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New Maui Department of Agriculture seeks to support local farmers, boost infrastructure

Mayor Victorino & Kali Arce_2.jpg
Hawaiʻi Public Radio
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Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and the first Maui Department of Agriculture Director Rogene "Kali" Arce with The Conversation host Catherine Cruz at Hawaiʻi Public Radio on July 20, 2022.

Hawaiʻi's first county-level Department of Agriculture is getting ready to start operations. Voters approved the creation of the department two years ago to help develop sustainable farming across Maui County’s three populated islands.

Mayor Mike Victorino joined The Conversation in-studio to introduce Rogerene “Kali” Arce, the director of the new department.

Arce says developing the industry also means supporting job opportunities that go far beyond simply planting and harvesting crops.

“I feel like people judge agriculture as 'toil in the soil' — when agriculture can provide so many different kinds of jobs. Instead of working in the field, you can work on the tractors — you can be a mechanic. You can do the science end. I mean, it’s really diverse. And even really specific — if you want to just work on insects," Arce told HPR.

Arce says that career paths in agriculture can also tie in with higher education — from basic technology to applications in the field of robotics.

"I think our county does well at supporting the youth in agriculture, but I think after they're done high school, there's no continuity. And even though we have the support system, with UH Maui College having the ag, I think we can probably work on, or think of creative measures that maybe tie in technology," Arce said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on July 20, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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