The Business of Farming: Reality, Resilience, and Return on Investment
Farm Foundation’s Round Table Fellows and guests gathered in Hawai’i in January 2024 to engage with each other and consider the event’s theme: The Business of Farming: Reality, Resilience and Return on Investment. Round Table Fellows and guests first went on tours of food and agriculture production on the Big Island, including Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, sea salt, algae, and more. Each site shared their unique challenges with production on the island, including transportation, labor, market access, plant disease, and invasive species.
Speakers and panels provided insights about the themes both in Hawai’i and across the U.S. The discussions began by hearing some Hawaiian perspectives about the ways in which the culture and people of Hawai’I support agriculture globally, as well as unique challenges faced by this island economy.
The following sessions focused on labor, innovation in sustainable agriculture, and risk mitigation. Labor availability and cost is one of the top issues facing agriculture across the U.S. Speakers highlighted a few trends including farming as a service, the prospects for the H-2A program, and other possible solutions. The session on innovation for ag inputs highlighted ways that companies are mitigating restrictions on fertilizer, water, and pesticides through new tools and innovations in seed technology. Then a panel highlighted ways new models in insurance and capital are helping to mitigate risks in agriculture.
On the final day of the meeting, the Round Table discussed challenges with disease and invasive species both in Hawai’i and across the U.S. Ending on a positive note, the session covered new market opportunities from seaweed to cover crops and innovation with sustainability and fresh produce.
Overall, the meeting highlighted the importance of supporting agriculture by ensuring farming remains a viable career path for not only farmers themselves but also through innovative opportunities that can support and transform farming operations now and in the future.
The Farm Foundation Round Table Fellows will gather next in Colorado in June to discuss bridging the urban-rural divide. Farm Foundation’s Round Table Fellows are “tapped for life” and participate twice per year in an invitation-only discussion held under the Chatham House Rule.