Originally known as the Agribusiness Incubator Program (AIP), the program was formed in 2003 at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH CTAHR). Designed to support the business needs of Hawaii’s local agriculturalists, the program provided one-on-one business consulting and technical assistance to agricultural producers throughout the state.
In 2012, a group of professionals from the University of Hawai’i met to discuss the need for a new kind of beginning farmer training program for Hawai’i – one that had a science-based curriculum, included rigorous hands-on and business training, and was open to all willing adults – the kind of program that would prepare the growing population of those who were interested in farming with the knowledge, experience, and confidence to contribute to Hawaii’s food security and economy as production farmers.
The timing was ripe: Farming and local food was in vogue and the group wanted to capitalize upon this newfound interest by developing at least some of this population into productive new farmers. A survey of beginning farmer training programs across Hawai’i and the mainland U.S. led to an organized tour of some of the most successful examples, which was attended by the group from the UH system as well as representatives from large landowners who had an interest in developing new farmers.
With increasing momentum and excitement, the group launched the GoFarm Hawai’i program in late 2012 with a hastily arranged seminar at Windward Community College. The surprisingly large turnout reflected the great interest and demand in learning to farm.
Currently operating under UH CTAHR, GoFarm Hawai’i has grown to become one of the largest and most successful beginning farmer development programs in the country. This is a testament to many hands and minds, and the tremendous support of many partners. While the growth and progress of the GoFarm Hawai’i program have been impressive, it is the new farmers that this young program has already produced that is most exciting for Hawaii’s agricultural future.