Guess Who Visited Our School Garden?

Our South Maui School Gardens Project team works hard to make the garden a success.  For Nio and Kirk, it is almost a full time job; for me, it is usually 10-20 hours/week.  People often assume that we are parents of kids in the school.  We are not.  We are volunteers working to improve our future.  Most of the time, we do it all for the kids — the smiles on their faces, the delight in their curious questions and the excitement as the learn about the values that are so important to us.   That is really all the reward we need.

But once in while, like today, we get recognized for that work.   We get to make an impact on the gardens throughout the state.  Today, Governor Neil Abercrombie visited the Kihei Elementary School Garden.

It all started several months ago when Dania Katz from Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine, arranged for one of our chef sponsors, Dan Fiske (, to provide lunch to the Governor during a trip to Maui.  Dan immediately sprung into action to highlight the garden at the luncheon, including having a student sit with the Governor.  That was enough to entice the Governor to want to see the garden in action.  We found out a few weeks ago that he was trying to fit it into his trip.  Last week, it was confirmed and we were asked to keep the gathering small.  So we carefully picked who we thought would be critical to discuss our core objectives.  Here are the objectives we gave to the Governor; he said he would keep this short list handy and work to make it happen.

6 Things You Can Do to Help School Gardens Thrive in Hawai’i

  1. Living Classrooms: Advocate for school gardens as integral outdoor learning environments to improve science, math, literacy, physical education and nutrition programs.
  2. Curricula: Facilitate the creation of Hawai’i-based, school garden-inspired standards and benchmarks for K-12 students.
  3. Green School Campuses: Help schools green their campuses: establish recycling programs, purchase chippers to trim hauling fees and turn green waste into mulch for landscaping and school gardens, reduce single-use disposable materials.
  4. Farm-to-School: Encourage the Department of Education (DOE) to foster local farm-to-school pilot programs, connecting students to their food sources.
  5. Garden-to-Cafeteria: If they grow it, they’ll eat it! Establish DOE guidelines that allow use of school garden produce in cafeterias and school nutrition programs.
  6. Wellness & Organic Produce for All: Support programs that link school gardens with community wellness and local food system improvements.

One thing that Governor Abercrombie stated that really stuck in my mind was that we don’t want to make Kihei Elementary or any similar school be special.    A successful school garden shouldn’t be headline news.  We need to have all of our schools hold these values and make it the norm.   Our keiki are our future.   We are what we eat.   We live on island and should be more self-sufficient.   This vision isn’t rocket science and I’m happy that our Governor get’s it.

It is going to take lots of work to change DOE systems and work through USDA standards.  But it can be done.   And each step forward will result in kids that are healthier, smarter and who will grow up to take our beautiful state to a higher level.

So this week, we worked hard to prepare for the big event.  The garden had to look good and at the end of the gardening season in Kihei, that is no easy task.   I kept reminding the guys that the garden looks so much better this year than it did last year at this time.  We coordinated menus with Chef Brian Etheredge and Chef Chris Kulis from Capische? to provide lunch in the garden.  It was already a busy week packed with taping a spot on AKAKU and curriculum planning with teachers who are getting ready for school to start next week.  We made our guest list, reviewed and cut.   We planned all the event details.  We harvested as much as we could and delivered it to the chefs.   My special thanks to all the people that participated.  Each person’s contribution was so important!

If you have an interest in supporting School Gardens in South Maui, connect with us!   We need more project team members, volunteers, parents, community sponsors, grant writers and donations!   If you have interest in creating or augmenting a school garden in Maui County,  contact Lehn at the Maui School Garden Network.

It takes a Community to Start a Garden!

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View full slideshow on Flickr.

Buy A Rock!

Welcome to the HUGE fundraiser for Lokelani campus!

There’s something special happening at Lokelani Intermediate School. We are working with teachers, staff, students, parents and other volunteers from the Lokelani ‘ohana to create food and educational gardens throughout the campus. Project plans for the first phase include aquaponics, a nursery, Native Hawaiian plantings and food gardens in raised beds and terraces.

The terrace work is the foundation of the central garden space, requiring nearly 100 tons of meticulous rockwork led by local artisans.  With some material donations and discounted labor, South Maui School Gardens Project is looking to raise $20,000 to complete funding for installation of this part of the project.   We are reaching out to our Maui Community and asking that each person consider giving $5 (or more) to build the rock terraces and gardens.   Every little bit counts!

Donate By Check or Cash:  Please make checks payable to TriIsle RC&D. You can give cash contributions to Kathy Becklin, Nio Kindla or Kirk Surry.  If your organization would like to raise funds for Rocks!, call Kathy at 808-344-0469.

Mail checks to:

South Maui School Gardens Project
c/o Kathy Becklin
545 Halalai Place
Kihei HI 96753

Donate Online:  Please note that due to Paypal charges, we are unable to offer a $5 option.  Ask friends, collect their cash and donate it all via Paypal.  Just put all names and email addresses in the note so we can properly thank everyone!

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YMCA Camp Nalu — For The Love of Food

One of the most important aspects of school gardens is connecting kids to healthy eating habits and engaging them in growing and preparing their own food.  For school garden programs, chefs are the connection to inspiring lifelong healthy eaters.

We are so fortunate to have local chefs – Dan Fiske ( ), Brian Etheridge & Christopher Kulis (Capische?) and Peter Merriman (Monkeypod Kitchen) – who support South Maui School Gardens Project as financial sponsors, farmers, volunteers and mentors.

Earlier this summer, Chef Dan traded his chef’s jacket for overalls and became “Farmer/Chef Dan” for six days with more than 50 kids in YMCA Camp Nalu and our amazing volunteers.  Each Monday, campers rushed into the Kihei Elementary School garden to learn about soil building, pollinators, planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables. Then, Farmer/Chef Dan recruited kitchen helpers from the group to prepare keiki-friendly recipes using fresh, organic garden ingredients.

Check out our YMCA Camp Nalu Flickr album with highlights from the summer!

Mahalo nui loa to our sponsors and volunteers who continue to share their love of good nutrition and local ingredients with our future locavore chefs and organic farmers!