April 2004

The University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), in cooperation with the Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative; has begun implementing a grant received from the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture competitive grants program.  The three-year grant for $156,800 is titled “Development of a Sustainable Polyculture and Marketing System for Exotic Tropical Fruits.”  The “12 trees” project, developed by Ken Love and CTAHR economist Dr. Richard Bowen, calls for Kona area chefs, produce companies and wholesale fruit buyers to identify the 12 most promising types of fruit trees not yet commercially developed, from a list of more than 100 species already found in West Hawaii. The trees were also selected so that fruit could be harvested throughout the year.  The project will promote a different fruit each month.


Producing trees will be purchased and transplanted to the Kona Pacific Farmers
Cooperative, located near the bottom of Napo`opo`o Road, where a prototype organic fruit orchard and education center will be developed. The project will acquire trees and fruit from farmers and donate the fruit to the West Hawaii Community College Culinary School in return for recipes developed by student and guest chefs.  A recipe book and growing guides for the twelve fruit species will be published at the end of the three-year project.

“Everybody wins” says project manager Love. “The farmers can diversify to a much greater extent, while smoothing the demand for labor, and reduce their reliance on only one or two commercial crops. The culinary school will receive free fruit for two years which will provide exciting challenges for their students.  The Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative will acquire an organic fruit orchard, visitor and education center for their members and for the community.  Island chefs will gain a competitive edge by using the unusual fruit in their cuisines as production and markets of these exotic fruits and fruit products are developed.”


“We see this as an innovative way for CTAHR to work with community groups to develop options for farmers to become sustainable,” adds Bowen, the grant coordinator.  “The history of agriculture in Hawaii has taught us that our farmers must continually innovate with new practices and products to remain competitive.  This project seeks to stimulate profitable commercial production of new fruits and fruit products using environmentally sound practices to benefit the local community.”