With farmers’ markets closing and restaurants slowing due to the pandemic, Hawaiʻi’s small farms are looking to larger and more stable markets, such as groceries and wholesale. However, there are two substantial barriers that need to be addressed in order to make this happen: food safety training and compliance with regulations.
On Kauaʻi, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension (CTAHR) is collaborating with two local nonprofits, Mālama Kauaʻi and North Shore Economic Vitality Partnership (North Shore EVP), to leverage $280,000 in CARES Act funds into a new “Safe & Stable Kauaʻi Farms Initiative” supporting a diverse cohort of 40 small farms.
All 40 farms attended the Produce Safety Alliance Grower training, earning each farm a certificate for completing the required Food Safety Modernization Act training, on-farm food safety assessments and technical advising. The grant program is providing each farm up to $5,250 for needed upgrades to improve food safety, technology and business.
The Safe & Stable Kauaʻi Farms Initiative “might be something small for someone else, but for us it is something very big. We are very happy and grateful,” said Nophadon Seechachet, a farmer who runs O.K. King Farm.
The final stage of the program includes advanced workshops from North Shore EVP on infrastructure, recordkeeping, employee training and Worker Protections Standard certification. Each workshop will provide supplies for farms to immediately implement what they learn, such as mobile hand washing stations, recordkeeping templates, first-aid kits, measuring equipment and PPE. Any workshops not filled by the current cohort will be open to other interested farmers.
“This is a great example of a public-private partnership and social investment that really benefits many farms directly,” said Megan Fox of Mālama Kauaʻi. “These farms are really getting a leg up in their operations and in the market, which is truly needed right now.”
—By Emilie Kirk, CTAHR Assistant Extension Agent