Local farmers interested in expanding their fresh produce into specialty food products will benefit from a new series of Food Industry Fundamentals classes at the University of Hawaii Maui College. The series of four non-credit classes, an EdVenture/UHMC project, are designed to help food producers develop differentiated, value-added and safe specialty-food products.
“Nationwide we’re seeing a tremendous demand for locally-produced food products, but sometimes a farmer or food entrepreneur isn’t sure how to turn fresh fruit and vegetables into a safe, packaged (value-added) product,” said Lou Cooperhouse, a consultant to the Maui Food Innovation Center. “Food Industry Fundamentals will help participants understand the overall process better, but the classes will also offer information specific to Maui County. The goal is to support our local food producers so they can find new channels for their business, while providing more locally-grown products to consumers.”
For the past two years, Cooperhouse has met with businesses throughout Hawaii to discuss the challenges faced by island farmers and food businesses. The Fundamentals classes include Food Trends and Food Marketplace Overview; Food Technology and Product Development; Quality Assurance and Food Safety Principles; and Good Manufacturing Practices For Food Producers–progressing from an overview of the market to ensuring that legal and safety requirements are met.
“While some aspects of launching a food business, such as food safety and process technologies are the same no matter where you are, we’ve take a careful look at opportunities and needs that are specific to Maui,” said Cooperhouse.
The classes are designed for farmers who want to increase profitability of their food products, businesses that want to expand their food offerings, new food businesses, and employees wanting to increase their knowledge of the food industry.
“This is an excellent opportunity for capacity building by our farmers and ranchers to not only increase their bottom line but add to our level of self sufficiency,” said Mae Nakahata of the Maui County Farm Bureau. “We hope this provides another mechanism to keep our multi-generation farm families in business and foster new farm operations on Maui.”
The new series of classes will be offered on April 29 and 30 from 8:30am to 4pm at the Kahului campus, and can be taken in order over a two-day period (which is recommended) or as a single course. Certificates of participation will be provided upon completion of each course.
Each seminar is $89, or $300 for the series (the second, third and fourth classes are discounted if booked at the same time as the first class). To register, call EdVenture at 808-984-3231. Space is limited.
The Food Innovation Center, a project of UHMC, was created to solve the “missing link” problem for Hawaii’s local farmers and food manufacturers. It’s being developed in collaboration with the Maui County Farm Bureau. The Center will serve as a hub for food industry resources and will provide food-related business and product development services as well as workforce training. A comprehensive value-added facility is being planned, which can be used to develop, produce, and package such items as fresh cut and frozen fruits and vegetables, marinated meats, dried and baked goods, sauces, and juices.
The Maui Food Innovation Center is partially funded by a $759,350 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Funding does not pay for student costs to participate.
Ken Love of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers believes that understanding food industry fundamentals is critical for value-added producers. “Lou makes you think, not only in terms of value added products but through the whole process of development and supply chain access,” he said.
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons