The Food Provider ~ Dec 2009 | Jan | Feb 2010

In This Issue


Aloha Kākou

Welcome to the Winter 2009 issue of HānaiʻAi, the sustainable agriculture newsletter of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The mission of HānaiʻAi is to provide a venue for dissemination of science-based information to serve all of Hawaii's Farming Community in our quest for agricultural sustainability.

Many exciting things have happened since the last issue. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Linda Cox has been appointed Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension of CTAHR. Congratulations, Linda, and thanks for your continued efforts to promote the economic viability of Hawaii farmers.

We also welcome our new topic leaders Dr. Travis Idol (Agroforestry), Matthew Stevenson (Livestock and Pasture Management) and Dr. Nguyen Hue (Organic Amendments) as our newest topic leaders. They join Dr. Linda Cox (Business Management and Marketing), Dr. Jonathan Deenik (Soil Fertility), Dr. James Leary (Weed Management), Dr. Scot Nelson (Disease Management), Dr. Hector Valenzuela (Vegetable Production), Dr. Koon-Hui Wang (Agroecology), and Dr. Mark Wright (Insect Management).

Also in this issue, we are particularly happy to present the summary of results from the organic industry analysis initiated in 2007, and to announce the organic certification of three acres of land at the Waimānalo Experiment Station.

We hope you find this issue of HānaiʻAi useful, and welcome your input. Happy Holidays!

Featured Farmer: Tane & Maureen Datta
Adaptations, South Kona, Hawaiʻi

Datta FamilyArea under production: Our growing area is 8.5 acres; 1 acre in coffee, 3 acres in intensive production systems and the rest in orchards.

Years farming in Hawaii: Started close to 25 years ago.

Crops: Herbs, edible flowers, choi, eggplant, micromix, coffee, avocado, citrus, lettuce, poha; medicinal plants such as gota cola, awa and passion vine; squash, cinnamon.

Fertility management practices: Certified organic with "Organic Certifiers," compost, feathermeal, rock fertilizers, silica sand.

Pest Management: Environmental pest and disease controls plus neem,
soaps, pyganic(r).

What Sustainability Means to You: To me, sustainability means our human desires for food, energy and shelter are fulfilled by connecting our needs to strengthening and caring for nature. Doing this provides a long term base for independence and is in a sense the way freedom is grown. Freedom based on an ecologically sustainable economy works for both the individual and society as a whole.

How did the next generation successfully integrate into the family farm? I am more concerned with the sustainable practices that I have developed on my farm being available to other farmers than having my daughters run the farm in the future. I would like to see the next generation in my family have the ability to create the world they live in as fully as I have created mine. This they are doing. Employees and WWOOFers (interns from WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) of the next generation get lots of on job training and a chance to fully manage specific crops.

How do you price your products? For the high end accounts, we look at the cost per plate (serving) and the cost of producing at the square foot scale and see where the best match is. This leads to a large diversity of crops that evolve over time. The farm goal is to make sure all production space is utilized and that the crop is destined for a specific market before it is planted. The market goal is to make sure every crop we sell is appreciated by the final consumer. For the natural food stores and lower end accounts we look at what crops from the mainland can we displace given our production costs. If we can produce a crop that reaches the market within 20% of the mainland price, it is worth exploring. We try to maintain year round pricing. Most of our accounts value that and don't drop us for cheaper mainland summer prices and then expect us to keep that price level when the mainland crop price goes up in the winter. Year round pricing develops stability for the market.

How do you promote your products? Our products are promoted by word of mouth, buyer farm tours, participation in sustainable conferences  and trying to provide good service. We have very little advertising outside of donations and have not developed a web site. We do maintain organic certification for both personal and marketing reasons.

