On April 4th, the Kohala High School’s Natural Resources classes came together with HIP Agriculture on a beautiful sunny morning like they do every Wednesday and Friday. What was different about this day, in particular, was the classes had a big “kuleana” to harvest 125lbs of lau (kalo) leaf for the Kohala Cafeteria Complex. A large feat for anyone in the farming industry! If you had visited the school farm at the beginning of the school year, you would most likely presume that this request would not be possible. However, a couple semesters and some hard work later, there is now about a two-acre difference of flourishing bok choy, ‘uala, kale, collards, and most impressively - the KALO patch. The kalo is the largest, most beautiful feature of the HS farm with enormous leaves (lau) creating a magical mala(dryland taro patch) because of their 5-6” span and how tall the stems (ha) reach - in some places close to 5-7’.
For over a year HIP Agriculture has been supplying weekly drops of fresh produce to the cafeteria. As a community partner with Kohala High School, HIP Agriculture has focused additional staff resources to revitalize the school farm, and begin to develop curriculum and cropping schedules that are replicable. With the cafeteria’s recent order these efforts came together empowering the students to grow fresh food for their school. “With F2S (Farm-to-School) there is a huge possibility of opening up new guaranteed markets that can provide real livelihood to young local farmers; HIP Agriculture is dedicated to restoring the school farm so we can train the next generation of crop producers to feed our schools and community,” says Dash Kuhr.
The farm’s abundance has been made possible by the HS agriculture group of 35 students and is led weekly by KHS teacher, Aoloa Patao, in conjunction with HIP Agriculture’s Executive Director, Dash Kuhr, and HIP Ag educator, Hualalai Keohuloa. This group of dedicated students and teachers have transformed the garden into a beautiful landscape of edible crops. Most importantly, a significant milestone happened on April 4th when these student farmers harvested over 125 lbs of stunning lau leaf for the Kohala School Complex, that was used by the cafeteria to prepare lau lau for the entire complex that Friday. The team was led by HIP Agriculture’s Farm Manager, Sarah Freeman, who educated students on proper food health and safety handling techniques as specified by DOA guidelines.
The students of KHS stepped up to the challenge of harvesting and processing “the load” of lau leaf for their school community and did it with pride while also having fun. One of the participating students, a ninth grader, Kanoa Birdsall, shared, “The best part of agriculture class is working outside with my good friends. I also love to eat lau lau, and I feel proud because I know where it (the kalo and lau leaf) came from and that nothing harmful was done to it (with harmful pesticides).” The student group has been working on raising the resiliency of the farm as a team since the beginning of the school year in 2017; planting canoe crops together, preparing amending the fields, taking out cane grass, planting the huli and seeds and most importantly, maintaining the care that plants need to be successful, including weeding, watering and pest management. Aoloa shared, “My intention is for the kids to get in touch with this land, and working with kalo is absolutely a great start. Kohala has so much history in natural resources that I’m super glad they have this opportunity, and to even have guys like Dash and Hualalai dropping knowledge on them regularly is such a blessing.”
The transformation of the garden and Natural Resources program has perhaps led students to gain more interest in farming and continuing a pathway in agriculture. Ninth grader Moses Emeliano expressed, “I’m taking the Ag. class next year as well because it’s a good feeling to be outside in the beautiful weather and to have that break from sitting in my regular classes. I already grow kalo at home, and I’m stoked to eat what we grew here at the school.” As a result of this year’s success, the instructors are seeing increased enrollment for the follow-up Natural Resources class. “Ultimately we want to build a dual credit program where high school students can graduate with an ag certificate and college credits,” said Dash Kuhr. If you have a chance, go check out the beauty of the HS farm and commend these dedicated young mahi ʻai (farmers) and their teachers for their green thumbs, sweat, and commitment to this flourishing garden. To purchase fresh produce and support the high school farm, First Friday is a monthly gathering at the high school.