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‘Growing Organics’ conference set

A conference titled “Growing Organics: Moving Hawaii’s Organic Industry Forward” will be held from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The one-day event features presentations, workshops and opportunities for attendees to provide input on how to strengthen Hawaii’s organic foods industry.

The conference is part of a one-year study being conducted by the Kohala Center on behalf of the state Department of Agriculture to determine what barriers Hawaii’s organic food producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers face, and recommend solutions to improve certification processes, local production, distribution, and sales. The Kohala Center convened a statewide Organic Industry Advisory Group in February to identify the local organic industry’s challenges, develop a public survey to collect data, and craft recommendations to present to HDOA.

Deputy Agriculture Director Scott Enright will deliver a keynote address at the start of the conference. The Organic Industry Advisory Group will then present its preliminary recommendations and encourage input from event attendees in order to refine the recommendations.

Derek Kurisu, executive vice president of KTA Superstores, is the featured speaker at the event’s luncheon. Following the luncheon, a series of workshops will be conducted, covering topics such as organic certification, food safety, developing a legislative agenda for the organic industry, and defining the roles and responsibilities of an independent industry association. One session will feature produce and product buyers from Hawaii retailers, providing attendees an opportunity to network with local buyers and distributors to learn more about their requirements.

Both the keynote address and the advisory group’s presentation are free and open to the public, although advance registration online is requested. Admission to the luncheon is $30 per person, and admission to the workshops is $20 per person. Attendees can register for both the luncheon and workshops for $45.

More information and registration are available online at http://www.laulimacenter.org/growingorganics.html, or by calling The Kohala Center at 887-6411.

“This initiative came about as a result of the fact that Hawai‘i’s organic food producers no longer had a central place where they could obtain information on critical issues such as infrastructure, processing, marketing, certification, and business development,” said Melanie Bondera, rural cooperative development specialist for the Laulima Center, a program of The Kohala Center. “Through the Organic Industry Advisory Group and public input, we are determining how existing entities can support organics in Hawai‘i, whether a centralized educational and advocacy organization should be re-established, and how the local industry can overcome the barriers that are affecting farming operations, production, distribution, quality, and costs.”

The Kohala Center will release its final project report, including recommendations to HDOA, in early 2014.

The Kohala Center (http://www.kohalacenter.org) is an independent, community-based center for research, education, and conservation. The center was established in direct response to the request of island residents to create greater educational and employment opportunities by enhancing — and celebrating — Hawaii’s spectacular natural and cultural landscapes.


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