Thursday | January 19, 2017
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Agricultural businesses can make money

You’ve certainly heard that to make a small fortune, you need to start with a large fortune. For many local farmers, who did not start with a large fortune, that old adage is a painful reality. Many hold two or three outside jobs while their passion for farming fills their weekends and other spare time. When they need more hours to farm, they spend off-site earnings hiring folks to help maintain their farming habit. This scenario is not the only way to go.

Many farmers find ways to turn their farm into a money-making enterprise. Whether you are an experienced farmer, beginner or wannabe, help is at hand. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Rural Development Program, the Hawaii Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training will offer an opportunity for success.

One way to help agricultural enterprises succeed is to help farmers learn ways to transfer their ideas into a plan or plans that can be profitable, provide a life-supporting income and keep farming viable in Hawaii.

Business Plan Development Training for Farmers is an excellent start toward that goal. The series offers 16 classes and three field trips, as well as outside-of-class help for folks interested in getting a profitable agricultural business going. Whether you want to incorporate a new business, offer a needed nonprofit service or add value to your crops, you can earn a living doing it. The key to making a small fortune in farming is having enough start-up funding to make that happen. One way to get that initial funding is to have a solid business plan. Lenders, granters, friends or family “angels” will be much more inclined to offer financial help if they know you have a well-researched plan that will optimize their investment in your business.

These classes will be offered at several locations on the Big Island: Captain Cook, Hawi, Honokaa, Hilo and Pahoa. Teachers will conduct some of the nuts-and-bolts workshops as well as host visiting speakers from UH, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Development Center. Classes will cover a variety of topics including marketing, agricultural resources, grant writing, production costs, record keeping, risk management and insurance as well as the basics of a successful business plan and the steps involved in producing one.

Certification for the class is available to those who attend the classes and complete the final project: writing a business plan.

Field trips will take participants to agricultural businesses and distributors, restaurants and retail stores. Classes and trips are spread over 10 weeks, allowing time for students to perform outside research and assignments necessary to complete their business plans. The series of classes costs $25 per student.

If learning to produce a bankable business plan to help you raise money to start an agricultural business appeals to you, call OCET at 934-2700 and register, today. Enrollment at each location is limited. Classes start in early September.

Diana Duff is an organic farmer, plant adviser and consultant.

Tropical gardening helpline

Bill asks: My mango tree did not flower or fruit this year. What could cause this and what can I do about it?

Answer: Sometimes fruit trees produce every other year, especially if they produced heavily the year prior. Changes in weather can also affect fruit production. Heavy rains when the tree is flowering can cause pollination problems. Dry weather can stall flowering and fruiting, and temperature extremes can slow or halt the trees’ usual production schedule.

One successful fix is to apply a foliar application of potassium nitrate, KNO3, to your tree about a month before its usual flowering season. Depending on the variety, this could be in late winter or early spring. Often a single application will encourage flowering in about a month. A second spraying may get you a second flowering to extend your season.

For more information on foliar application of potassium nitrate, visit More useful information is available at

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