How do you adapt your production to meet the needs of clients? We talk to our clients several times a week. For the mainland medicinal market I study various systems of medicine such as Chinese, Ayurvedic, American Indian and modern herbalism. This is partly out of natural curiosity and partly to understand what the customers are looking for. More directly, we increase what customers want more of and decrease what they are not asking for. We often maintain plants that people wanted in the past and find that they often come back into demand. In the meantime, we have developed more experience with the plant.

Where do you market your products? We market to restaurants, resorts, health food stores, schools, supermarkets, herbal practitioners, and direct to people through a CSA program called "Fresh Feasts."

How many growers do you work with? We work with over 60 growers. Some are quite small with one or two exotic fruit trees and others are family based commercial farms. All our products are grown on the islands.

What does the future look like for your farm? I'm looking at developing medicinal crops and other crops outside the culinary market. Our primary farm is on Bishop Estate lease land which always has a bit of uncertainty involved when looking toward the future. Our production is likely to spread to other locations and the knowledge gained from here used to develop sustainable agricultural systems in new places. I think organic greenhouses help lower the risk of farming and increase the productivity of a farm.

Greenhouse photo by Saffron Datta.
Mahalo nui loa to the Datta Ohana for this interview.

Ho Farms Logo

Hot Tip from Adaptations

Farming is always a learning experience. To enjoy organic farming, valuing that you are an important link between the natural world and the ever growing human society, the independence and the freedom of the lifestyle along with economics is important. When farming gets discouraging consider modifying your crops or your production system or both.

PDF version of this article

From the Field


Fruit and Vegetable Quality: It Matters!

Product quality determines marketable yield and often affects price so it has a direct impact on profitability. The exact definition of quality varies by commodity, which means you need to be aware of market standards for each commodity that you grow. This article examines the factors that influence quality and outlines things you can do to improve the quality of your produce.

READ the full article here
FMI: Dr. Ted Radovich, Email: theodore@hawaii.edu

Variety Trial Information for Hawaiʻi

On-farm Variety Trials: A Guide for Organic Vegetable, Herb, and Flower Producer: The article specifically targets organic growers, but the principles are the same for all growers. Organic Seed Alliance.

Growing Your Business

Pick your own pumpkins, Oahu.

Direct Marketing of Your Agricultural Products

Recent data indicates that farmers receive, on average, only 22.9 percent of every dollar spent on food in the US. As a result, producers may be considering direct marketing in order to increase profitability. Producers involved in direct marketing efforts are likely to incur additional costs, therefore, planning is needed in order to ensure that direct marketing will be profitable.

READ the full article here
FMI: Dr. Linda Cox, Email: lcox@hawaii.edu

CTAHR Sustainable & Organic Research News

Managing Shade Trees for Coffee Can Benefit the Soil

Pruning Travis Idol and Adel Youkhana

Coffee farms often have shade trees that require trimming, which will produce pruning waste. Research indicates that the mulch produced from N-fixing trees improves soil quality and supports sustainable farming practices.

READ the full article here
FMI: Dr. Travis Idol, Email: idol@hawaii.edu; Adel Youkhana, Email: adel@hawaii.edu

Flashcards on Beneficial Insects for Hawaii Available

flash card

Mark Wright

Conserving beneficial insects such as predators, parasitoids and pollinators in an agri-ecosystem is fundamental to maximizing the effects of these organisms. Avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides is the first step. Pest-specific insecticides (e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis for Lepidoptera pests) are useful in this regard.

Beneficial insects can be encouraged by implementing a number of cultural practices, including:

Bear in mind that depending on biological control of pests means that you have to tolerate a presence of pests on your crop, albeit below a threshold that results in economic damage to your crops. It is important to be able to identify pests and beneficial insects, so that you can track what their populations are doing over time. These identification cards provide assistance with identifying some of the most commonly encountered beneficial species in Hawaii crops.

