Do you want an agricultural career? This Big Island residential program might be for you
A Big Island nonprofit is pioneering a new paradigm of conscious agriculture in North Kohala, honoring indigenous wisdom, food sovereignty and the transformational power of returning to the land.
That nonprofit, Hawai‘i Institute of Pacific Agriculture, or HIP Agriculture, is offering residents the chance to learn how to establish a new farm, garden or agroforestry system — and there’s no charge to participate.
In fact, the organization pays you.
HIP Agriculture now is accepting applications for two 5-1/2-month residential beginner farmer cohorts this year. The program is designed for young, aspiring farmers and agricultural professionals.
The first cohort will run from Feb. 13 to July 14. The second cohort will run from July 24 through Dec. 22.
The immersive learning experience offers vocational training in market gardening and agroforestry while living and working on the HIP Agriculture organic farm.
Participants will gain hands-on farming experience at the farm, with professional agricultural consultation and the opportunity to connect with Big Island land owners. Free plant and fruit tree materials also are available, and volunteer farm days are open to all on Thursdays.
The program offers a holistic approach to farming in Hawai‘i, featuring experiential learning that takes cohort members from managing soil health all the way through harvesting food from the land.
“Trainees will participate in a dynamic schedule of farm projects each week in exchange for hands-on farming experience, unique educational opportunities, workshops run by local experts, farm fresh food and rustic off-grid housing,” HIP Agriculture said in its announcement.
The schedule typically runs Tuesday through Friday, with a variety of in-field work involved, including weeding, bed preparation, planting and nursery work. Additional experience will be gained through landscaping, marketing/sales, food processing and repair and maintenance projects, along with farmers market vending and volunteering at special events.
“Working alongside the farm manager and other staff, trainees gain valuable skills in organic farming market gardens, greenhouses, agroforestry systems, orchards, farmers markets, beekeeping and expectation to participate in all guest teachings, field trips and Zoom classes,” according to the program guide.
The average number of work hours a week is 32, plus bi-monthly classes. Cohort members also are expected to contribute to monthly community meetings, take on chore rotations and have good communication and cleanliness.
“The ideal candidate is [a] hard-working individual that is diligent, excited about physical outdoor work, eager to learn, pays attention to details, works well within a community and perseveres through difficult situations,” HIP Agriculture says in the guide.
Cohort participants will receive a $500 monthly stipend; a private room with internet access and utilities provided, and a shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities; a weekly produce mix box with seasonal vegetables, starches and fruits; and free educational workshops.
To be considered, applicants must be 18 to 28 years old and seeking agricultural career training. Priority will be given to Hawai‘i residents and those planning to continue farming in the state.
Those interested in being a part of either cohort can apply here. For more information or questions, send an email to [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also find the program guide online.
Interviews for the 2023 cohorts will be scheduled soon.
It was a big year for HIP Agriculture in 2022 when it comes to farming and food security. The organization:
- Distributed and planted more than 1,000 fruit trees and plant starts throughout Kohala.
- Offered a variety of enriching free community agricultural workshops to build a diverse network of growers, producers and strategic partnerships to enhance Kohala food systems.
- Prepared and served 500 farm-to-school meals at Kohala High School to students and faculty.
- Mentored 63 Kohala High School students in agricultural project-based learning.
- Relaunched farm field trips and hosted five student groups throughout the year.
- Supported Kohala High School students and faculty by preparing 1.5 acres for building a garden and orchard, simultaneously maintaining 45 fruit trees.
- Grew 30,000 pounds of vegetables, fruits and canoe crops.
- Hosted two full-time KUPU farmers for one year and one youth farmer for five months, developing skills in market gardening and agroforestry.
- Supported and celebrated growth with Kohala Food Hub. The hub started in 2022 with 14 local producers and now has 50, serving 70 households in need with free produce and 42 families through the multi-farm community supported agriculture program.
For more information about HIP Agriculture, its programs and initiatives, click here.