About The Farm Apprentice Mentoring Program


Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation

  • The Farm Apprentice Mentoring Program is run by the Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation 501c3 Non-Profit


  • Empower the next generation of farmers with the knowledge,
    skills and abilities to be successful farmers here in Hawai'i.

Program History

  • The Farm Apprentice Mentoring (FAM) program was created in 2015 by the board of the Hawaii Farmers Union United (HFUU).
  • The first year’s participants consisted of 10 farm apprentices and 2 mentors. FAM was born to meet a clear need, the need for new farmers.
  • Early in 2016, The Maui County Office of Economic Development funded a 5-month FAM planning process. Hawaii Farmers Union United board members and staff, guided by evaluation data from administration, apprentices and mentors from the 1st year of the program, hatched a new FAM program that included a 10-module curriculum.
  • Using this design, the second cohort of FAM consisted of 15 apprentices and 10 mentors.  Fourteen Apprentices graduated Phase 1 in June 2017.
  • In 2018 the FAM program graduated 18 apprentices and adds an on-farm immersion component for graduate apprentices. The University of Hawaii College’s Office of Continuing Education and Training awards Certificate of Professional Development for FAM curriculum graduates.
  • 2019 the FAM program welcomes 31 mentors and graduates 27
  • 2020 FAM program graduates 24 apprentices. Expanded the FAM Program to Hana

Program Structure

The Farm Apprentice Mentoring (FAM) program is a signature program of HFUU and HFUF, its Foundation, a 501 (c) 3.

FAM integrates Hawaiian cultural practices of sustainability and land management with a whole systems approach to agriculture.

FAM program modules are delivered by certified instructors from the UH Maui College Office of Continuing Education (OCET), and the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM). Each of the classes are followed by an on-farm immersion as information learned in the classroom is applied on a working farm. Upon completion of Phase 1, apprentices who have satisfied levels of attendance and learner outcomes receive a Certificate of Professional Development from the UH-Maui College OCET.

PHASE 1: Through class work and on-farm immersion activities with experienced mentors, participants acquire and hone the skills and techniques of organic and regenerative agriculture.

There are 10 modules in Phase 1:

  1. The Farmer – Program orientation: Introduction to HFUU Policy, personal commitments, goal setting, & time-lines for accomplishment
  2. The Aina – Learning the power of raw land observation and techniques for applying it to a whole-systems farm plan, integrating the factors of the wind, sun, rain, and soil quality. Hawaiian principles and practices of sustainable land and resource management inform and are infused into overall farm planning process
  3. Introduction to the Business of Farming- As an introduction to Phase 2, learning basic principles of farming as a business; organizational structures, including cooperatives. Farm crop planning and bookkeeping, basic spreadsheets, identifying costs, cash flow projections and profit margins
  4. The Water - Basic history and politics of water in Hawaii, understanding water sources and getting that water onto the farm land. Choosing irrigation and water storage systems planning and construction. Water treatment and disposal options to meet safety
  5. The Soil and Fertility– Understanding soil, its make-up and microbiology, enhancing its quality and vitality, while minimizing erosion - how to take soil samples, and read soil analysis. Using cultural regenerative and organic methods, what should be applied to your soil and crops to maximize nutritional uptake, reduce water use, and strengthen defenses against pests
  6. Propagation – Choosing seeds and seed companies, starting your seeds in trays or in the ground - air layering, grafting, and cloning
  7. Weeds – Identification, what to do about them, ways to minimize labor input
  8. The Pests and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)- Identifying pests and using Integrated Pest Management - (IPM) principles and methods which carefully take into account all available pest control Integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations, eg. Crop rotations and insectary hedges and minimization of chemical product use. (https://hfuuhi.org/)
  9. Harvest/Post Harvest – Time and methods of harvest, and techniques to maximize quantity of saleable product handling, sorting, cooling and packing procedures, and certifications.
  10. Agriculture Specialties- Beekeeping, mushrooms and animal husbandry, aqua-ponics, wet and dryland kalo, small farm machinery maintenance.

PHASE 2: Specialized training for FAM graduates, mentors and family farmers tailored to meet their specific needs. Individualized training, coaching and specialized classes in area(s) of interest, completion of a business plan and presentation to stakeholders, assessment of current farm enterprise and development of plan for improvement. Participation in Phase 2 requires an application and is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The Cohort

Within the realm of education, the Cohort system has proven itself to be effective for creating a mutual support system among peers. The FAM program utilizes this system, and it has proven to be a success. Apprentices exchange information, and they go to each others farms and pitch in. They share ideas about sales and marketing, and they share food, laughter, and knowledge together. They are in essence, a FAMily.



The Reason and Inspiration

On Thursday August 24, 2017, the Maui Farmers’ Cooperative closed its doors after 74 years. The reason: aging membership, with younger generation having little to no interest in continuing “the family farm.” The average age of farmers in Hawaii is over 60, and it is the same across the nation.

The vision began when, at Hawaii Farmers Union chapters monthly meetings, the board members would look around the room and see a passionate new generation interested in farming. Every month there are more new faces attracted to the values and efforts of HFUU. Because the HFUU policy is to educate on regenerative and organic farming methods, we are attracting a membership that wants to protect the planet.

FAM Students Building Soil

It is the perfect alignment of values. These folks want to grow food in healthy ways, and HFUU is focused on meeting the need for increasing the food self - sufficiency of our island state.

That is the context for the FAM program. There’s a new generation of people that are interested in farming. And they are not the sons and daughters of farmers. They are the generation that has grown up wanting to protect the planet. And they can see that the way we grow our food integral to saving the planet. So, people who are attracted to farming these days, are idealistic. This isn’t always a good thing when it comes to farming. The challenging reality of farming hits quick, but that doesn’t mean that we should discourage the inspiration. We need to support it, and make it more possible. And the way that we make it more possible is through programs like FAM.


Many of these classes were provided in partnership with the UH Maui College Office of Continuing Education (OCET), and the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui. Without their support, this program is not possible.

This year, the FAM program was funded by the County of Maui, the Atherton Family Foundation, and the four Chapters of HFUU.

FAM program was founded by the Haleakala chapter and the Mauna Kahalawai Chapter, and is open to all Maui residents.
The GOAL of the FAM program is to empower people who want to farm with the skills and abilities to be successful farmers here in Hawaii.

Sponsor A FAM Apprentice

There are TWO WAYS:
  • Tuition and Mentorship Scholarship: Help offset tuition costs with individual participant scholarship.
    1. A $,2500 Full Scholarship covers the whole program, both Phase 1 and Phase 2
    2. There are partial Scholarships options as well, starting at $500
  • Completion Stipend: We reward our participants after the completion of Phase 1 with a STIPEND to support their farming efforts. These stipends are used in various ways, such as buying new farm tools that they learned about in the FAM program. Amount: $1,000

Let’s Grow Farmers!

FAM Program Invites Wanna-Be Farmers to become FAM Apprentices

If you would like more information about our next annual “Am I Ready To Be A Farmer” event please contact the Program Director with the form below. You can participate in the two phases of the program in either order.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a subject.
Please enter a valid phone number.
Please enter a message.

Vision for the Future

  • The average age of farmers in Hawaii is the lowest in the nation.
  • That we have 60 new farmers on Maui by 2020 and who, along with existing farmers increase the availability of organically and regeneratively grown local food by 50%.
  • We expand FAM program to Moloka’i.
  • FAM becomes state-wide signature program of the Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation.

These are the visions and goals of the Farm Apprentice Mentoring program.

What participants are saying

FAM is a really well thought-out out intentional regenerative farming education experience. It allows for someone who may have no background in farming the support and practical knowledge through mentorship and curriculum to really aid in making informed decisions about a realistic business in farming future on Maui and in Hawaii in general. This program has pivoted me to consider growing crops I originally would not have any idea of its value and how much growing a diverse arrange of crops would means by adding to the food systems in this state. - Deidra Moore

The FAM program helped me, and is still actively helping me, to find my path in the farming world. Because of the FAM program I know what direction to go in, I found funding for an internship I did, I have mentors, peers and an understanding of the principles of sustainable agriculture. - Madelyn Desjardins

Using the soil building strategies I learned while attending FAM Phase 2 my farm is seeing positive results. Utilizing green waste from the farm that's broken down to compost, as well as water cabbage that grows abundantly, we are layering this in raised beds creating healthy soil without a need to purchase topsoil.   I'm working on creating a Permaculture design similar to those of our mentors. Although I'm not farming full time our farm income has doubled in the past two years vs previous years as a direct result of techniques passed on from the amazing FAM Mentor farmers. Can't thank them enough! - Vicky Shortell