The goal of organic production systems is to produce food of high nutritional quality in sufficient quantity by working with natural systems rather than seeking to dominate them. Organic growers encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system, involving plants, animals, microorganisms, and, most importantly, soil flora and fauna. In Hawai'i , over 140 certified organic producers form the foundation of an industry estimated to contribute approximately $15 million to the State's economy annually. If Hawaii 's industry follows the National trend, that number is expected to grow by as much as 20% each year.
Hawai'i has a centuries-old tradition of sustainable food production. Pre-contact Hawaiian agricultural systems were closely linked to the natural environment to ensure long-term productivity and support hundreds of thousands of people in these Islands. During the many changes that have since taken place in Hawai'i , The University of Hawai'i has endeavored to maintain agriculture's link with the ecology and biological cycles of our Island home. For nearly 100 years, much work has been conducted by CTAHR in its various incarnations and partnerships to develop and improve agricultural technologies pertinent to organic growers. This includes intensive cover crop research, promoting the importance of locally grown produce, developing biological and cultural methods for controlling pests without chemicals, and the use of biological nitrogen fixation to significantly increase production of high protein foods while at the same time reducing the need for commercially produced fertilizers.
CTAHR continues to carry-on Hawaii 's sustainable agricultural tradition through the 21st century. Organic agriculture holds much promise for strengthening agriculture and expanding markets for local agribusinesses, and organic farming will continue to play a significant role in providing new opportunities for Hawaii 's farmers. Organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture are knowledge-intensive and will require a strong research and training infrastructure, which CTAHR will provide. Current programs include “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” promotion of Hawai'i-grown produce, the maintenance of long-term (13-year) organic research plots in Waimanalo, development and evaluation of natural products for pest control, and conventional breeding for pest and stress resistance in important crops.