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UH incubator program for farmers to hold introductory meeting

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i residents interested in joining the island’s next crop of farmers can learn if the job is for them at a free University of Hawai‘i seminar on Jan. 13.

The virtual meeting, AgCurious, will introduce attendees to GoFarm Hawai‘i, the university’s beginning-farmer-training program.

“We really want people to go in eyes wide open,” GFH AgBusiness Consultant Pomai Weigert told The Garden Island.

Many folks with no knowledge of agriculture have romantic ideas about farming, she said.

“We’re going to teach you about the business and we’re going to teach about the science, but we’re also going to teach you about the practical,” she said. “That means digging, that means planting, that means harvesting, that means physical work.”

GoFarm Hawai‘i offers three sequential phases of training on Kaua‘i: AgXposure, AgXcel and AgIncubator.

The courses are directed at islanders who want to grow crops for business at any scale.

Backyard gardens that only feed a single household fall outside GoFarm’s purview.

“We’re looking for people who want to contribute to the food system because we are so food-insecure,” Weigert said. “How are we creating people who are going to continue to grow food for us (in Hawai‘i) forever?”

Attendees who decide GoFarm Hawai‘i’s expectations meet their own can apply to Kaua‘i Cohort 11 in 2022, which will accept a maximum of 25 applicants.

The cohort will begin class Jan. 27 with AgXposure, a five-week course with classes at Kaua‘i Community College and work tours at farms throughout the island.

AgXposure’s 2022 work tours, which demonstrate different farm models, are to be determined. Prior cohorts’ host farms have included Aloha Aina Poi Company, Lydgate Farms, Kapa‘a Banana Company and others.

“At that point, we should be able to get a gauge on whether you still want to do this,” Weigert said.

Cohort members who continue onto phases two and three can ultimately apply to farm a plot of land at GoFarm’s KCC facility.

All three phases include one-time fees, ranging from $5o for AgXposure to $500 and $700 for individuals and partnerships registered for the 25-week AgXcel program (AgIncubator costs are based on participants’ plot size).

All veterans are eligible for 50% tuition assistance, as are households that qualify based on financial need. A youth scholarship, for applicants aged 18 through 21, is also available.

Phases’ class times are scheduled at night and on weekends to accommodate day-working cohort members.

“It’s not just lifelong students or learners,” Weigert said. “We’re also looking for leaders. You’re going to have to have some gumption to be a farmer today.”

The Jan. 13 AgCurious seminar begins at 6 p.m. A registration link is available at gofarmhawaii.org/calendar/kauai/.

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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