KULA - Maui County Farm Bureau has big plans for value added product growth on Maui. To see what's in the works, make plans to attend the sixth annual Maui County Agricultural Festival at Maui Tropical Plantation on Saturday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The festival is free and open to the public. Parking is limited; a free continuous shuttle provided by Roberts Hawaii will operate between War Memorial and Maui Tropical Plantation all day. The ride takes about seven minutes each way.
The festival will feature events that showcase the path from farm to shelf-stable market products.
Shaka Pops won the 2012 “Maui Product to Market Contest” hosted by the Maui Food Technology Center. They will return to the Ag Festival in the food booth area. Be sure to check out all of the ono flavors!
"At this year's Ag Festival, you'll soon realize agriculture is more than just food crops - it's landscaping, flowers and livestock; it's big, medium and small agriculture; it's growers, consumers and chefs. Ours is a multi-faceted industry, and no one sector can carry it all alone," said Warren Watanabe, executive director of the MCFB.
Value added food and "spirits" are the main themes of two different panels during the day. One event is geared to edibles and the other to beverages, including wine, beer and vodka.
Leaders from many existing local producers will share their own experiences.
"The public is invited to stop by and find out about exciting plans," Watanabe said. "Learn what our partner organizations and agencies are doing to promote and assist agriculture."
For a full schedule for this year's Ag Festival, visit www.mauicountyfarmbureau.org.
Watanabe said two groups are helping farmers bring their products to the marketplace.
One is the Maui Food Technology Center, which sponsors an annual recipe contest (for details, visit www.mauifoodtechnology.org).
Last year's first prize winner was Shaka Pops. They will return to the 2013 festival with their very own food booth.
This year's winners will be announced the day of the festival. Top prizes include consultation with product development food scientists and marketers.
The other is the Maui Food Innovation Center, a MCFB partnership with U.H. Maui College. On hand this year is Lou Cooperhouse, considered a leading industry authority.
Cooperhouse brings expert assistance from New Jersey, where headed a similar center at Rutgers that brought in millions to farmers and manufacturers there.
He is a consultant with the new Maui Food Innovation Center.
Plans are underway to remodel the former cafeteria at UHMC to a level consistent with federal testing, labeling and health standards.
The goal is to make hands-on product development and marketing locally available.
Value added product innovation can benefit local agriculture by augmenting the potential cash flow and reducing losses due to spoilage and surpluses.
The Maui Food Innovation Center is scheduled to open in 2014.