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Report examines what is helping, hindering organic food industry in Hawaii

March 6, 2014 - 8:21am

There are 57 issues inhibiting organic food production and distribution in Hawaii, and 93 potential opportunities and solutions to address them, according to a recent report.

“Growing Organics: Moving Hawaii’s Organic Industry Forward” is based on the results of six public surveys, issued in July 2013, of Hawaii’s organic farmers, retailers, distributors and processors to determine what is needed to support and grow the organic industry statewide.

Betsy Cole, chief operating officer at The Kohala Center, said the Department of Agriculture asked the center to conduct the feasibility study to see if there was a need for a centralized, organic industry hub.

“The group hoped that there would be an organization in the state that would represent industry interest and that it would be a cohesive organization to advocate and serve the organic industry,” Cole said. “And what that organization could and should do is outlined in the report.”

Among the recommendations listed in the report are that a staff position or program office should be established at the department to provide information, education, technical assistance, marketing support and explore offering organic certification services.

Also, there is a strong preference among organic farmers and those contemplating organic certification for a local, independent organic certifier in Hawaii.

Colehour Bondera, a Big Island-based organic farmer and one of the members of the Organic Industry Advisory Group associated with the project, said he supports that idea.

“Realistically and honestly as a farmer, it’s extremely difficult to deal with people and entities that don’t even understand what’s happening on the ground on Hawaii.

“Hawaii is a very unique environment and unique place,” he said. “For that reason, I resonate with the fact that inspections and certifications need to be Hawaii-based.”

Franz Weber, vice president of Hawaii Organic Farming Association on the Big Island, said the study exposes key issues relative to getting certified as an organic farmer in the state, and said the process should be made easier for the industry to improve.

“For a lot of people, certified organic means it has more quality and means you can sell it for a better price,” he said. “Getting certified organic, it’s almost a promotional thing. It’s trendy today and might be something that people recognize and are more inclined to buy.”

The study also discussed improving the process for certifying farms using Korean Natural Farming methods.

Michael DuPonte, Hawaii County extension livestock agent and proponent of Korean Natural Farming, said he agrees with the recommendation.

“Then at least we know the guys are doing it and the long-term hope would be to get a higher price because they’re not using any chemicals,” he said.

For a complete look at the report visit