Young Farmers Bring Serious Issues to Light

March 27, 2013

Enthusiasm and energy were in the air as members of the Punahou ‘ohana and the general public gathered in the Thurston Memorial Chapel courtyard for an informal farmers market and local food tasting on March 21, 2013. The occasion was a screening of “The Greenhorns,” a documentary about the new generation of farmers springing up across the U.S. when the average age of American farmers is 57. Organized as part of Punahou’s “Food for Thought” film series, the event was co-sponsored by Slow Food O‘ahu.

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In the late afternoon light, young farmers and food producers spread their samples across tables beneath the courtyard’s immense monkeypod tree. Tastings included chocolate from Manoa and Madre chocolate companies, which both work with local cacao producers to make unique flavors like “green tea,” “lilikoi,” “chili pepper and pineapple” and classic dark chocolate – cementing Hawai‘i’s place on the international chocolatier trail. Also present were John ’74 and David ’72 Morgan of Kualoa Ranch, whose grass-fed beef is filling a rapidly expanding local market; Waihuena Farm and CSA, founded by Meleana Judd ’00 Cox on the North Shore; Holoholo CSA (whose multifarm bags are distributed at Punahou); Pacific Kool Hawaiian ginger syrups; and Gabe Sachter Smith and Hunter Heaivilin ’05, who brought banana suckers from the Reppun farm in Waiahole. Representatives of Hapa Farms, which specializes in aquaponic and hydroponic technologies, and Small Kine Farm, which produces Portobello mushrooms in Waimanalo, were on hand to share their stories, as were Slow Food O‘ahu President Laurie Carlson and Marcia Barrett ’74 Wright, Punahou’s Food Services director.

“Punahou defines sustainability as a state of the world that we’re moving toward,” said 
K – 12 Garden Resource teacher Eliza Leineweber ’92 Lathrop, who has spearheaded many of the School’s 30 garden projects. Lathrop and Luke Center for Public Service Director Carri Morgan introduced the film, which was followed by presentations by the farmers. The diversity of stories was inspiring, from Small Kine Farm’s founder Fung Yang, who described himself as “an accidental farmer” who stumbled into mushroom growing after looking for ways to recycle local green waste, to Sachter Smith, 24, and Heaivilin, 26, an innovative team who are building a CSA based on staple crops not commonly grown in home gardens, as well as raising ducks, which were once plentiful in Hawai‘i. Keep your eyes out for duck meat and eggs from “Quackleberry Hill."

Reyn Horner ’00 of Hapa Farms voiced the question that has made local food production a serious issue in recent years: “What would happen if the boat stopped coming?” Adding, “That’s why I’m a big believer in learning how to grow our own food.” Against a backdrop of discouraging statistics — more than 2,000 acres of farmland are lost in the U.S. each day; Hawai‘i imports over 85 percent of its food; the farming population is aging — the stories and personalities that gathered in the chapel were a refreshing jolt of inspiration.

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