Governor sets aside funds for Waimea agriculture program


Gov. Neil Abercrombie has committed $3.5 million for an agricultural park in Waimea.

Abercrombie in Tuesday’s State of the State address highlighted the work of Mike and Tricia Hodson, of WOW Farms, in creating the Veterans to Farmers program. The program took 14 participants, all of whom had Department of Hawaiian Home Lands leases in Waimea, and taught them how to build a greenhouse and select, grow and market crops.

The governor described the program as “an outstanding example of the synergy of communities and agricultural food self-sufficiency,” adding “this program is already changing lives.”

The program allows the lessees to manage the greenhouses and sell their products while still working a full-time job elsewhere, Abercrombie said. The agriculture park, for which he designated the $3.5 million in his 2013 budget, is central to the program, he said. Abercrombie toured WOW Farms and saw the park site late last year, and spoke at the program’s graduation.

“Our veterans not only deserve these opportunities, but they deserve our respect and our support for their sacrifices. Just look around you — one out of every ten people in Hawaii is a veteran,” Abercrombie said. “It is vitally important for us to take care of them.”

The state will work with Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to develop a multiservice Veterans Center in Kona, Abercrombie said.

The governor reiterated his plan to reopen the Kulani Correctional Facility in Hilo, which he said will return almost $5 million to the state’s economy. The state now spends that money in Arizona, he said.

“This renewed operational capacity at Kulani will not require new funds,” Abercrombie said. “The new Kulani will work with the University of Hawaii at Hilo to provide inmates who are two to four years from finishing their sentences with the tools to prepare them to re-enter our communities as functioning and participatory members of our society.”