Encouraging agricultural innovation


If you’ve been involved in agriculture in Hawaii, you certainly know the name Kamehameha Schools. This private trust was established in 1884 as Bishop Estates in the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. Knowing that education was a key to the survival of the Hawaiian language and culture that she loved, she left 375,000 acres of land for her trustees to use for the education of her people. Today, under the new name Kamehameha Schools, the trust educates nearly 7,000 students of Hawaiian ancestry every year at three K-12 campuses and 30 preschool sites statewide.

Support for these educational programs comes from an endowment fund, two-thirds of which is in diversified financial assets and about one-third in Hawaii retail, hotel, industrial and office properties. Ninety-eight percent of trust land holdings are dedicated to conservation and agriculture.

It is increasingly offering support for diversified agriculture and for protecting and enhancing natural and cultural resources on its land. Kamehameha Schools often collaborates with local community groups in sponsoring events and programs that offer information and education in Hawaiian culture and agriculture.

Its latest effort at encouraging agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship is a Mahiai Matchup contest that will reward a good agricultural business plan with the land and finances to get started. The deadline for the first application is July 1. Plans that are sustainable and address the issue of food security for Hawaii are encouraged.

Application forms for this first deadline are available at pauahi.org/mahiaimatchup/contest_information.html. Your application must include proof of Hawaii residency, as well as a brief description of your business plan and an indication of which land parcel would best suit your business plan.

The plan can be drawn up by a team of up to five members and should include a brief description of your idea, an explanation of how your plan satisfies a community or agricultural need and any distribution plans for your service, idea or product. Educational opportunities your plan may offer and innovative practices you might employ in the plan can add weight to your application. Finally, you need to explain how your business plan aligns with Kamehameha Schools’ strategic agricultural plan. This plan is an easy-to-read, four-page document with 10 goals. You can download a copy at ksbe.edu/land/pdf/LAD_StrategicPlanWeb.pdf. Goal No. 1 is to increase the production of food products for the local market. That and Goal No. 4, which is to support agricultural education, business planning and farmer certification programs, make it clear it is seeking innovative ideas that can help expand agricultural production on their lands.

The third part of the application process requires you to review and prioritize your choice of the parcels that are being offered to contest winners. You can browse the parcels at pauahi.org/mahiaimatchup/available_parcels.html. Three are available on the Big Island with two others on Oahu and a third on Molokai. Details about the location, elevation, rainfall and topography are available at the site.

Winners will be awarded one of the properties on this list and given an agricultural lease with up to five years of waived lease rent from Kamehameha Schools, as well as a cash award from Ke Alii Pauahi Foundation to get their project started.

Submitting an application by July 1 will put you in the running for the first round of judging. Finalists from round one will be notified by Aug. 1. Finalists will be given three months, until Nov. 1, to draw up their complete business plan and winners will be notified on Feb. 22 at an awards gala.

Whether you win or not, this contest offers a chance to dream about innovative and sustainable agricultural ideas and to concretize them and subject them to evaluation. This process is an important step toward agricultural success whether you have been farming for years or want to become a new member of our agricultural community.

Hopefully, Kamehameha Schools will share some of the ideas this contest generates and help find additional support for actualizing those good ideas that do not win. This is a wonderful opportunity for farmers and potential farmers to imagine what could be done if land and money were made available. Do it for the fun of it.

The contest is co-sponsored by Ke Alii Pauahi Foundation and inspired by organizations like the Ulupono Initiative, a social investment firm dedicated to improving the quality of life for Hawaii’s residents through sustainability. More information on these organizations is available online.

Tropical gardening helpline

Dan and Dale ask: I planted papaya keiki in Ocean View three or four months ago and they are growing very slowly. What’s the problem. I am sending a photo of some of the papaya leaves that look weird in my garden and my nursery. Can you tell me what the problem is and how I can remedy it?

Answer: Papayas are fast growing plants possessing self-supporting stems and so are actually categorized as herbs. An 8-inch papaya seedling planted in February should be more than 3 feet tall by May unless you are above 1,500 feet where the nights may be cooler. They do best where temperatures range between 70 and 80 degrees.

Papayas grow well in hot, sunny spots with good irrigation. They require about one inch of water per week and prefer areas where annual rainfall is above 50 inches each year. Papaya growth can be adversely affected by cool temperatures, as well as limited water or poor drainage. Their large leaves evaporate a lot of water in warm weather, which increases their water needs. Compost is recommended to hold water in the root zone unless you get lots of rain. Root rot is a common problem with papayas in rainy areas. They are also heavy feeders and require regular fertilization.

The deformed leaves on your papaya are caused by broad mites. A heavy infestation of these mites can threaten the life and normal growth of your papaya since it reduces the leaf area that is performing photo synthesis. These mites can be controlled with wettable sulfur, which is an acceptable organic broad spectrum pesticide.

Mix the sulfur powder with a small amount of water to get it in solution and then add the rest of the water as directed on the instructions. A few drops of soap may help keep the sulfur in suspension. Apply to the top and underside of the affected leaves during the coolest part of the day since it can burn leaves if applied when the sun is full. Also, avoid applying within 21 days of using an oil-based spray.

Email plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Gardening events

Saturday: Slow Food Hawaii fundraiser dinner starts at 6 p.m. at the Canoe House at Mauna Lani featuring Chef Allen’s prixe fixe menu. Contact slowfood hawaii@gmail.com or call Clare at 936-6511 for more information.

Ongoing: Consult with master gardeners and tropical gardening advisers from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays at the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service at 322-4892 or 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday or Friday at the UH CES in Hilo at 981-5199 or himga@hawaii.edu,

Farmer-direct markets

Hooulu Community Market, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay;

Keauhou Farm Bureau Market, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Keauhou Shopping Center;

South Kona Green Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, Captain Cook.

Diana Duff is a local organic farmer, plant adviser and consultant.