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$1M Matching Grant Program Helps Kickstart Hawaiʻi’s Next Generation of Farmers

May 26, 2022, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated May 26, 10:06 AM
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Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi.

Two financial organizations are focused on the future of agriculture in Hawaiʻi and investing in those who will steward it — the next generation of farmers.

American AgCredit and CoBank, in support of beginning and small farmers, are providing a $1 million matching grant program to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources for graduates of its farmer training program, GoFarm Hawaiʻi. The funds will help these future farmers grow their ag businesses, enhancing food security, providing local, fresh food and supporting economic growth throughout the islands.

“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,” College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Dean Nicholas Comerford said in a press release. “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.”

The grant program provides up to $25,000 per applicant, which must be matched by the farmer. Those funds can be used to finance land purchase, operating expenses or equipment. The match can be made with cash, a bank loan or a combination of both.

“The new grant directly supports GoFarm Hawaiʻi program graduates, who are now local farmers,” GoFarm Hawaiʻi Director Janel Yamamoto said in the press release. “It equips these farmers with the knowledge, experience and confidence to build and grow their farm — and contribute to Hawaiʻi’s food security and economic growth.”

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GoFarm Hawaiʻi is one of the largest and most successful farmer development programs in the United States, graduating 480 participants since it began in 2013. The program provides business technical assistance, education and a suite of resources designed to remove barriers to farming and agribusinesses.

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“We focus on support for young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers as a critical part of our cooperative’s mission,” Fred Dixon, regional banking executive for American AgCredit’s coastal region, said in the release. “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.”

“CoBank is delighted to expand on our partnership with American AgCredit and GoFarm Hawaiʻi to support a new generation of agriculture in Hawaiʻi,” Brenda Frank, executive vice president of CoBank’s Farm Credit Banking Group, said in the press release. “The GoFarm Hawaiʻi program creates opportunities for entry and strong pathways toward success for young, beginning and small producers, which in turn strengthens local agriculture and food access throughout the state.”

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

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“It is truly inspiring to see partners such as American AgCredit and CoBank step in with their generous donations to address critical issues like Hawaiʻi’s food security and local economy,” Tim Dolan, UH Foundation CEO and UH vice president of advancement, said in the press release. “We are grateful for their investment in Hawaiʻi’s next generation of farmers.”

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