I am interested in your program, what do I do next?
- First, please review the details of our training program here: https://gofarmhawaii.org/gofarm-training-program/
- Second, look at the calendar schedule for the site you are interested in applying to: https://gofarmhawaii.org/calendar/
- Third, make sure that you get on the list to be notified when we schedule and open registration for the first required phase, AgCurious, that is open to everyone: https://gofarmhawaii.org/agcurious-signup/
Will you teach me everything I need to know to be a successful farmer?
- Absolutely not! We will provide a foundation, exposure, training, and resources through our training program and will introduce you to a network that can support your farming career. There will also be many learning opportunities outside of the curriculum that can help develop your area of interest. We hope that you will get enough education, experience, and a network that can support you to achieve your personal goal.
Do you teach organic farming?
- Our program teaches soil-based sustainable farming practices. None of our sites are certified organic and you will learn about various production methods including conventional farming. Almost all of our participants are interested in organic farming methods so we tend to follow organic growing practices in the field.
- We ask that you be open and respectful to all information so you can make educated decisions as you develop your own business.
Do you teach hydroponics or aquaponics?
- No. We use soil based farming systems to teach our curriculum.
- Many of our alumni have had interest in hydroponics and aquaponics and have pursued this alongside our training. Many lessons in soil systems transfer to hyrdo/aquaponics systems i.e. plant propagation; crop nutrient management; pest and disease management; harvest; business management, etc.
What kind of physical and learning experience should I expect during AgXposure and AgSchool/AgXcel?
- You should expect a very fast paced learning environment. There will be lectures, homework, quizzes, recordkeeping, and field work.
- You will be working in the field, be in the sun, get dirty, and should be physically prepared for farm work. You may need to lift up to 50 pounds. It is important that you are healthy and physically prepared to work for hours in the sun. You are responsible for taking steps to maintain hydration, dress appropriately, and to excuse yourself if physical demands are too much.
- You will be working with farm tools and equipment including sharp tools, weedwackers, and tractors. You are responsible for using these safely.
- If you are not able or willing to perform specific farm tasks, you may be asked to explore reasonable alternatives that you would deploy in your own farm business.
- You should expect to meet a lot of people and learn about resources and should take advantage of the opportunity to build a new network.
Do you teach business skills?
- Our curriculum is focused on starting a small commercial farm for profit.
- Business classes are introduced in AgSchool and are covered in-depth in AgXcel and AgPro. You will be introduced to basic business concepts, resources, and a network that can support your agricultural endeavors.
- Participants and graduates may get one-on-one consulting and support from the GoFarm Hawaii AgBusiness Team.
Why are cohort sizes so limited and why can’t you run more frequent cohorts?
- Our program funds are limited and the current budget allows support for one Farm Coach at each site. Farm Coaches are unable to manage more than one cohort at a time as it progresses through the phases.
- We value cohort learning but also value the Farm Coach/Instructor to student ratio for optimal learning. Many of our classes are demonstrations and hands on and larger group sizes make it challenging and unsafe to manage and focus. We have experimented with the optimal class size and have set our numbers based on what we have learned can offer a quality learning experience.
Can we apply with another person?
- Yes! We encourage applying as a partnership at all of our sites (except for Maui which is unique as it runs through UH Maui College enrollment).
- Partnerships are meant for individuals who plan on remaining together for all program phases (including, if applicable, developing a farm business together).
- Partnerships are limited to 2 individuals
- Partners are equally responsible for all GoFarm Hawaii requirements.
- Although the partners share responsibility for all assignments, both members should commit to attendance and coursework.
- A partner is not eligible for future program phases, including AgIncubator, individually. Partners in AgXcel/AgPro must apply to AgIncubator as a partnership.
- Questions for people considering partnerships to consider:
- What are the primary roles and responsibilities of each partner?
- Do you have a shared vision and are your agricultural goals aligned?
- What does each partner expect from the other in terms of commitment, time, and money?
- How much time can each partner put into the program requirements (and eventually, the business)?
- How will tuition, plot allocation, and start-up funds be split?
- How will the team manage communication, planning, assignments, sales, and decision making?
- How will the team manage disagreements?
- How will each partner be compensated?
- Are you willing to give up future GoFarm Hawaii phases if the partnership ends?
Can I start at one GoFarm site and then apply to the next program phase at another GoFarm site?
- No. Please apply to a training site where you can commit to all the program phases you intend to participate in.
- Since we are set up to share infrastructure and equipment amongst cohort members, it’s important that a student learn the specific details of a site and also develop a relationship with other cohort members and the Farm Coach. While we use the same/similar curriculum at all of our sites, each site has its unique attributes, details and protocols.
- Ideally you are able to select the site that will best mirror where you plan to farm in the longer term for agronomic similarities, community networking and understanding the local market options.
- If you do make a move and are interested in GoFarm Hawaii training again, we ask that you begin with AgCurious.
What if I have to miss some of AgXposure or AgSchool/AgXcel?
- Attendance to all AgXposure days is mandatory.
