Grapes for Tropical Hawaii




Grapes were reported growing in Honolulu in the late 1700s by Don DePaula Marin at a low elevation now known as Vineyard Ave. Sadly, any details as well as the cultivar name have been lost to time. Historians and horticulturalists suspect it was the Isabella variety but this has never been proven. In 2008 more than 9.1 million pounds of grapes were imported into Hawaii, which could be a considerable opportunity for growers in the state to replace the imports with locally grown. This project proposes, with the help of the USDA germplasm repository in Davis Calif., to test as many as 6 varieties which includes Isabella and others that grape specialists feel have a chance to perform in tropical lower elevations in Hawaii.


The two-year project will establish rooted varieties in a number of lower elevations on different islands under the guidance of PI, Ken Love.  Other producer collaborators will be on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. The project PI also plans to plant the selected varieties at a University of Hawaii Experiment station in order to insure the future of equitable germplasm distribution to all growers.


All growers in Hawaii have an increasingly difficult time competing with imported produce. Those, like the PI, who have planned and planted an orchard based on a much greater than usual diversity of crops are also feeling the pinch. Still the market for locally grown fruits is continually increasing and requests for local fruit, not currently grown in Hawaii, (grapes, apricots, apples etc.) is leading that list. Previously funded WSARE farmer-rancher projects, FW07-034 and FW09-002 both helped to establish marketable crops in Hawaii. This project will bring together the same PI and collaborators as well as two others who adopted methods learned in the previous projects and are based on other islands. The PI’s operation and that of the collaborators are small under 10 acre farms that need reliably producing crops to diversify with as each location as a different microclimate and variable growing conditions that must be augmented with numerous inputs.  Figs and project FW07-034 is the perfect roll model to follow for testing grapes in Hawaii.


Project participants include:


Ken Love, PI

Mark Nickum, technical advisor

Howard Garrison, technical advisor

Keoki Schattauer, Grower collaborator

Mark Suiso, Grower collaborator

Liz Ito, Grower collaborator

Bonnie Peratta, Grower collaborator

Bree Dupertis, Grower collaborator


Devin Lowder, President American Culinary Federation Kona Kohala Chefs Assoc. will advise the project participants on culinary aspects of using grape leaves.





This project embraces three main areas of Congressional definition of sustainable agriculture. By growing an edible commodity in an area that it has previously not grown, it provides some satisfaction to the human need for food. This operation helps to provide a much greater diversity for small family farms and helps to “sustain the economic viability of farm operations’. By offering an alternative crop for diversification, which can enhance small farm income this project would help to enhance the quality of life for all concerned.





1. To establish locally grown grapes as a viable commodity for small farm sustainability in Hawaii.

2. To have grapes desired by our traditional chef customers and at farmers markets.

3. To enable other growers and general public to reconnect with the historical aspect of grape growing in Hawaii.



Year 1 upon notification of award:


Month 1

1. Meet with collaborators to establish procedures.

            (Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai)

2. Purchase grape trellis / fencing material for collaborating producers

Month 2:

3. Producers to install plant support fencing.

4. Prepare abbreviated grape growing guide

Month 3

5. Obtain rooted plant material form USDA in Davis Calif.

6. Make sure producers have proper soil amendments and fertilizers for grapes.

7. Distribute plant material with guide.

Month 5

Discuss project at HTFG meeting.

Monitor growth patterns monthly.

Month 11

Prepare year 1 report


Month 13

8. Monitor growth habits and look for elevation specific differences.

9. Continue to research for examples of grapes in the tropics.

Month 15

10. Look at fruit protection options

11. Look at value added products with fruit, leaves and old growth vine.

12. Continue to monitor differences at all elevations.

Month 18

13. Meet with grower collaborators (all islands) to discuss future of grapes in Hawaii

Month 19 -23

14. Fruit sent for nutritional analysis.

15. Prepare and present PowerPoint for yearly HTFG conference.

16. Prepare material for extension publication to help other growers.

17. Prepare cuttings for distribution to other growers

Month 24

18. Prepare WSARE final report








Benefits and impacts to agriculture:


For a small farm to stay sustainable in a tropical environment in an island culture, a major greater diversity of crops is required. Because of the competitive nature where there are limited markets, it becomes essential for growers to continually increase the numbers of types of crops they have.


