A working group representing a broad range of stakeholders and experts has been meeting to share ideas and brainstorm the structure and function of the proposed program. See listing of core participants in About Us. The elements we have agreed to address over the next 12 months include:
1) Public Outreach/Education
Comprehensive surveys of current and aspiring farmers, consumers and educators (currently underway).
Website development and formulating social media plans to provide information for farmers, decision makers, other stakeholders and potential funding sources.
News and magazine articles and presentations to community groups.
2) Legislative Advocacy
Working with County Council to exempt the affordable farming project from statutory regulations forbidding dwellings on leased agricultural lands. We have met with all county council members, the mayor and other decision makers to introduce the affordable farming concept and the need for farm dwellings. They have been receptive and expressed willingness to work to facilitate establishing the program. Initially, this may involve a project-by-project special exemption while the county council works on their long-term goal of on revising all of our county agricultural ordinances. Our efforts will be directed at having a permanent statute adopted that exempts the affordable farming nonprofits from the prohibitions on dwellings on leased lands.
The working group has identified several potential project sites and we are beginning the landowner contacts and education on taxation and other benefits for placing land in permanent agricultural conservation.
4) Identification of funding for land or easement acquisition
Funding for both land acquisition and for affordable housing is available through USDA/NRCS Farm and Ranchland Protection programs, the US Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD), Hawaii Legacy Land Funds, and Maui County’s Affordable Housing and Open Space Programs. Private donors will also be cultivated for support through direct donations of land or funding, or through bargain sales of appropriate farmlands, all of which provide donor tax benefits.
The organizational participants have discussed a wide range of operational and management issues that will need to be refined and formalized to create an effective sustainable program. Such issues include eligibility criteria, management of cooperative groups of farmers and any shared equipment and facilities, determining how to keep organic and conventional farms effectively separated, oversight and monitoring of the ground leases and establishing permanent organizational funding.