Hoʻōla Farms in Hilo receives $750,000 USDA grant for veterans program : Big Island Now

Hoʻōla Farms in Hilo is one of four organizations awarded a US Department of Agriculture grant through the federal agency’s program to enhance agricultural opportunities for military veterans.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture selected projects offering onsite, hands-on training and classroom education that lead to a comprehensive understanding of successful farm and ranch operations and management practices. The goal is to ensure pathways for military veterans interested in pursuing careers in agriculture.

Hoʻōla Veteran Services — the nonprofit home of Hoʻōla Farms — has been awarded a 3-year, $750,000 grant to support their “Groundwork to Grow: Agribusiness” pilot program on the Big Island.

The program is designed to support military veteran farmers, their families and the community at large on Hawaiʻi Island by providing exposure and skills-based workshops and courses designed to help them succeed in agricultural careers.

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“We noticed a gap in the type of support that is provided to farmers, at least here in East Hawai’i,” said Anthony Florig, program manager for Groundwork to Grow at Hoʻōla Farms. “There is discussion and research and support for the production side, but not enough training around agribusiness principles, especially financial literacy, marketing and business development — all of which are essential to sustaining a resilient farm or agriculture business.”

Veterans, their families and civilians can all participate in a variety of free one-day “Intro to Grow” workshops, and then they can enroll in “Groundwork to Grow: Agribusiness,” a more comprehensive four-week course that focuses on specific topics related to agribusiness training and development.

Topics include Master Food Preservers, Agribusiness Training and Development, Financial Literacy for Farmers, and Agribusiness: Sales and Marketing.

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Experts and guest speakers from agencies—including the Hawaiʻi Master Food Preservers, College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources, UH-Hilo, Hawaiʻi Small Business Administration and USDA—will provide additional resources.

“Our goal is to support the development of local farmers and producers, increasing our local economy and community resilience, and decreasing our reliance on imported food,” said Emily Emmons, executive director of Hoʻōla Farms, which was founded in 2015.

“This innovative program compliments our existing agriculture training programs with the agribusiness skills farmers and producers need to be successful in today’s marketplace,” she said.

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Those who are interested or who would like additional information about Hoʻōla Farms programs can visit www.hoolafarms.org or contact [email protected].

For more information about the federal National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, visit https://www.nifa.usda.gov/grants/programs/enhancing-agricultural-opportunities-military-veterans-agvets. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science (searchable by state or keyword), visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts.

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