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University of Hawaiʻi "AgConnect" Project

Hawaiʻi Agriculture Producers:

Want to expand your AG Business, or even retire, but just need to find the right qualified person?

Hawaiʻi Ag School Graduates:

Want to use your AG skills but struggling to do it yourself or would rather partner with an existing producer?

Contact us about a new University of Hawaiʻi Program to see if we can help:


What the program offers:

  • Matching up hosts and interns/apprentices
  • Making sure foundational skills are in place and well understood
  • Assist with a business expansion or transition strategy
  • Help work through the conversations about compensation or business valuation

About the program

The UH “AgConnect” program was designed to match Hawaiʻi ag producers with skilled ag technicians to grow their existing business or perhaps even take it over one day. With the average age of Hawaiʻi ag producers approaching that of retirement, and many producers having encouraged their children not to pursue a career in ag, many now find themselves wanting to phase out of their ag business but have no viable succession plan. In the course of talking to producers on Hawaiʻi island for the pilot, we have also discovered there are many existing producers that wish to expand their business or take it in a new direction with their existing infrastructure, but are struggling to find a skilled and capable ag partner to help with that expansion. At this same time, UH ag programs like GoFarm and UH Hilo Community College are graduating highly qualified ag technicians with solid ag skills as well as entrepreneurial skills, but many (some estimates are 50%) are unable to find ways to either start or join a Hawaiʻi ag business. Therefore, the AgConnect program was designed to bridge this gap and help match these highly skilled ag graduates with local ag producers that wish to grow the business or even retire. 

While the program targets UH ag program grads, and has a minimum qualification of the Intern having the skills and experience equal to that of a GoFarm AgXcel program graduate, this is not a requirement, but a simple way to judge the qualifications of the Intern applicants. Each Intern application is reviewed and, if they are not an AgXcel graduate, their background and experience will be assessed to determine if they are an appropriate applicant. Likewise, Host applicants will be contacted and the program reviewed to confirm that they are indeed looking for a partner to grow, expand, or take over their ag business and not just just a farm worker. If the Host seems like they would be a good candidate, a farm visit is scheduled to determine the potential of their involvement in the program and assess basic safety and appropriateness of the ag site for the Internʻs work there and if all seems to be appropriate then they will be eligible to be matched with an appropriate Intern if one is available.

Program details:

  • This program exists to match existing ag producers with skilled ag "technicians" in a partnership where both benefit from the skills and experience of the other. We hold open house farm tours at the Host site as a time to decide if Host and Intern want to try to make something work together, but we do not try to force it. If both think it will work, then letʻs give it a try, but if not, it's not a failure but just not a fit at this time.
  • This is a UH Community College Hilo non-credit course and so Interns must sign up for this course but Hosts do not.
  • This is a 16-week (maximum) course that may be completed in as little as 8 weeks if both partners feel it can, and they complete the core criteria.
  • Core Criteria include
    1. Partners working side-by-side together for 16 hours per week for at least 8 weeks. Weeks do not need to be consecutive but must be completed within 16 weeks of the course start date. Interns are paid a stipend for this time.
    2. Completing a 2-year business plan together using a business plan workbook provided by GoFarm and presented to our panel of "local experts" who will also be resources in creating the plan.
    3. Each partner having candid conversations with the other about their goals and vision for agriculture in Hawaiʻi.
    4. Weekly partner check-ins with the Project Facilitator.
  • Optional criteria include
    • Targeted workshop sessions with "local experts" on topics related to business and agriculture. If the partners feel like you need help with things like pest and disease management, marketing, a cost of production analysis, etc we will set up sessions where you bring your specific questions to get specific answers from local resources that know and share such information for a living.
    • Another book (GoFarm AgXcel grads already have) and some online resources.
    • What makes something required instead of optional?: You as partners decide what is needed and if you donʻt feel you need anything to achieve the core criteria then there is no need for them.
  • If you and we decide there are partnerships that will move forward together, then we host an initial "talk story" via Zoom to confirm we will move this cohort forward together.

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