Flashcards Available for: Braconid Wasps, Encrytid Wasps, Hover Flies, Ichneumonid Wasps, Lacewings, Lady Beetles, Predatory Mites, Pteromalid Wasps, Trichogramma Wasps

FMI: Dr. Mark Wright, Email: markwrig@hawaii.edu

Strip Tilling and Row Shifting:
New Approaches of the Sunn Hemp Superhero Project

Koon Hui Wang and Cerruti Hooks

While cover cropping can improve soil health, conventional cover cropping requires valuable land to be sacrificed for a period of time without cash crop production. Sunn hemp cover cropping that involves strip tilling and row shifting can be used to avoid this problem.

Sunn hemp is grown for three months prior to planting the cash crop, flail mowed and strip-tilled into the soil as a green manure. Then the cash crop can be planted into the strip-tilled rows. The sunn hemp will suppress plant-parasitic nematodes, while serving as green manure. The remaining sunn hemp residues will remain as organic mulch between the cash crop rows to help suppress weeds and reduce soil erosion. After the first cash crop cycle, a second crop will be planted in the sunn hemp mulch (i.e. area between the initial cash crop rows). This row shifting technique will allow consecutive cash crop plantings in the same field without causing a buildup of plant-parasitic nematodes.

FMI: Dr. Koon-Hui Wang, Email: koonhui@hawaii.edu. Dr. Cerruti Hooks, Email: crrhooks@umd.edu

Breeding crops for sustainable pesticide-free production in Hawaii: History of sweet and field corns bred at CTAHR corn trials at waimanalo experiment station

James L. Brewbaker

Plant breeding with selection for disease resistance reduces pesticide use and is of particular importance for sustainable and organic production. Dr. J. Brewbaker has spent more than 40 years breeding sweet corn at the University of Hawaii by incorporating multiple genes for disease resistance in a single variety or pyramiding using conventional breeding. This strategy was based on Dr. J. Gilbert's approach to breeding tomatoes and other vegetables.  Disease resistant sweet corn and other vegetables developed by CTAHR breeders for sustainable production are available through the Agricultural Diagnostic Service Center's Seed Program.

READ the full article here
FMI: Dr. James Brewbaker, Email: brewbake@hawaii.edu
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving by Carol Deppe (Chelsea Green Publishing)

USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) Grants awarded to University of Hawaii System

Vermicompost-based media to Enhance Organic Vegetable Seedling Vigor, Yield, Crop Quality and Grower Profitability.
Principal Investigators: Dr. Ted Radovich, Dr. Robert Paull, Dr. Janice Uchida, Dr. Brent Sipes (UH-CTAHR). Dr. Norman Arancon (UH-Hilo)

Hua kā Hua - Restore Our Seed: A planning symposium to develop a Hawai'i Public Seed Initiative
Principal Investigators: Dr. Hector Valenzuela (UH-CTAHR), Nancy Redfeather (Kohala Center), Dr. Ted Radovich (UH-CTAHR)

For more information about our research, see our monthly CTAHR Research News Magazine.

CTAHR Publications & Programs

Compost tea application

Overview of Organic Food Crop Systems in Hawai'i: Prior to 2007, the specific challenges faced by organic producers in Hawai'i were unknown. In that year, UH-CTAHR initiated an analysis of organic agricultural systems, in partnership with the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF), to determine the issues faced by this group and the actions required to address critical issues. This publication describes this effort, gives a summary of the results, and includes a discussion of the implications suggested by the analysis.

The Agribusiness Incubator Program assists agribusinesses in business-related areas such as business startup, business planning, marketing, accounting, and project analysis/management. They serve clients on all islands and have helped clients increase annual profit by an average of 360%. Applications and additional information can be found at http://aip.hawaii.edu.

Farmer Action Center, Kaneohe Extension Office On-line has information for commercial growers and backyard growers about agricultural programs, including newsletters and publications of interest to the Oahu farming community.

Video Resources

New Herbicides in Fireweed Management: Dr. James Leary, CTAHR Invasive Weed Specialist, conducts new field trials on windy Waimea ranchland, Hawaii Island, targeting fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis).

