Growing Our Farm to Grow Our Youth


The food and agricultural system of Hawai‘i is at a crossroads. With a population of over 1.4 million people and 8,000,000 annual visitors, Hawai‘i is one of the most geographically isolated and food dependent populations in the world. We import over 85% of food, fertilizer, and seed, the Hawaiian Islands are uniquely vulnerable to state wide food insecurity in the face of global climate change, fuel price fluctuations and other economic disturbances. High rates of food insecurity and diet-related health disparities have long impacted Hawai‘i, while much prime agricultural land lays idle or slated for urban development.

In the past, State government in Hawai`i rarely acknowledged the problem of food insecurity, and continued the long tradition of commitments to industrial mono-crop agriculture. Yet in his 2017 State of the State address, Governor David Ige, stated that:

We have a goal to double local food production by 2020, with the purchase of farm lands, programs that support and encourage local farmers, incentives to grow organic, and incubators to help entrepreneurs create new food products and businesses.

If we are to create a food secure future for Hawai`i it will depend on:

·Scaling sustainable agriculture to levels not seen for over 200-years when in pre-contact native Hawaiians feed their entire population;

·Mobilizing land, water, and investments, and directing those resources toward agro-ecological projects that put into action local responses to global problems like changing climate; and

·Building educated/empowered leadership and a skilled workforce that will embrace these challenges with generative, creative, and innovative solutions.


In 2007, we purchased a 11-acre parcel of land, neighboring our 5-acre leased property. It had been a working chicken farm, closed since 1986, the buildings were derelict and the land covered in invasive weeds. Working with the Hawai`i Community Foundation (HCF) and the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) we secured matching funds to purchase the property, regenerate the land, and repurpose the buildings. HCF orchestrated a grant investment of $750,000 from E-Bay founder Pierre Omidyar; and with TPL we secured a $733,000 State of Hawai`i conservation and important lands grant through the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Legacy Lands Program. By 2009, we had doubled the number of youth entering the `auwai and we were able to use debt financing to purchase an adjoining 8-acre parcel.

Today our key metrics – college enrollment/attainment and earned income from organic food production – have increased steadily. With the education `auwai firmly established land in production becomes the driver for our capacity to provide more education programming, and it makes our organization more sustainable.


We have already moved the dial, and are motivated to create greater impact.Over the past 3-years we have researched various opportunities and are uniquely poised to expand operations.

We have found 256-acres, comprised of two neighboring parcels at Palikea on the southern side of Lualualei Valley, 9-miles away for our current location. Our intention is to again simultaneously increase organic food production and the throughput of college youth. At the same time we will increase effectiveness through a range of diverse partnerships that are already being mobilized to create a regional sustainable community food system.Our goals are to:

·Increase agriculture production and internship education programs;

·Build organizational succession and sustainability;

·Provide affordable Kauhale (community)-style agriculture cluster housing opportunities for young leaders; and,

·(Continue to) Create a new economic development model for rural communities that respond with action to our need for a sustainable world.


We have raised $1.1 million to purchase the 21-acre parcel, we hope to close the deal in March and commence farming the land in late Summer 2018. At the same time we are working to raise the $6.0 million for the 236-acre parcel, this will cover the purchase price, due diligence, infrastructure development, as well as the cost of agriculture and education expansion


Over the next 10-years we intend to:

1.Increase college enrollment and attainment amongst area youth, graduating over 50% of our interns from junior college and transitioning over 75% of graduates to bachelorette programs;

2.Increase farm earned income support for the organization/programs from 30% to 50%; and

3.Increase our organizational capacity to create new jobs and replicate our programs with other social enterprises.

Access to more farming acreage pushes our ability to offer meaningful internships and unique education programs, and create more jobs. Increased earned income generation sustains the organization. Currently, we produce 15- to 16,000 pounds per farmed acre. We are expecting productivity to increase year-over-year due to a number of factors including:

·Land to be acquired is uniformly shaped rectangular spaces, which provide contiguous field units; this increases efficiency of field preparation, and harvest;

·Youth graduates retained into management positions have greater capacity, especially due to enrollment in the UHWO Sustainable Community Food Systems (SCFS) program; and

·Crop selection will focus increasingly on perennial crops such as kale, eggplant, and herbs.

By 2022, when the 10-year expansion is at a mid-point with the 21-acres complete, and the 236-acres started, we will be planting vegetables on a total of 40-net acres across all properties. By then we expect to have the capacity to produce 350,000 tons of total food per year, generating gross annual sales of over $3.0 million.

By 2027, when expansion is complete on both parcels of land, we will be planting vegetables on 85-net acres and will have another 60-acres of agroforestry land in production. We expect to have the capacity to produce almost 1.7 million pounds of total food per year, generating gross annual sales of over $7.0 million. The chart below shows steady growth over the 10-year period, with key capital inputs especially in year 2019. When expansion is completed the organization will generate 80% of it’s total budget needs, and need only the same amount of grants funds as we’ll use in 2018 to support over 4x more young people.