Total loan: $25,000
Hilo, HI, United States / Agriculture
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A loan helped a farmer co-op in Hawaiʻi achieve a 10x expansion of its breadfruit processing operations.
I am a co-founder and General Manager of the Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative, a farmer-owned business with over 100 small farm members committed to revitalizing ʻulu (breadfruit) to strengthen Hawaiʻi's food system. Born on a kibbutz or rural cooperative community in northern Israel, I have a personal and professional background in cooperative ventures. Having grown up between the United States and Israel, I completed a Masters of Science in cooperative business strategy from Ben Gurion University in 2010, studying how co-op businesses leverage their collective structure to realize economic opportunities and maximize their adaptive capacity. My interest in breadfruit was sparked in 2011 when a friend recruited me to be the Volunteer Coordinator at a Breadfruit Festival in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i Island. The following year I met my now-husband, Noa, at the festival, while he was completing a Ph.D. at Stanford University on the traditional kaluʻulu or breadfruit belt of South Kona. Together, we established our own breadfruit farm in 2015, structured as a worker co-op that focuses on restoration of and education about Hawaiian dryland agroforestry practices. In 2016, I led the development of the Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Co-op, which began with 9 founding members who recognized the potential of pooling their breadfruit crop to achieve economies of scale. Under my leadership, the co-op has grown over tenfold over the last 4.5 years and now has over 100 member-farmers and represents the preeminent breadfruit farmer organization in Hawaiʻi and one of the most prominent co-ops in the state. My motivation and inspiration stem from my experience with co-ops in Israel, which collectively generate some 10% of national GDP and help sustain rural communities' vitality. I firmly believe that breadfruit and the co-op model can transform Hawaii's food system, making the islands more secure, sustainable, and thriving.