About our farmer soil health training & networking programs
About the Farmer Soil Health 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.

How do I apply and when is the deadline?
Applications are now open for commercial farmers on Kauai. The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, 8/22/22. We are able to accept ten commercial farmers. There is no cost for this program. To apply, email: India.Clark@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 12 workshop sessions delivered over an 8-week 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. The training sessions include a viability model and system for routinely measuring improvements over time.

What is the time commitment?
The workshop series includes in-person sessions held at local farms and virtual sessions. The virtual sessions are delivered live and recorded. The recorded version will be offered through an online learning platform, allowing participants to work through sessions that they miss. This also allows participants to view the material again. Each of the recorded sessions will include interactive quizzes to help the farmer test their competency in retaining the information and being able to give thought on the application for their farm.

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. The training sessions will include a viability model and system for routinely measuring improvements over time. The workshop series will be grounded in farmer stories/case studies and demo examples. Cohort facilitators, trainers, and farm leaders will set the tone for ‘co-designing’ soil health solutions and creative thought towards what makes sense for each participant’s unique farm operation.

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.

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). A comprehensive soil health plan will be conducted as a demonstration for each cohort, starting with Oahu and now actively working with Kauai.

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.

Course Outcomes:
At the end of the program participants will:
  • Understand how to assess soil health indicators on their farm;
  • Understand how to integrate regular soil health testing with a soil fertility testing regime;
  • Understand how a lack of soil function can contribute to production issues such as low water and nutrient uptake, increased pest and disease pressure, low germination rates, compaction, ponding and erosion;
  • Have set goals for improving soil health and function along with practices to achieve them;
  • 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;
  • Learn general upfront costs of soil health practices and awareness of funding to support their strategies for integrating these practices on their farm;
  • Be confident consulting with a soil health technical specialist;
  • Understand how to access premium markets by using branding and marketing strategies for promoting the soil health practices used to produce their crop/product;
  • Join a network of local and farmers in the Pacific region who are both new and experienced to soil health system adoption.

Soil Health Training Sessions for Kauai Farmers

September 5 - September 26, 2022
The first three sessions of this training will provide producers with a foundational understanding of how improving soil health may address some of the nutrient, pest, disease, and productivity issues observed on their farm. Workshop 1 will set a foundation for how each subsequent session will address soil health and soil fertility. Participants in these training sessions will learn how to use in-field soil health indicators to assess the health of their soil and attribute this loss to potential crop and management challenges on their farm. The ability to assess soil health using simple, low-cost methods will enable producers to troubleshoot and ‘rule out’ how poor soil health is contributing to their decline in crop health and productivity.

September 5, 2022

Session 1: Linking improved soil health and function to better crop performance [Virtual, Monday, 4-6pm]

September 12, 2022

Session 2: In-Field Soil Health Indicators, Assessment and Sampling [In-person, 9am-1pm, Monday, Kilauea Community Agriculture Park]

September 13-16, 2022
One-on-one session on your farm: Oahu RC&D staff will work with each cohort participants to take soil samples on their farm and submit these samples to the UH Crow Lab to test for soil health using parameters that are relevant to Hawaii. CTAHR extension agents will participate in the site visits and provide input on technical issues with implementing or maintaining specific soil health practices.


September 26th- November 14th, 2022
The next series of workshops will demonstrate a soil health practice to support the farm’s nutrient management regime, address pest and disease concerns, and productivity. Farmers will be exposed to demonstrations of soil health practices other farmers have tried, lessons learned and recommendations to improve the installation, matinainance, or rotation of the practice in different types of farm operations. Demonstrations of the soil health practice will include a discussion of the estimated cost to install and maintain the practice. Upon completion of these sessions, farmers will have a better understanding of the contributions that can be made from improving soil health functionality for their operation and soil health goals based on their individual soil sample lab results and farm management priorities. Farmers will use the demonstration of soil health practices and their soil health goals to identify which practice(s) they want to trial or 'dial-in' on their farm. 

September 26, 2022
Session 3: Cover cropping systems and rotation of fallow fields in wetland kalo lo'i operations [In-person, Monday, 4-6pm, location TBD] 


October 10th, 2022 
Session 4: Organic and carbon amendments: Equipment Demo & Partial Budget Demo
[Moloa'a Organica, 4-6pm]



October 24th, 2022
Session 5: 
Soil Health Plans & Funding Your Soil Health Practices: ORCD staff will share [In-person, Monday, 4-6pm, location Old Koloa Regenerative Farm].
The findings of a soil health plan developed with a farmer from the cohort. This example will be used to help farmers prep for developing a strategy and a budget for integrating soil health practices into their operation. 


Week of October 31, 2022
One-on-one session consultation: Using examples presented in the previous sessions, Oahu RC&D staff will work one-on-one farmers to review the results of soil health lab results and how to use this information to inform the goals and strategies for improving soil health on individual farms.


11/7/22:
Session 6: Branding & Budgeting for Soil Health Practices [Virtual, Monday, 4-6pm]


11/14/22:
Session 7:
 Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Nutrient Cycling [In-person, Monday, 4-6pm, Location TBD]

This session will bring everything together from previous sessions together and allow cohort producers to use the soil health assessment and goals they developed in earlier sessions. They will be guided through a process to develop an action plan and budget for implementing a soil health practice(s) on their farm. Included in the action plan will be a schedule for routinely assessing in-field indicators of soil health and/or submitting soil samples to measure improvements observed from trialing their soil health practice. Opportunities for farmers participating in this cohort to share their trials and observations through a farmer-to-farmer learning network will also be introduced.

*Based on the interest of the cohort, a virtual session may also be held to discuss the nexus between improved soil health and agorforestry systems, focusing on enhanced nutrient cycling and management. [in-person, Monday, 4-6pm, location TBD]