- If you know that you will miss an AgXposure day, please let us know in your application and we can possibly work something out. If you plan to miss more than 2, then please consider applying next time when you can fully commit.
- AgSchool, AgXcel, and AgPro attendance are very important. If you miss a class, it is hard to catch up since we move at a fairly fast pace. We allow for 3 excused absences but if you plan to miss more than this, please consider applying in the future when your schedule allows you to fully commit. If you are already enrolled, we may ask you to drop the course if you miss more than 3 classes due to safety and the pace of the class knowledge.
Do we get paid while we work at farms in AgXposure? What kind of work will we do at farms that we visit?
- AgXposure is free for participants.
- Hosting our large AgXposure group takes much of a farmer’s time and pulls them away from their tasks. Our host farms are gracious enough to share about their business. In exchange for this time, we offer our labor.
- The type of work the group will do is up to the farmer. It is generally hard to assign technical tasks to a large group of people due to the variety of experience levels and tools. Thus, the class typically provided unskilled labor that can be done in mass (weeding, picking up rocks, pruning, etc.)
Are all of your farm sites fully set up as a working farm?
- Our farm sites are like any farm that is getting off the ground: all sites start off with a strong base of infrastructure and variety of tools. As any farm, we evolve every year with each cohort in terms of longer term crops that are planted and maintained; new tools to try out; repair and maintenance needs. Students gain exposure to what this farm evolution looks like: including hearing about the mistakes made and future dreams held. In addition to operating on a tight budget, we also try to showcase accessible examples of what beginning farmers with a tight budget may consider for their infrastructure and tools to get started.
Can I get land from the program when I graduate?
- For locations that offer AgIncubator, there are clear requirements that make a graduate eligible to obtain small plots of land through the program. Acceptance and availability may also be impacted by site capacity.
How much acreage do you need to be profitable?
- Land size, revenue needs, and profitability are not a one size fits all formula. It will depend on the type of crop you decide to grow (i.e. orchard crops may require a lot more than microgreens) and your specific goals. Because each person has different revenue and profit goals, individualized goal setting and business planning is encouraged.
What are examples of land costs and what is land availability like?
- We have seen land prices at $300/month – $100/year for an acre. That being said, it really depends on many details to give a one size fits all answer. Is the land already cleared of trees or has it been recently farmed? Is there water (irrigation and/or potable)? Is there any other infrastructure (electricity, fencing, etc)?
- There are occasionally some lease lands available through the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Kamehameha Schools, Agribusiness Development Corporation and other large landowners. Land access can be competitive and may come with expectations of the lessee to invest in things like irrigation, land preparation, etc.
- Many of our graduates are finding opportunities to lease some private land found via networking with private agricultural land owners that may not be utilizing their entire land or need a farmer to cultivate in order to keep active agricultural tax status. Finding these opportunities many times depends on the farmer developing relationships (i.e. sharing and being clear about your farm goals and what you are looking for; attending community, agricultural resource and association meetings, etc.)
Do you offer financial assistance for tuition?
- GoFarm Hawaii offers tuition assistance to AgSchool, AgXcel, and AgPro applicants on Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii Island. A 50% tuition assistance is available to all veterans. In addition, 50% tuition assistance is available based on financial need.
- Maui students may apply for veteran benefits or financial aid through UH Maui College.
- Use the chart below to determine need (based on before-tax combined household income). If partners are applying, use combined family incomes and household members.
- Before you apply, consider the reality of farm start-up costs and think about financial requirements to start your business. Once you complete our training, will you be ready with capital for start-up costs and land fees?
Are there other training options?
- Yes! We realize that we may not be the best fit for everyone. Check out these other options:
- The University System offers for-credit training in various agricultural topics. Visit the campus website for more information.
- The UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources offers a Master Gardeners Program: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/UHMG/
- Other training options can also be found here: https://gofarmhawaii.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Beginning-Farmer-Training-Programs-Catalog_v6.pdf
Is GoFarm Hawaii the right program for me?
We recognize that we are not the right fit for every individual. Please consider the following before you apply:
- You will be exposed to various types of farming operations, will focus on growing many different types of vegetable crops, and may be asked to do things that you don’t intend to implement when you start your own farming business.
- You will be exposed to a lot of information and the pace is fairly quick. In many cases, content will be basic with the option to get one-on-one assistance and more in-depth knowledge. You will need to initiate this on your own.
- You will need to find customers to purchase Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.
- You will be in a community environment and will need to share equipment and infrastructure with others. This can also impact access, will require flexibility in scheduling, and may test your patience with others.
- While flexibility is critical to surviving in agriculture and is a regular part of the program, there are also aspects of the program that are very structured. For example,
- During the educational phases, you are not able to select the crops that you grow.
- During AgSchool, AgXcel, and AgPro, students must follow rules, expectations, and a set curriculum to remain with the program or receive a certificate. There are readings, quizzes, recordkeeping, and assignments that must be completed.
- During AgIncubator, you are expected to meet production and businesses benchmarks and have specific requirements to remain onsite. There may also be restrictions on the type of crops you can grow.