Hawaii’s small-scale agriculture will receive a $2.7M increase January 3, 2023 by Ozil Mahalo for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Small-scale agriculture in Hawaii just got more support as the state Department of Agriculture awarded nearly $2.7 million to nearly 600 applicants across the islands. DOA last week announced the distribution of micro-assistance for food security program. A total of 579 awards – including 347 on Oahu – were awarded in 2022. More than 7,400 applications have been submitted, according to the Department of Agriculture. The awards support people involved in smallholder gardening, pastoralism and ranching in Hawaii. That includes gardens and community parks on Oahu, including the island’s largest in Wahiawa, between Kamehameha Highway and the H-2 Freeway. Wahiawa resident TJ Kuresma plans to rent the donation to a farmer and clear the excess land she recently found in her garden. “The back part – about a quarter of the plot I was given – is overgrown with big weeds that are now small trees,” she said. “I’ve been using my chainsaw to cut what I can, but I want to rent that money to Marsha and use it to fully develop that place.” The City and County of Honolulu has 10 community gardens. Wahiawa’s Sgt. The E. Smith Community Garden includes 460 plots, each 20 by 40 feet. Kuresma, a full-time Hawaii electrician, grows and harvests vegetables in her backyard, some of which are delivered to others in the community, especially those who don’t have access to fresh food. “I do a lot of work in our community,” she said, like distributing produce, “especially produce that might come to me from my farmer friends or my neighbors.” “We have two kupuna groups… and we either collect or we collect and distribute here for kupuna because fresh produce is too expensive for them. Although it is a priority, it is not always achievable. Depending on the Small Grant Program application, canning, hydroponics, agricultural education costs, and some infrastructure costs may also be funded. In the year In 2021, the first year of the agricultural grant program, DOA distributed 177 awards – less than a third of the grants distributed this time. Phyllis Shimabukuro-Gisser, chairwoman of the State Board of Agriculture, said in a statement: “This year there was an unprecedented level of interest in the micro-assistance program. “Grant awardees have submitted well-thought-out proposals to achieve the grant’s objective of increasing the quality and quantity of locally produced foods in areas where food availability is likely to be limited.” The grants range from $750 to $5,000 and the funding was provided by the US Department of Agriculture through the 2018 Farm Bill. Only people are allowed to apply for aid in 2022; Organizations are allowed to apply in 2021. Interest in and support for small-scale agriculture is critical to food security and resilience in Hawaii, said state Rep. Amy Peruso (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Poamoho). “It’s basically a historical environmental practice. “This is how our societies are organized,” she said. We need to find more institutional ways to support this. For example, support can be provided in Oahu residences that have fruit trees ready for harvest, but residents cannot do that work themselves. Peruso said small-scale local food pickers and distributors, such as food hubs, which have grown in popularity during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, need support. About 85% to 90% of Hawaii’s food is imported. The state’s reliance on food shipments is increasing its carbon footprint and making the islands vulnerable to food shortages if there is a disruption in the supply chain — a concern amid pandemic restrictions. “We all know that we don’t have structures in place to ensure safety in an emergency, but generally speaking. That resilience around our food system is very weak,” Peruso said. She stated that she wants to do more to support the small and small scale of agriculture, “I think it is often neglected by policy makers because it is not institutionalized and difficult to control…but I see (the aid) being used in me.” Community” is to develop better infrastructure and planning related to locally produced food and making that food available to residents.