As you develop your goals and business model, you may identify some skills you’re lacking that would be useful in your agribusiness. Perhaps you know how to grow crops, but you have no experience with running a business. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur, but you’ve only ever grown a backyard garden. Luckily, there are many options for gaining the skills you need to make your farm a success. Many opportunities are here in Hawaiʻi, some on the mainland. In this section, we outline some options for developing skills and widening your knowledge base. You can find additional information on our Ag Industry Educational Opportunities page.
Many colleges and universities have agricultural education programs. University of Hawaiʻi’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) has a list of educational institutions and organizations that offer classes on topics related to farming. Some require enrollment, some don’t:
The Hawaiʻi Community College Agriculture Program prepares students for employment in government service, agribusiness, horticulture, livestock, flowers and foliage, landscape, macadamia nuts, papaya, and coffee industries. (http://hawaii.hawaii.edu/agriculture/)
The Leeward Community College Plant Biology and Tropical Agriculture Program provides you the education and training to succeed in Hawaiʻi’s diversified agriculture and biotechnology workforce. (http://www.leeward.hawaii.edu/pbt)
The University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources has a number of programs and degree tracks including:
- Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science (http://manoa.hawaii.edu/ctahr/tpss/)
- Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences (https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/hnfas/)
- Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences (https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/PEPS)
- Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program (https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/sustainag/index.html)
- The Local & Immigrant Farmer Education (LIFE) Program which seeks to: 1) increase the viability and sustainability of commercial farms in Hawaiʻi, 2) integrate more farmers into mainstream agriculture, and 3) help drive Hawaiʻi’s diversified industry forward. (https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/life)
The University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Agriculture & Natural Resources Program provides instruction for those in need of training, retraining, or skills upgrading in the field of agriculture, and those wishing to transfer to a four-year college or university. (http://maui.hawaii.edu/ag/)
The University of Hawaiʻi Windward Community College offers a Certificate of Completion in Sustainable Agriculture designed for students who want to engage is small-scale farming in Hawai‘i. (https://windward.hawaii.edu/Academics/Sustainable_Agriculture/)
A training program offers guided help through the beginning farming process and provides an opportunity for new farmers to network both with other new farmers and with established farmers. They can be from a few days to several months long. The following represent some local options:
GoFarm Hawaiʻi, a University of Hawaiʻi CTAHR program, is a cooperative effort of numerous colleges and organizations throughout the State. With 5 locations on 4 island, this program’s mission is to increase the number of commercial agricultural producers in the State: https://gofarmhawaii.org/gofarm-training-program/
The Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United offers a Farm Apprentice Mentoring “FAM” Program on Maui: https://hfuuhi.org/chapters/haleakala/education/farm-apprentice-mentoring-fam-program/
The Kohala Center’s Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program is dedicated to training new farming families on Hawai‘i Island and inspiring island youth to consider careers in agriculture. (http://kohalacenter.org/farmertraining)
Most local training programs have a web presence. Search online to find others in your area.
Internships and apprenticeships offer a way for those with minimal farming skills or knowledge gaps to get into farming. These opportunities allow you to gain experience working on a farm and developing knowledge and skills you can then use on your own farm. Internships and apprenticeships can vary in time frame with some lasting only a few months while others can last for a whole growing season or longer. Additionally, the amount of experience you may gain will also vary from situations where you are only given a few responsibilities to other opportunities where you may become involved in many parts of the farm operation from preparing for planting to harvesting and selling. Therefore, before accepting an intern or apprentice position, it is important to talk to the farmer or producer you’ll be working for to determine whether their vision of the experience agrees with your expectations. Find out what they need the most help with, but also let them know what skills you are hoping to gain. If possible, tour the farm and get to know other workers as well. The following are just a few websites that list available internship or apprenticeship positions:
- ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, maintains a current list of internship opportunities by State, Hawaiʻi’s list is located here: https://attra.ncat.org/internships/search_results.php?State=HI
- BeginningFarmers.org is an online compilation of information and resources related to farming. It is maintained by Taylor Reid, a Doctoral Student and policy-maker at Michigan State University and keeps an updated list of job and internship opportunities: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/internship-and-employment-opportunities/
Most local internship/apprenticeship programs have a web presence. Search online to find others in your area. We have collected some of the local programs available HERE.
Those that are interested in organic farming can get some on-farm experience as a WWOOFer, a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms worker. There are organic farms on most of the islands that will provide food and sometimes lodging in exchange for work on the farm. Some opportunities are similar to internships, but be aware that some farmers are just looking for inexpensive weed-pulling labor. In order to make sure you’ll be getting the experience you want, visit the farm and talk to the owner and other WWOOFers. The website https://wwoofusa.org/ lists organic farms in Hawaiʻi looking for workers and also rates the farms based on past WWOOFer reviews. Besides the website, another good way to find a position is to attend local farmers’ markets and talk to the farmers. Many farmers would rather hire someone with whom they’ve had a face-to-face conversation than someone they’ve never met.
Several organizations offer field days, on-the-farm workshops that last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. These field days cover a wide variety of topics related to farming and usually showcase a farm that has had success in the topic covered. Field days offer farmers and other agribusiness owners a great way to network and get answers to questions from people with on-the-farm knowledge.
Oʻahu Resource Conservation and Development Council offers business trainings, Master Farmer Workshops, and other workshops: http://www.oahurcd.org
The University of Hawaiʻi (UH)’s Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program publishes a bimonthly newsletter that highlights upcoming workshops and other agricultural news: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/sustainag/news/index.html
UH’s Cooperative Extension Program also has a number of workshops and field days which are regularly announced on their website: https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/ces100/About-Extension
Many farms that offer field days/workshops have a web presence. Search online to find others in your area.
Additional Resources for Developing Necessary Skills
While we have listed a few learning opportunities here, this is far from an exhaustive list. Many local resource organizations and farms offer workshops, seminars, community days, and welcome volunteers. Search online to find opportunities in your area that match your interest.