Congratulations are in order to the Anahola Hawaiian Homestead Association (AHHA) on Kauaʻi and the Hoʻolehua Hawaiian Agriculture Association (HHAA) on Molokaʻi. The two homestead associations have partnered with the SCHHA nonprofit, the Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC), to design and pilot the first youth council focused on agriculture – whether farmers, ranchers or fishers.
Funded primarily by the Native American Agriculture Foundation (NAAF), the Homestead Agriculture Youth Council (HAYC) lays the groundwork for homestead youth to have a voice in setting priorities and capturing their hopes to form the basis and grounding of advocacy through the lens of young homesteaders.
“Agriculture is two-thirds of the purpose of our Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920,” said KipuKai Kualiʻi, the SCHHA Policy chairperson, and an elected official on the Kauaʻi County Council. “Residential, farming and ranching are the three land use priorities under the homesteading section. We need to engage our youth, hear from them, walk with them, if we want to realize a robust agricultural program that is about them.”
HAYC has accepted 15 youth so far, ages 10 to 18, and kicks off at the end of October. First steps include forming a policy council, setting meeting dates and agenda topics, organizing the agriculture economy in homesteads that the youth council envisions, and then organizing those priorities to march them forward. The youth council will receive resources over the next 12 months to engage in agricultural-based, hands-on projects, and to pick mentors in the homestead community that they want to work with, as well as policy makers at the county, state and federal levels they’d like to hear from.
The project is being led by Kaiwi Eisenhour, a 24-year-old graduate of a Native Hawaiian charter school and Kapaʻa High School. Eisenhour was raised entirely on homesteads and is returning home from college with a chemistry degree.
“This is new ground for our homestead association leaders, and for our youth – a generation full of ideas, with deep connections to our homelands,” Eisenhour remarked. “I’m excited to engage with them, like my own kumu engaged with me at a young age, which sparked my interest in science. Our youth in homesteads have so much to teach us, and I think this Homestead Agriculture Youth Council is a solid beginning to making sure our youth have a seat at the policy table of ideas.”
The Native American Agriculture Fund provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers. The charitable trust was created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v. Vilsack class action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community. SCHHA encourages all homestead associations across the state to learn more about NAAF at nativeamericanagriculturefund.org to submit proposals in the 2022 round of funding.