with business technical assistance, educational opportunities and access to a suite of resources designed to remove barriers to farming and agribusinesses.

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GoFarm Hawaiʻi Director Janel Yamamoto said the grant helps equip new farmers with the knowledge, experience and confidence to build and grow their farm; and to contribute to Hawaiʻi’s food security and economic growth.

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The grants may be used to finance a land purchase, operating expenses or equipment. The farmer match may consist of cash, a bank loan or a combination of both.

“We focus on support for young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers as a critical part of our cooperative’s mission,” said Fred Dixon, regional banking executive for American AgCredit’s coastal region. “In our experience, to be successful these farmers need capital to get started, and they need resources like business training and support. We’re pleased to partner with GoFarm Hawaiʻi to provide the foundation that young, beginning and small farmers need — in terms of capital and skills — to kickstart their future, and agriculture in Hawaiʻi.”

This grant rounds out American AgCredit and CoBank’s $3 million commitment to invest in food security in the islands and support young, beginning and small farmers new to the agriculture space.

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