September 19, 2023

Molokai Homesteader to Lead Maui’s New Department of Agriculture

The first director of the new Maui County Department of Agriculture was announced by Mayor Michael Victorino in a ceremony Wednesday.

Rorene “Kali” Arce, a Hawaiian farmer originally from Hoolehua on Molokai, was named director while former Hawaii Department of Agriculture product safety officer Weston Yap of Oahu was named director. deputy.

The appointments come after two years of work to establish the department, which aims to help and advocate for people working in the county’s agricultural industry. It was officially launched on July 1.

The formation of the department was the result of an overwhelmingly positive vote in the 2020 election, although many farmers and ranchers feared it would lead to additional regulation.

Weston Yap, Deputy Director of Maui County Agriculture Department, Director Rogene "Kali" Arce and Mayor Michael Victorino at the nomination ceremony on Wednesday.  Kula Agricultural Park
The roles of Maui Agriculture Department Deputy Director Weston Yap and Director Rorene “Kali” Arce were announced Wednesday by Mayor Michael Victorino at Kula Farm Park. Facebook/Maui County

The designate director, whose role requires Maui County Council approval, says her ultimate goal is to help create a sustainable agricultural system for Maui and help it become more self-sufficient.

“As a director, my first kuleana will be to listen to agricultural, agricultural and livestock producers and engage with them to learn how we can be effective and advocate for them,” Arce told attendees.

Arce has worked in the state’s agricultural sector, including as an extension officer for the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Most recently, she worked as Acting Superintendent for Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Victorino, who initially opposed the creation of the department, says he believes the department will help Maui residents access more local food.

The department’s development will be well-watched and could also become a model for other counties to emulate, Victorino told Hawaii News Now.

Coverage of Maui County by Civil Beat is funded in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from the Ulupono Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.