More young people will be able to train for careers in agriculture, thanks to a $200,000 gift from the Edmund C. Olson Trust 2 to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management.
The gift from the trust of one of the largest private landowners in the state creates the Edmund C. Olson Trust 2 Scholarship for two years, with a preference for students from the Kaʻū District on Hawaiʻi Island.
The Edmund C. Olson Trust 2 is a private landowner invested in sustainable agriculture, managed natural-resource conservation and cultural legacy preservation, community development and renewable energy. Its assets include Hāmākua Macadamia Nut Company, Kaʻū Coffee Mill and OK Farms, which grows a variety of tropical crops on the rolling hills of Puʻuʻeo Mauka above Hilo.
Keeping young people in agriculture
Founder and trustee Edmund C. Olson is one of Hawaiʻi’s 20 largest private landowners by acreage with 17,000 acres on Hawaiʻi Island and Oʻahu.
“Talking about the future of agriculture in Hawaiʻi and doing something about it are two different things, and we don’t want it to be different,” said Troy Keolanui, Olson’s partner in OK Farms.
He noted that there are many technological advancements that are gaining the interest of young people and drawing them to the agriculture industry.
“We need to keep them in agriculture, encourage them to stay in agriculture,” Keloanui said. “That’s one step in the right direction and that’s how we feel about this scholarship.”
Olson’s investment in Hawaiʻi Island’s agriculture community is a commitment to sustainability, said UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin.
“Ed Olson’s confidence in Hawaiʻi’s next generation of agriculturists will have a direct impact on Hawaiʻi Island’s sustainable future,” Irwin said. “We’re grateful for his foresight and commitment to the island.”
Keya Davies and Kassey Hanoa, the first two student recipients, recently met with Olson, his wife Sammie, and Keolanui.
Hanoa is a senior at UH Hilo majoring in animal science with a focus on livestock whose family has a small working livestock farm in the Kaʻū community of Pāhala.
“I still don’t have my future completely planned, but this scholarship opened many doors for me,” Hanoa said. “I just thank God for putting me on the right path to have received this scholarship and Mr. Olson for this wonderful opportunity.”
Davies, who grew up riding horses in Kaʻū, is also studying animal science, with an equine certificate, on the pre-vet track at UH Hilo.
“I have a huge passion for horses and want to work with them in my future,” she said. “I feel so thankful to have received this scholarship and am excited to finish off my degree and go off into the world!”
Olson has owned businesses and property in Hawaiʻi since first visiting the islands in 1959. He now owns 15,000 acres of agricultural and conservation land on Hawaiʻi Island and another 2,000 acres on Oʻahu.
“The land here is mostly prime agricultural land and it’s very fortunate for all of us that a man like Ed Olson was able to secure it,” Keolanui said. “I see good things in the future. I can’t say enough about Ed and his benevolence and love for the people of Hawaiʻi.”