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Monday, September 01, 2014         

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Farm Fair goes on hiatus to refocus effort

Officials are hoping to attract more young people to agriculture

By Rosemarie Bernardo

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The Hawaii State Farm Fair is taking a break for the first time in nearly 50 years as officials focus on long-term strategy for the popular annual event.

During this year's hiatus, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation officials will look for a permanent venue and for ways to boost involvement by youth and college students.

"The organization felt that we needed to go back to the roots," said Executive Director Luella Costales. "People couldn't distinguish between the 50th State Fair and the Farm Fair."

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the fair, which highlights livestock raised by youth involved in the Hawaii State 4-H Program. An auction for the livestock is held during the fair.

The fair, started in 1962 to promote awareness of the state's agricultural and ranching industry, has been held on the grounds of Bishop Museum for the past three years. Farm Bureau members have refocused on livestock and locally made products instead of carnival rides.

The event is a popular family affair in Hawaii. About 14,000 people attended last year.

VOLUNTEERS BEING SOUGHT

Those interested in becoming a volunteer for the Hawaii State Farm Fair next year, its 50th anniversary, can contact the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation at 848-2074 or e-mail info@hfbf.org.

Officials are also seeking ideas from the community on what new or ongoing events they would like to see at the fair. Comments can be e-mailed to the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

For more information, go to www.hfbf.org.

It was long held at McKinley High School, but the livestock and foot traffic took a toll on the grounds. The event then moved to Aloha Stadium, then Kapolei and finally Bishop Museum.

Costales said Farm Fair officials are working with the museum on a standing date for the event.

"Bishop Museum has been a good partner," she said.

Blair Collis, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the museum, said it will welcome the fair next year.

The nonprofit Farm Bureau will also shift attention to increasing the number of young volunteers and attracting youth to the farm industry.

"A lot of our volunteers that have been a big part of the event are aging," Costales said. "We don't really see the youth coming out."

Preparation for the event and breaking down equipment afterward is grueling work.

But it's seen as an important avenue to attracting young potential farmers.

Nationwide, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the majority of farm operators is between ages 45 and 64, but figures point to those 65 and older as the fastest-growing group.

Land cost and liability are contributing factors, said Brent Buckley, associate professor of animal science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

"There's a challenge in getting young people back into farms," he said. "Young people really have to go with an existing farm or ranch. If they own it, the young people see it's a fairly challenging economic life."

Buckley, who's involved with 4-H, said youth will have an opportunity to exhibit their animals at a competition this summer.





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