Total loan: $10,000
Hilo, HI, United States / Agriculture
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I was born on a small rural kibbutz, or cooperative farming community, in northern Israel. My family's values about the strength and importance of community and collective action remained rooted in me despite moving to the U.S. as a child. After completing an undergraduate degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University, I returned to Israel as a Fulbright Scholar to study the modern kibbutz movement and some of the significant economic changes that had taken place since the mid 1980s - which are generally characterized as a trend toward privatization. Through my graduate research on kibbutz businesses, I learned that some of the most successful ones have in fact retained a collective structure, and that this collectiveness is in many cases a key strategic advantage enabling their long-term economic - as well as social and environmental - success. After moving to Hawai‘i in 2010 and falling in love with a native Hawaiian, our mutual passion for cooperative structures, sustainable agriculture and food systems, and traditional land use practices, led us to establish a small breadfruit farm (structured as a worker cooperative) in South Kona. About 1 year later we established an islandwide producer co-op with 8 other breadfruit farmers to aggregate, process and market our fruit. I have managed the Hawai‘i ‘Ulu Cooperative since its inception, and hope that it can become not only a thriving business in its own right that contributes to Hawai‘i's food security and sustainability, but a model for other local organizations and entrepreneurs considering a cooperative framework to achieve their dreams. Through working together, grassroots ideas and projects can become so much more than the sum of their parts, and I truly believe the cooperative business model is a tool that can help small farmers thrive throughout Hawai‘i.