A first-time grant for the University of Guam is helping to support and give hands-on training to individuals in Guam who are just starting out in farming or niche areas of agriculture, such as beekeeping.
Through its Western Pacific Tropical Research Center at the College of Natural & Applied Sciences, UOG competed for and received a grant in September 2020 from the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a program with an approximately 20% application acceptance rate.
The three-year, $450,000 grant aligns with the university’s land-grant mission of delivering practical knowledge to the community-at-large and, through various partnerships, has so far funded a variety of community agriculture workshops, several six-month internships, and supplies and technical assistance for beginning farmers.
“We’ve supported more than 200 participants to date and are seeing increasing interest from more farmers as well organizations wanting to partner to support the farming community on island,” said Adrian Ares, interim associate dean for research at CNAS, who secured the grant through the Research Corporation of the University of Guam.
Community workshops have been offered on breadfruit, mango, and banana cultivation, raising baby chicks, and beekeeping and beehive assembly as well as soil testing, composting, and plant propagation methods. Interest in the workshops has been strong, Ares said, with more than 200 individual participants.
The beekeeping workshops, in partnership with the Guam Beekeepers Association, have produced 20 beginner beekeepers, who are now managing their own hives with regular check-ins from the GBA and UOG.
Honey is just one product beekeepers can harvest and sell—others include creamed honey, mead, infused honey, and beeswax.
Hands-on farming experience
The grant has also allowed seven individuals so far to gain hands-on experience through six-month internships at Triton Farm, the Guam Aquaculture & Training Center, the Valley of the Latte, or Farm to Table Guam Corp.
The internships are intended for anyone of any age with an interest in farming and learning practical skills, and the program is hoping to open a second round of internships soon.
The grant has also funded supplies for beginner farmers, including compost, manure, seedlings, canopies and poles, as well as two greenhouses, one of which will be specifically used by farmers who are veterans.
A growing interest in niche farms
The USDA’s Beginner Farmer & Rancher Development Program was developed in response to an increasing number of people across the nation entering agricultural production for the first time. Ares said the program is the only federal initiative at present assisting new farmers.
The trend into agriculture in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands seems to mirror that in the U.S. mainland, Ares said, in particular with residents who have inherited land or want to follow in their ancestor’s footsteps and work the land.
“They tend to be interested in niche markets, high-value products, specialty products, and they care about the environment,” he said. “They have the enthusiasm and the commitment, but they need financial, legal, and technical assistance.”
For more information on opportunities through the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development program, contact program coordinator Rita Barcinas at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list.