Western Rural Development Center Annual Report 2023

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The Western Rural Development Center’s 2023 Annual Report is now available. The report highlights our work and collaborations during the past year. It also includes a message from Betsy Newman, WRDC Interim Director.

“I joined the Western Rural Development Center in 2005 and have relished each moment of connecting and collaborating, of envisioning and strategizing, of dreaming and implementing, and learning and working alongside so many of you. Under new leadership, the WRDC will change and evolve. Let us embrace this next chapter with joy and cooperation.”

Read the 2023 Annual Report.

Whose Hands Are on the Land?

Understanding the forest and fire stewardship economy in the Northwest

Hands on the Land is an interdisciplinary effort led by Oregon State University Extension that combines research, education, and Extension activities aiming to support and inform the engagement between workers, practitioners, and researchers. The project team, that included the Western Rural Development Center, is working to “enhance the equity of the forest workforce in the Pacific Northwest focusing on labor-intensive forest workers for whom equity may take different forms.”

Hands on the Land re-envisions our forest workforce with:

  • Safer working conditions
  • Equitable employment
  • Increased entrepreneurial capacity
  • Sustainable ecological outcomes

Visit the Hands on the Land website for more details including published papers and forest worker resources.

North Shore EVP NIFA Food Safety Outreach Program

Food Safety Outreach in Hawai’i

In September 2022, North Shore EVP was awarded a National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Safety Outreach Program (NIFA FSOP) grant supporting a two year outreach effort across the State of Hawai’i. The project facilitates outreach efforts through four (4) events: Harmonized GAP Farm Days, GroupGAP Informational Webinars, Partner Outreach Events, and HeavyConnect digital recordkeeping demonstrations.

Harmonized GAP (HGAP) Farm Days are designed to showcase farms in the state who have attained or are working towards attaining their food safety certification. Attendees will see practical food safety practices, learn about and try out the digital record keeping method through HeavyConnect (HC) demonstrations, and ask questions of farm staff and food safety professionals.

We have hosted three (3) HGAP Farm Days across the islands since the start of our project, working with farms on Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, and Hawaiʻi island. Not only have these events allowed farmers to showcase their practices and individual farms, they have also served to connect community members with local farms and raise awareness of various service providers present to assist the ag sector.

The most recent Harmonized GAP Farm Day was held on Hawaiʻi island at Hoʻonani Harvest farm in November. This event was a collaborative effort showcasing food safety practices, conservation program practices with NRCS, and bee-keeping!


Nine (9) attendees turned out for the Saturday afternoon event, and while six attendees reported knowledge of food safety practices at the start, all nine attendees reported that they had learned something new by the end of the event. Additionally all nine attendees said that they would implement food safety practices discussed at the event, and that they would be interested in attending another similar event. To close out the event, we sampled honey from the farmʻs bees alongside local goat cheeses and māmaki tea.

GroupGAP Informational Webinars are online outreach events designed to provide an overview of the Hawai’i GroupGAP program for potential applicants. We have now held four (4) GroupGAP informational webinars since the start of the project, with 55 attendees tuning in. The most recent webinar, held in November 2023, was our first held in both English and Mandarin. Our next webinar will be held in the late spring of 2024.

Our team members have been participating in partner outreach events across the state sharing information about GroupGAP and food safety practices. Since the start of the project, we have attended eight (8) partner events, two (2) on each island (Oʻahu, Maui, Hawaiʻi, and Kauaʻi). Partners have included distributors (Fresh Point Hawaii, Kula Produce), farmer organizations (Kauai County Farm Bureau), University of Hawaiʻi Cooperative Extension, and veteran farmer groups (Hoʻola Farms).

Demonstrations showcasing the digital record keeping app HeavyConnect are incorporated into all of the project’s outreach events. We are planning to host a buyer focused webinar in late spring 2024 focusing on how HeavyConnect can be utilized to streamline buyer-farmer communication on product availability, quality, estimated shelf life and final packaging information. We believe that improved communication (detailed and timely) between farmers and buyers will help to increase local purchasing and reduce fresh produce imports.

Accessing larger commercial and institutional markets that generally require food safety certification is a challenge for small farms in Hawaiʻi. Over 90% of our state’s farms are under 10 acres and less than 1% are USDA GAP certified. Education, outreach, and technical assistance for farms wishing to attain USDA Harmonized GAP certification is our program’s goal. We are experiencing greater interest in our program in response to our outreach efforts as a result of this project, and have recently accepted 10 farms into the Hawaiʻi GroupGAP program to start training in our eighth cohort. This will be our first multilingual training cohort, offered in Mandarin and English. We have expanded our food safety team, hiring two (2) new food safety specialists in August, 2023, and look forward to helping more Hawaiʻi farmers achieve greater market access through this work.

For questions or comments about the project or Hawaiʻi GroupGAP, please contact North Shore EVP.

Community-Based Circular Food Economies

Call for Papers

The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development announces a call for papers related to community-based circular food systems. The pre-submission review deadline is May 1, 2024, and the submission deadline is June 12, 2024.

Visit the journal’s website for more details.

National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals Annual Conference

Save the date!

Mark your calendars and save the date for the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals annual conference scheduled for June 17-20, 2024 in Houston, Texas.

Visit the NACDEP website for more details.

Community Development Society Annual Conference

Creating Capacity for Resilient Communities

The Community Development Society is now accepting presentation submissions for its 2024 annual conference scheduled for July 14-17 in Omaha, Nebraska.

This year’s theme is Creating Capacity for Resilient Communities. From the CDS conference announcement: “The Creating Capacity for Resilient Communities conference theme offers participants a unique forum to investigate and discover the role of community development in the work of communities as they strive to address these and related challenges in community development. Proposals that focus on any of the three sub-themes around resilience in community development or other related topics are welcome. We are especially interested in proposals that employ the principles of good practice in guiding their work and their impact on the practice of community development.”

The three sub-themes of this year’s conference are:

  1. Climate change and environmental disruption
  2. Changing economic conditions
  3. Social Systems

Visit the CDS website for more details.

This material is based upon work that is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

National Institute of Food and Agriculture under award 2022-51150-38140.

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