Organic Program Chopped

The state’s only organic-certifying body, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA), will suspend its program this month, forcing organic farmers in Hawaii to look to the mainland for certification.

Rising costs and a limited client pool prompted the Hilo-based group to end certification, which it began in 1993. HOFA certifies a bounty of products – from coffee to herbs to beer.

“Part of the reason HOFA is not surviving is that we didn’t charge enough,” said Sarah Townsend, HOFA’s certification coordinator. “We’re not big enough to sustain ourselves.”

Some organic farmers on Molokai worry certification from the mainland will come at a higher cost.

“It’s hard enough trying to make a living farming and now we have to go to the mainland?” said Rick Tamanaha of Kaleikoa Farms, an organic papaya farm in Ho`olehua.

Tamanaha’s farm was certified organic by HOFA in October 2007, and he has renewed his certification through the organization every year since. The organic label, he said, allows his farm to compete with non-organic farms that sell at lower costs.