by CTAHR Food Systems Working Group
CTAHR’s Food Systems Working Group held its second quarterly forum in mid-September to discuss tackling local food sustainability from a holistic perspective. This forum, “Farm to Table: The CTAHR Connection,” which featured six speakers from the UH system focused on the business marketing aspect of food systems, attracted participants across Hawaiʻi.
Food sustainability is a complex issue. It must be addressed from a system perspective. The subject goes beyond the volume of food production. It encompasses the efficiency of food access and distribution, and the development of sustainable and reliable channels that can weather unforeseen events impacting the food supply in Hawai’i.
As Noa Lincoln of the Dept. of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences (TPSS) mentioned, “The more time I spend working with our farms and farmers, I realize production is often not the primary limiting component for our farmers. Access to markets and the ability to move product from farm to consumer is a huge barrier. That’s what we are looking at today.”
Marielle Hampton of the Dept. of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) also emphasizes the role of agribusiness, saying, “Hawaiʻi’s food system depends on the development of successful businesses in farming, ranching, seed production, value-added products, and other food-related enterprises. From finding markets to boosting profitability, research and outreach from CTAHR can play an important role in supporting the success of local entrepreneurs.”
Keynote speaker Ania Wieczorek delivered a powerful personal connection to food sustainability, “I grew up without food security during communism in Poland when everything fell apart. Poland was a vibrant, agricultural country, but food was not able to make it to the cities, towns, or community. As a result, the stores were all empty. We stood in lines overnight to purchase food. We got coupons for six pounds of meat per month. So I always wanted to dedicate myself to agriculture and helping communities have food security. As your Interim Dean, I will do absolutely everything in my power to work with all of you and the community to make sure CTAHR works toward our mission of supporting Hawai’i agriculture and Hawai’i families and communities.”
She added, “We need to be able to really look at the big picture of food systems, and collaboration is essential. We have to break down the silos because no single entity in the state can address this issue alone anymore.”
The forum aimed to highlight and connect projects and project leaders within food systems. Emilie Kirk of Extension noted, “There is a common challenge in academia about ‘working in silos’ and not necessarily having a good understanding of what our colleagues are working on.” Glenn Teves of TPSS agreed, noting, “there are many important and innovative food systems projects in which the CTAHR faculty are engaged that’s not acknowledged.”
Emilie continued, “Our Food Systems Working Group envisioned the idea of these quarterly forums as an experiment in creating more opportunities to increase awareness of ongoing projects and programs by sharing briefly about our work efforts and passions. Through Forum discussions, the goal is to foster more communication and collaboration among folks with related interests leading to synergies like greater impact and innovative ideas to address some of the many challenges we are facing collectively around food and the environment.”
“Food systems are very complex, and we all are working very hard to promote food sustainability, and it’s not easy; it’s a long road leading to food security. Bringing people together highlights not only each project but also celebrates all of our hard work. It’s beyond just a presentation, but a celebration of our hard work!” said Sothy Eng, the Working Group facilitator.
The forum drew graduate and undergraduate students, instructors, Extension agents, specialists, researchers, and Hawaiʻi’s community of food stakeholder. “It’s exciting to see our students interested in hearing about the different types of programs that CTAHR is working on regarding Food Systems,” said Christine Hanakawa of FCS. “I feel the Forum is also wonderful venue for faculty and staff to find out what we are all doing and how we can connect and collaborate.”
“GETLocal itself stands for Grow, Eat, Think Local,” adds Nancy Ooki of FCS. “So it really encompasses everything CTAHR does with its different education programs, research programs, and just getting information out there to people about supporting the food systems.”
She adds, “GETLocal website is meant to be a place where people can share what they’re working on so others can know about it. Because it’s a website, the community can also know what types of initiatives and programs we’re doing. So it’s not meant to be an additional program or work. It really is kind of a gathering place and a community where everybody can share their information. Because it is related to food systems, it’s got a variety of programs that are happening. We have a calendar of events that are related to what people in CTAHR are already doing.”
The next forum in the Fall will be held December 1st at 10:00-11:30am. Detailed information about the event will be available soon.
Watch the full recording of the online forum.
Featured panelists include:
- Meet all the speakers with their brief introduction (Clip 1)
- About our network (Clip 2) and our GETLocal website (Clip 3)
- Keynote speaker: Ania (Clip 4)
- Business Marketing: Shannon Sand, CTAHR Extension Agent (Clip 5)
- Data-Driven Value Chain Coordination: Hunter Heaivilin, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography and Environment (Clip 6)
- Finding and Accessing Markets for Food Production: Pomai Weigert, AgBusiness Consultant, GoFarm Hawaii (Clip 7)
- The Culinary Breeding Network: Jay Bost, Former GoFarm AgBusiness Consultant
- Product Development in Food Businesses: Lauren Tamamoto, Coordinator/Research Chef/Food Scientist, Kapi’olani Community College
- Farm to School: Lydi Morgan Bernal, Extension Agent, CTAHR