Organic Industry Analysis
CTAHR, in partnership with the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and The Hawai'i Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF), initiated an analysis of the organic agricultural sector in June of 2007. Two approaches were used to reach this diverse community: 1) An online survey, and 2) meetings in all four Counties. Seventy-six people participated in the process, of which approximately 75 percent were organic producers, with the remainder consisting of retailers, distributors, inspectors and educators. Participants included representatives of HDOA, HFBF, HOFA and the Hawai'i Cooperative of Organic Farmers (HICOF). This effort was strongly supported by CTAHR extension agents. The goal of this initial effort was to develop, from meeting and survey comments, a prioritized list of issues that need to be addressed in order for the organic sector to be more successful. A comprehensive list of comments and a draft listing of issues and actions to address them are available on-line and from Dr. Ted Radovich (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 808-956-7909).
The meeting discussion and survey responses have been revealing and sometimes surprising. A few general observations include:
- The vast majority of participating organic growers expect their operations to expand in the next 5 years.
- The use of the word "industry" to describe organic food production and supply chain generated some discomfort.
- Many of the issues identified may apply to most small growers, whether they are organic or not (e.g. absence of affordable, trained labor).
- Participants feel very strongly that under-investment in organic research and education by public agencies, including CTAHR, has occurred.
- Participants were often unaware of resources already developed by CTAHR and other groups to address production issues.
- Organic growers are in particular need of tailored and comprehensive information tools that they can use to combat pests and enhance soil fertility, among other issues.
- While the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) organisms into the environment is strongly opposed by the majority of participants, molecular biology is viewed as having potential value to organic agriculture (e.g. development of molecular markers for disease resistance).
- Although this process was not intended to formulate a strategic plan, some participants are ready to do so.