We’ve all heard about farm to table eating, but what about farm to school (F2S)? Well, in partnership with the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE), and spearheaded by Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, we’ve officially launched the Farm to School pilot here in Kohala!
The first of its kind within the HIDOE system, the pilot aims to get students closer to their food sources, while also strengthening their ties to Hawai’ian culture through the cultivation of native crops using traditional farming techniques. With 180,000 daily meals provided by the HIDOE in Hawai’i, it also aims to increase the amount of locally-sourced food purchased by the state, which not only supports the local economy, but also encourages healthier eating.
Here, at HIP Ag, our goal is to create a model for which the entire state of Hawai’i can emulate. We are the only farm within Kohala providing fresh, organic fruits and vegetables – including bananas, lettuce, cooking greens, kalo leaf, and papaya – to the local Kohala Elementary, which on January 1, 2017, actually became a scratch-cooking school. When this happened, the school asked farms within the community who’d want or be able to provide the produce necessary for such an endeavor, and we were the only farm that stepped up to the plate (pun intended).
Deciding to undertake such a venture hasn’t always been the easiest, but the results, so far, have been amazing. We’ve been able to provide lots of fresh food to students and even brought the cafeteria cooks out to the farm so that they could see exactly where the food was coming from! As Dash Kuhr, HIP Ag’s Executive Director and Instructor, put it, “We’re super excited to be creating a pilot that’s replicable in Hawai’i because we know it will have a tremendously positive impact on farms and the amount of food grown locally in the state.”
It’s been a learning process, for sure, and we’re still trying to figure it all out, but we are also very excited for what the future holds. Next, we’re looking to fundraise for a farm to school coordinator to build a network of local farms who can also provide fresh produce for schools all across the state modeled after our program. Our goal is to grow the next generation of farmers and right now, we’re doing it one fruit and veggie at a time!