One of the farming programs planned is the “Veteran to Farmer” initiative, for which UH Hilo is proposing a new undergraduate certificate in agriculture solely for U.S. military veterans.
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Don Straney participated in a Homestead Farm Tour in Waimea on the Big Island last week. The purpose of the tour was to bring together many of the stakeholders and facilitators involved in the Waimea Nui Regional Community Development Initiative, a grassroots project involving community groups, Native Hawaiian leaders, and county, state and federal government. The overall vision of the initiative is to create pathways toward self-sufficiency.
From the project’s brochure:
The Waimea Nui Region covers in excess of 27,000 acres of Homestead Lands on which 536 leases have been awarded. The Homestead is part of the Waimea Community which has a population of about 14,000 people of which roughly 40% are of Hawaiian decent. Waimea is a diverse traditional agriculture region, with strong opportunities from both its human and natural resources.
The Waimea Nui Homestead community is composed of land used for residential, agricultural, and pastoral purposes, as designated by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA). Currently, there are limited local economic opportunities for the Waimea Nui Region residents and most commute 40 to 50 miles a day to the Waikoloa Coast for employment.
The Waimea Nui Regional Community & Economic Development Program is a beneficiary driven, shared community effort. The purpose is to create the fundamental infrastructure needed to build a vibrant, self-sufficient community grounded in traditional Hawaiian values.
The replicable and innovative models of the Development Initiative can service other communities and be duplicated to suit the needs of other. The next step is a Master Plan which integrates a series of community service and economic development projects specifically designed to promote the resilience and self-sufficiency of Waimea, facilitate timely and comprehensive community based growth focused on 6 specific areas with corresponding goals:
1) Community Facilities
2) Farming and Ranching
3) Health and Wellness
4) Fitness and Recreation
5) Economic Development
Veteran to Farmer Program
One of the farming programs is the “Veteran to Farmer” initiative, a community-based program for which UH Hilo is proposing a new undergraduate certificate in agriculture solely for U.S. military veterans. The program will provide a certificate level hands-on farming skills training curriculum, classroom-based business training, business start-up support, and health monitoring for veterans.
Partners in facilitating the Veteran to Farmer program along with UH Hilo include Rivertop Energy Solutions (a project-planning firm assisting with development of the initiative), Hawai‘i Community College, the State Department of Agriculture, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Mealani Research Station, the Pu‘ukapu Agricultural Community Facility, Native Hawaiian leaders and organizations, several community-based groups, Wow Farm and other local farmers in Waimea on the Big Island.
A key goal of the program is to enable veterans to develop the necessary skills to farm while also addressing the difficulties many face in transitioning back to civilian life after military service. Completion of the program can enable veterans to create new farm businesses, and to meet the requirements to acquire the leases and loans needed to start a farm. Some participants who complete the certificate program will be ready to pursue a bachelor’s degree at UH Hilo in addition to becoming farmers.