ALP Class XVII In-Person at Last!

After over 8 months of meeting virtually due to COVID restrictions, ALP Class XVII met in person from July 20-23, 2021 on the island of O‘ahu. The seminar began with a day of site visits on the North Shore. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures!

Three cars pulled up outside Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center in Kunia and as participants stepped out of their vehicles they were surprised to find that some of their fellow cohort members were taller or shorter than they appeared on Zoom – Ha! There was excitement and anticipation in the air as we all met in-person for the first time. The day began with some time to chat and get to know each other and, it’s Hawai‘i, so of course we had snacks, too. Then, we started right in on our day of adventure.

We began with a site visit of HARC where we learned about the history of the organization and also learned about the research they have done related to sugar, papaya and more. We learned about the Seeds of Tomorrow Camp they offer to engage students in all aspects of agriculture. Did you know that HARC is a non-profit that could use your support? They aim to support a viable agricultural sector by researching and applying relevant science and technology to achieve practical solutions.  Visit their website to learn more!

The adventure continued in Kunia where we next met with Michael Kohn, President of Paina Hawai‘i at the irradiator facility. Michael was a fantastic site host that provided a ton of information on the science of irradiation and the process of treating locally produced agricultural products to prepare them for shipment. Food irradiation—a food safety, food preservation or quarantine measure used in more than 50 countries—is a process in which food is exposed to a source of ionizing energy. Irradiation provides processors with a further safe alternative to treat foods. One takeaway from our discussions with Michael was that we need to continue to offer high quality products to ensure that the Hawai‘i name continues to be attractive to buyers and we all agreed with that. Michael encouraged “the young, smart motivated participants of ALP Class XVII” to keep working to keep agriculture moving forward. With that, we moved forward to our next stop after we bid farewell to Michael and he rewarded us with a box of fresh papaya. Mahalo, Michael! It was delicious!

We headed back to HARC for another brief meeting with Stevie where we heard about Kunia Village and also had a quick site visit of Kunia Country Farms and Ko Hana Rum that is located onsite. It was easy to see what a force Stevie has been in agriculture over her career. She encouraged us that it’s important to take opportunities when they are presented and it was obvious that she has taken her own advice over the years and that it has led to many collaborations that have supported agriculture in Hawai‘i. Stevie also discussed how important it is for everyone to support the work of those in agriculture by buying local and by donating to ag organizations when possible. Mahalo to both of our HARC site hosts, Stevie Whalen and Ming-Li-Wang, Ph.D.

We then packed back in our vehicles and headed off to Corteva Agriscience to meet with ALP Class IX Alumni Alika Napier. We were welcomed by Alika and other Corteva staff with a delicious lunch and we were also joined by Janel Yamamoto and Daniel Carroll from GoFarm Hawai‘i. Alika led a presentation on Corteva and then led us around the site where we learned about the current operations in Hawai‘i. Corteva has 2,000 acres where they grow as many as 200 different varieties of corn seed that is used for livestock feed. They grow to fill shortfalls from other areas. The class enjoyed learning about the process and seeing the equipment and vehicles.

Here’s some history on Corteva – With roots in Hawai‘i dating back more than five decades, Corteva Agriscience began its operations as Pioneer Hi-Bred International in 1968.  Adopting land formerly used for sugarcane cultivation, Pioneer began researching conventional hybrid corn seed varieties in Waimea. In 1999 Pioneer expanded to O‘ahu, opening its current Waialua Parent Seed farm and introducing the Kunia Research Center in 2005. Today, Corteva utilizes modern biotechnology to develop and grow both conventional and genetically engineered corn seeds. Corteva Hawai‘i continues to help farmers across the globe face the many challenges within the agricultural farming industry.

We remained on site for our next visit where Corteva provides land for GoFarm to Hawai‘i to operate their North Shore location. GoFarm Director Janel Yamamoto provided an introduction on the grant-funded program that began in 2003 and their mission to enhance Hawai‘i’s food security and economy by increasing the number of sustainable, local agricultural producers. They do this by offering those with an interest in agriculture a combination of knowledge, experience, and support to reach their full potential. North Shore Farm Coach Daniel Carrol then provided a tour of the site and discussed more details on the program which is beginning a new cohort soon. He discussed that many participants in the GoFarm program are beginning a second career. Then it was time to move down the road to Sweet Land Farm, but not before we captured a couple of photos and said mahalo to Alika, Janel and Daniel for a great site visit!

What came next, you ask? Goats…and we love goats! We arrived on site and were greeted by our host, Operations Manager Eric Bello. O‘ahu’s only certified goat dairy, located on 86-acres in Waialua, Sweet Land Farm creamery is state of the art and runs on the highest commercial kitchen standards and utilizes a greek designed milking parlour. There is a 211-gallon vat for pasteurizing onsite and  cheese aging rooms as well as a retail storefront. Sweet Land Farms produces farmstead goat cheese and goat milk products exclusively from the goats raised here the family farm. The milk is transformed into products like chèvre, feta, Tomme and Caramel sauce. The farm and the creamery were designed and built to incorporate models new and old that the family felt were incredibly useful, good for the goats, befitting of Hawai‘i’s micro-climate, energy efficient, helpful to the land and the community. They are learning everyday, through trial and error, through a supportive network of fellow goat dairies, and of course, from the goats themselves  – did I mention, we loved the goats? 😉

Eric invested a lot of time with our group and provided a wealth of knowledge on the operation. After we learned everything about the farm, Class XVII enjoyed supporting Sweet Land Farm by shopping in their retail store after. If you have a chance, stop by the farm one day. They are currently operating a small market on Saturdays and they offer tours at times as well but check their website or give them a call for the latest information because they too have had to adjust their schedule and operations due to COVID.

And, that was a wrap! We ended the day with a short debrief and a drive to Ala Moana hotel. It was a beautiful day with gorgeous weather and an unbelievable number of rainbows – a great first day together for sure! Don’t miss hearing about days 2-4 in our next blog posts! Thanks for reading and following along!



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