The first director of Maui County’s new Department of Agriculture was announced by Mayor Michael Victorino at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Rogerene “Kali” Arce, a Native Hawaiian homesteader from Hoolehua on Molokai, has been appointed as director while former Hawaii Department of Agriculture produce safety manager Weston Yap of Oahu has been appointed deputy director.

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

The department’s formation was the result of an overwhelmingly positive vote during the 2020 elections, though many farmers and ranchers feared it would lead to further regulation.

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
The roles of Maui Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Weston Yap and Director Rogerene “Kali” Arce were announced by Mayor Michael Victorino at Kula Agricultural Park on Wednesday. Facebook/County of Maui/2022

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

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

Arce has worked across the state’s agriculture sector, including as an extension officer for University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. She also worked as acting program manager for Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Victorino, who initially opposed the department’s creation, says he is confident 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.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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

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