This project will increase overall farm productivity and profits by introducing a new locally grown item that growers can market. As most crops in the area are fruit trees or orchard crops. Establishing grapes will enable growers to utilize fencing and boarder areas where trees are impractical.  Grapes grown in Hawaii can, contribute considerably to value added product producers and help to further farmer-chef alliances. The use in culinary applications of grape leaves as considerable potential both as a standard Middle Eastern or Greek type dish but also as a replacement for taro leaf in the Hawaiian dish lau lau.


Producer Adoption/Reaction:


The primary way for the project to collect data will be from project participant reports to the PI. Each report will be analyzed so that continual improvement can be made. This information will be made available to more than 400 members of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) who will receive project information and updates via the HTFG mailing list. A before project poll will be taken followed by a poll at the end of the project. The WSARE survey will as part of the yearly survey to HTFG members at each conference. Surveys will measure how effective the project is as well as the communications used to let members know of the grape project. Feedback from members has always been used by HTFG in the following years conference. All HTFG members should have the option of working with grapes in Hawaii once the project is complete and germplasm available.




 Outreach Plan:


The PI will monitor and expect monthly updates form each collaborator. These updates will be combined and read at monthly Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers chapter meetings. These meetings are held in Kona at the University of Hawaii experiment station and Oahu at the Urban Garden Center monthly, and bi-monthly on Kauai Island. Near the conclusion of the project, a field day to the university test plot in Kona will enable other growers to see first hand the results of the grape tests. The entire project will be featured at the statewide HTFG conference held each year. The project will have its own section on and with links to social network sites. The PI will prepare an extension publication with the TAs on Grape Growing in Hawaii.


As there have been no low elevation grapes grown in Hawaii since the late 1700’s the project provide a knowledge base for all growers in Hawaii and enable them to consider grape as another item in their arsenal to use on the road to greater sustainability. The WSARE survey will be used at meetings featuring the topic and the HTFG yearly survey will include those topics at their yearly conference.



Educational or Information Materials Produced:

  1. Press release announcing award
  2. Produce grape growing guide for collaborators
  3. Create project sections on and
  4. HTFG monthly meetings offer project updates
  5. Add project information to HTFG Facebook page
  6. Press release with first crops
  7. Continually update website and Facebook page
  8. Produce extension publication with TA
  9. Announce project results at HTFG yearly conference.
  10. Press release on final results.
  11. Publish accepted final report
  12. Continue to update websites with post “official” project information to growers




Roles: Detail the specific roles of the technical advisor and other producers who may be involved in this project.


TA Howard Garrison (USDA Germplasm Repository) will help the project to identify varieties with potential for Hawaii and prepare propagation material.


TA Dr. Mark Nickum (University of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Specialist) will oversee experiments and work with PI to address any specific problems that might arise. He will work with the PI on the extension publication at the end of the project.


Keoki Schattauer – Grower collaborator with a diversified farm in Kona Hawaii.

Mark Suiso– Grower collaborator with a diversified farm in Oahu Hawaii.

                        Officer in HTFG

Liz Ito– Grower collaborator with a diversified farm in Kauai Hawaii.

                        Officer in HTFG

Bonnie Peratta– Grower collaborator with a diversified farm in Kona Hawaii.

                        Organic agriculture educator

Bree Dupertis– Grower collaborator with a diversified farm in Kona Hawaii.

                        Organic agriculture educator


Include a paragraph or two describing each of the agricultural operations of producers. A one-page vita is required of the Technical Advisor only.


Budget: Provide a concise budget, with proper justification, that is appropriate to the proposed project.