The Maui County Council on Tuesday confirmed Rogerene “Kali” Arce as the first director of the county’s Department of Agriculture.

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Arce was appointed by Mayor Michael Victorino earlier this summer to lead the new department, which officially launched July 1. Since then, she’s been meeting with farmers and ranchers throughout Maui, Molokai and Lanai to learn about their needs, according to a county news release.

“I love my job,” Arce said in the release. “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.”

Arce is a Native Hawaiian homesteader from Hoolehua on Molokai who has more than three decades of experience working in agriculture, according to the release. The department she’ll lead is tasked with helping farmers and ranchers succeed, rather than serving as a regulatory or enforcement entity.

County of Maui Department of Agriculture deputy director Weston Yap, director Rogerene "Kali" Arce and Mayor Michael Victorino at the appointment ceremony on Wednesday. Kula Agricutulral park
Maui Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Weston Yap, left, Director Rogerene “Kali” Arce, center, and Mayor Michael Victorino were at the appointment ceremony in July. Facebook/County of Maui/2022

The department was created after Maui County voters in 2020 overwhelmingly supported a charter amendment to create a new arm of county government with that purpose. Among its other goals: promoting a resilient and diversified local economy, increasing food security and boosting residents’ health by growing access to locally grown foods.

“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,” Arce said in the release.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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