Utilizing Wet Blade® to control Fireweed: Dr. James Leary, CTAHR Invasive Weed Specialist, initiates a field trial at the Maui Horse Center targeting fireweed, Senecio madagascariensis. The Wet Blade® chemical delivery system is evaluated using herbicides with the active ingredients 2,4-Dichlorophenol, metsulfuron methyl and chlorsulfuron, and aminopyralid under high wind conditions.

Hawaii FarmerChef Channel at YouTube: Farmer Chef videos with Ken Love featuring interviews with Chefs Peter Merriman, Paul Heerlein and Bill Trask (leaders in the use of Hawaii grown produce) and local farmers Chuck Boerner (Ono Farms) and Richard Johnson (Onomea Farms).

Banana Bunchy Top in Hawaii: Four-part video series produced by Scot Nelson and Lynn Richardson.

CTAHR VIdeos: features titles such as Vog Damage on Selected Crops, Food Safety, and Harvesting and Packing Lychee, Longan & Rambutan.


. Eight new profiles available for download (.pdf) at http://agroforestry.net/scps/

awa photo: S. Nelson

How to start an Ag Tourism Venue: PDF powerpoint presentations from the Hawaii AgTourism Association

Edible Hawaiian Islands, quarterly magazine, celebrating the abundance of local foods in the Aloha State.

(Hawaii Tribune Herald)

Thirteen agriculturalists from Hawaii County visited South Korea for six days in October to learn about Korean Natural Farming. The group organized by the Hawaii Chapter of the Cho Global International Natural Farming visited numerous commercial farms including: zucchini, melon, tomato, kiwi, apple, persimmon, strawberry, bell pepper, rice, cattle, hog and poultry. "Korean Natural Farming saves 60 percent on costs because they make their own fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides from the materials and plants available from nature," said spokesman Eric Weinert, manager of a large papaya operation on the Big Island.

Building Sustainable Places is a clearing house for a variety of programs related to sustainability in agriculture. It is designed for anyone seeking help from federal programs to foster sustainable and innovative initiatives in this country associated with agriculture and forestry. It is intended to help farmers, entrepreneurs, community developers, private landowners, conservationists, and many other individuals, as well as private and public organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit.

Funding Opportunities

Spraying compost tea

Certified organic producers and handlers may be reimbursed 75% of the cost of their new or continued certification, up to a maximum of $750. For information and/or an application contact the HDOA Market Development Branch at (808) 973-9595 or email hdoa.md@hawaii.gov.

Farm Foundation seeks proposals for small grants that stimulate new ideas and build networks of resources for agriculture, the food system and rural regions. The maximum grant award is $10,000. Grant proposals should address one of the Foundation's six program areas: Energy and agriculture; Food, agricultural and trade policy; Agricultural and food system productivity, research and technology; Agriculture in the environment; Food quality, safety and consumer perception; Viability of rural regions. Small grant proposals are reviewed twice a year.  Applications received by April 30 will have a response by June 15. Applications received by Oct. 31 will have a response by Dec. 15.

Western Region Sustainable Agriculture and Education Program (WSARE) WSARE logo

Check out these and other great resources at the WSARE website.

Since 1988, the WSARE program has been supporting agricultural profitability, environmental integrity and community strength through grants that enable cutting-edge research and education to open windows on sustainability across the West, including Hawaii. The goals of WSARE are:

For more information, please see: https://wsare.usu.edu/ or contact Hawaii WSARE coordinator Dr. Ted Radovich at theodore@hawaii.edu.

This e-publication has been prepared by CTAHR research scientists and extension staff to deliver science-based information about sustainable and organic production systems to serve Hawaii's farming community.

Mahalo nui loa,

Dr. Linda Cox and Dr. Ted Radovich
Jody Smith, e-Extension Manager
Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program
Cooperative Extension Service
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources