By Jan TenBruggencate
The University of Hawai'i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is seeking to become as important a resource for organic farmers as it has been for the conventional agriculture community. To that end, the college has launched a Web site — www.ctahr.hawaii .edu/organic — that contains an extensive list of online educational and instructional documents on farming without chemicals, as well as links to other sites that have information on growing crops organically.
While CTAHR has been criticized by some for its role in promoting chemical approaches to farming and its involvement in genetic modification to improve crops and provide disease resistance, the Web site says the school also wants to be a significant supporter of the organic movement.
The college's involvement in organics isn't new. The university for 13 years has maintained organic research plots at its facility in Waimanalo, where it conducts studies on natural pest-control products and conventional — as opposed to laboratory-based — breeding work.
The new Web site has a list of events involving organic farming, including ventures sponsored by the Hawai'i Organic Farmers Association. It also sponsors a listserv, a system by which people interested in organic farming in Hawai'i can readily communicate with one another.
College agroecologist and vegetable expert Hector Valenzuela, in an e-mail announcing the site, said its goal is "to demonstrate the benefit of promoting ecological processes in all agricultural systems and to make (the college) the premier resource for ecological farming research and training in the Asia-Pacific region."
In Hawai'i, organic farming is a small but significant part of the state's agricultural industry, with 140 certified organic farmers and annual production worth $15 million. Nationally, organic farming is growing by 20 percent each year.
"We hope that this site, a work in progress, will become a premiere resource on organic farming technologies for the Pacific region and tropical areas," Valenzuela said.
He asked for the organic farming community's help in adding to the resources available at the site: "To help us build up the site, please share with us any publications, or educational materials, that you have published that may be related to organic farming (such as soil management, biological control, cultural practices, marketing, etc)."
If you have a question or concern about the Hawaiian environment, drop a note to Jan TenBruggencate at P.O. Box 524, Lihu'e, HI 96766 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call him at (808) 245-3074.