Hawai'i Soil Health Farmer Network & Training Program

About this program:

This cohort training program supports commercial farmers by providing them with resources, skills, and motivation to understand and operationalize the link between soil health, soil fertility, and production issues. Farmers participating in the cohort will receive a complimentary soil health test and support to design and trial a soil health practice on their farm. Recognizing that each operation is unique and goals for soil improvement will vary for each cohort participant, this training program emphasizes working directly with each farmer to produce customized, sensible designs for their farms. Using a service-oriented approach to support the farmer's design process, Oahu RC&D will arrange consultation and design review with Hawaii's leading soil health experts and help work through barriers to implementing the design. After completing this program, farmers will feel confident routinely testing and assessing indicators for soil health and will develop a strategy for trialing and monitoring improvements in their soil properties over time.


Who will benefit from this training? 
This training program will benefit farm business owners and farm managers interested in restoring on-farm ecosystem services and the benefits provided by improved soil health and function. Transitioning the land to an improved state and investing in soil health practices provides long-lasting benefits to the farm and greater community. Tenant farmers attending this training will increase their skill set while providing additional value and service to the landowner and the land. This program will also cover new funding opportunities that support soil health planning through Farm Bill programming which will help participants' implement their soil health strategy developed through this training.


What value will I receive from participating?
Although this training program is free to participating farmers, the cost to cover each participant is estimated at roughly $2,000 per individual farmer. Farmers participating in this training program will receive a free soil health lab test from the Crow Soil Ecology and Biogeochemistry Lab Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, the University of Hawaii Manoa (valued at $200). We are also offering a stipend for two Hawaii Island farms interested in demonstrating an established or innovative soil health practice ($1,000 each). A stipend of $500 is available for a Hawaii Island farm that is interested in being featured as a soil health innovator. Additionally, we're recruiting qualified candidates for a Spring 2023 training to become a NRCS technical service provider in soil health planning. You can indicate if you'd like to apply for these opportunities through your application to the Hawaii Island Cohort (applications opening soon).


How do I apply and when is the deadline?
Applications will open soon for commercial farmers on Hawaii Island. The application process will also allow you to apply for additional opportunities described above, including being selected as a candidate for a soil health plan (we can accept three candidates) or to demonstrate a soil health practice to other farmers (we can accept two candidates). There is no cost for this program. For more information please contact ivy.wappler@oahurcd.org.


What will I learn from this training program? 
Farmers participating in this training program will gain confidence in assessing indicators of soil health on their farm and integrating regular soil health lab testing with a soil fertility testing regime. They will understand how to connect observed production issues such as low germination rates, increased pest and disease pressure, low water and nutrient uptake, and erosion with a potential lack of soil function. Based on this observation, they will learn how to develop a strategy for improving soil health on their farm that includes a timeline for integrating selected soil health practices and methods for measuring improvements over time. As part of this strategy, they will assess the general upfront costs of soil health practices and learn about funding to support their strategies for integrating these practices on their farm. They will also work with specialist to identify creative ways to brand and market their regenerative practices to access premium markets. Working with their fellow cohort members and local specialist, participants will become part of a network of farmers who are both new and experienced to soil health system adoption. Through this network, participants will have the opportunity to forge relationships with both local and national soil health technical specialists and contribute to a growing body of knowledge about practices relevant to Hawaii.


How is this training program delivered? 
This training is delivered through a cohort in order to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, motivation, accountability, and to support the adoption of innovative soil health practices on local farms.

Training cohorts will be held regionally on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island with each tailored to the predominant soil types and based on the main management challenges associated with these soil types. Each cohort will include three in-person workshops hosted at local farms, two virtual workshops and a site visit delivered over a 5 month period. The workshop series is designed to walk participants through the process of testing and identifying in-field indicators of soil health, setting soil health goals, identifying management practices that can help reach these goals, and integrating these practices into their farm design and operations. Although the cohort is a 5 month span, the amount of participation is roughly one workshop a month. Some farmers in our previous cohorts have chosen to trial a soil health practice and received consultation services and some financial support to implement and monitor the results of their trial. We realize farmers are busy! So you can rotate the representative you send from your farm. 

*This training program is being organized and administered by Oahu RC&D through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Pacific Islands Area State Office.