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 (PrivateMauiChef.com), 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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