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Arce Confirmed as County’s First Ag Director

By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor

Photo by Shane Tegarden.

Molokai’s Rogerene “Kali” Arce received unanimous approval from the Maui County Council last week when she was confirmed as the first director of the new county Department of Agriculture. After an application and selection process earlier this year, she was named the appointee for the position, pending the council’s confirmation, and has already begun her role for the department, which was launched on July 1. 

“Mahalo to Councilmembers for their unanimous approval of Kali Arce. Her leadership of this important department is crucial in advancing Maui County’s self-reliance and economic diversification,” Victorino said in a press release. “Director Arce has the knowledge, education and experience to strengthen Maui County’s farming, ranching and food production sectors.”

Arce is a Molokai resident and Hawaiian homesteader with more than three decades of experience in Hawaii’s agriculture industry, where she has worked in farming, agricultural education, agroforestry, land conservation and ecosystem restoration. She is well-versed in sustainable agriculture management as well as Native Hawaiian plants and traditional farming practices.

Since July, Arce has been meeting with farmers and ranchers throughout the County’s three islands to determine needs and priorities, and “learn how we can be an effective advocate for them.”

“I love my job,” Arce said. “As someone who has supported the ag industry for 30 years on Molokai in various capacities, I understand and empathize with the challenges and rewards of working in agriculture. We want our farmers and ranchers to succeed at what they do best, putting fresh food on our tables while reducing our reliance on faraway places for what’s for dinner.”

Formation of the County Dept. of Agriculture began in 2020, when Maui County residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of its establishment by passing a charter amendment. Maui County has become the first county in the state to establish its own Dept. of Agriculture. Its mission includes supporting farmers and ranchers, promoting healthy ecosystems and fostering sustainable agriculture. Officials say in contrast to the state’s Dept. of Agriculture and its regulatory framework, the county department will have an advocacy focus. 

“As a Molokai homesteader, I know the importance of making agriculture a priority across Maui County, with a watchful eye for Molokai and Lanai farmers,” Arce told the Dispatch in July. “Although I am familiar with the challenges producers have and in tune with local issues, I want to hear from them what their needs are and I will bring that point of view to my leadership of the department.”

Deputy Director Weston Yap was also appointed in July, but his position did not require confirmation by the County Council. Before joining the County, Yap served as the Hawaii Produce Safety Program Manager with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. He has a decade of experience in food production, risk management and safety experience. 

The Department of Agriculture office is in Wailuku. Its phone number is (808) 270-8276. Email is agriculture@mauicounty.gov. For more information, see mauicounty.gov/2473/Department-of-Agriculture.


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