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Vacancies at UH extension office unconscionable

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By Ken Love

An open letter to the Chancellors of the University of Hawaii at Manoa:

I venture to say that most of the residents in the North and South Kona districts on the Big Island would find it unconscionable that no replacements are being hired for the University of Hawaii Kona Extension office (CES). The residents of Kona deserve equity and balance, especially when considering what we contribute to the state, island and university.

Within the past few months, the CES has lost it’s extension agent who was responsible for helping our community with growing and marketing of Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts and tropical fruit.

We’ve lost the office manager causing the few remaining personnel to be forced to fulfill tasks that have never been nor should be their responsibility. This affects the community meetings and frequent educational lectures held at the CES office.

We’ve lost our Kona based agricultural economist who has repeatedly helped many growers with cost of production studies. This void will be very detrimental to the sustainability of small farms in Kona.

Three salaries that will not have to be paid yet we cannot get one
replacement! Other CES offices have multiple extension agents and specialists for their crops.

Not hiring an agent for Kona coffee and fruit crops, where growers work with one of the states most important crops in one of the states most important tourism areas is tantamount to total abandonment by the University. It shows a complete lack of thought and understanding by the UH system. Those who complained in the past feel receiving simplistic form letters citing lack of funding is just not enough.

The University of Hawaii needs to re-evaluate and prioritize production
agriculture. Isn’t agriculture a main component of a Land Grant University?

Kona growers deserve no more than any other growers in the state but we do demand the same level of assistance given other areas. Is all this talk of
island sustainability simply lip service? To refocus on what the community feels is important like production agriculture to feed the population locally grown produce should be paramount.

If we, the local population are going to move collectively into the future then our focus must change. If we are going to continue to look to UH in a leadership position then it damn well better be a leader in areas needed by the population and not the special interests.

If you, the chancellors, are the leaders of the University of Hawaii then you must refocus and prioritize the needs of the community you serve.

One Response to “Vacancies at UH extension office unconscionable”

  1. kona coffee farmer says:

    The ‘abandonment’ of the UH extension office in Kona should not come as a surprise. Last year the Kona coffee farmers succeeded in getting legislation against GMO coffee on the island of Hawaii. The UH had opposed this vehemently in the hearings and behind closed doors, even that they were fully aware that the Kona coffee reputation would be irreparably damaged within the coffee industry if field tests would have been allowed.

    Why did CTHAR/UH support the testing of a bio-engineered coffee plant in one of the world renowned, gourmet coffee region?

    Because the UH of Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources is increasingly dependent on the financial support of the GMO industry (Monsanto, Syngenta, i.e.). Yep, that’s right: Our once independent universities and research facilities are being increasingly hijacked by corporate dollars. The Kona extension agents were caught in the middle. So far I know one left voluntarily and one retired. But that they are not replaced doesn’t surprise many of us Kona coffee farmers. And if that’s the price to pay for having opposed the reckless GMO plan-so be it! Better rescuing the reputation of Kona coffee and 800 coffee farmers livelihoods, than having a field office of the “University of Monsanto, College of Syngenta”.

    The focus of CTHAR had shifted already so much away from what they had done for Kona prior to the GMO industries takeover of our finest educational institution in Hawaii. The achievements and support of the coffee growers by field agents and researchers from Prof Koebele in the early 1900’s to Mr. Fukunaga in the 1940’s wasn’t there anymore.

    Solutions: The Kealakekua USDA office can take over and call it AG-Talk instead of just COFFEE Talk (We would be dealing with federal, and not state employees!). They are doing already a much better job by informing us about grants, crop insurances, conservation methods.

    The internet was never used much by CTHAR. But most new farmers have computer skills and connections. Web-seminars can happen island wide. Field trips can and are conducted by the 3 coffee farmers organizations or the Kona Farm Bureau.

    Address the Big Island Resource & Conservation District (BIRCD) for an agri-educational grant of some sort. The new farm bill brings new federal money to ag-communities.

    We Kona coffee farmers have more resources, intelligence and finances at hand than any of the prior farmers! Our ranks have lawyers, architects, engineers, professors, marketing experts, artists, managers, old-time farmers, designers, real estate tycoons, other crop farmers, from many countries, states and islands. It should not need the increasingly unwilling and unable state government and its institutions to support our education to give back.


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